Since 2007, the Rainforest Alliance's education program has helped students and teachers in the Petén region of Guatemala to understand the environment around their community and the importance of conservation.
Situated in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, part of the largest uninterrupted forest in Central America, the region is rich in Mayan history and acts as a refuge for jaguars, scarlet macaws and howler monkeys. In order to protect this unique forest, community members sustainably harvest wood and other non-timber forest products.
To ensure that students in the region understand their local environment and appreciate the importance of sustainably managing their natural resources, the Rainforest Alliance holds annual teacher training courses. In these workshops, educators from communities throughout the Maya Biosphere Reserve share methodologies, lessons and hands-on activities that they can bring back to their classrooms.
"The workshops have increased my knowledge of the region's geography and provided me with new, effective ways to engage children in [conservation] issues"Local teacher Osmar Monzòn
The Rainforest Alliance has trained close to 700 teachers and shared materials to help students understand the importance of conservation for their communities and the global environment. The teachers who participate then serve as trainers, sharing these environmental education tools with colleagues in neighboring communities and helping to expand the reach of our work.
Local teachers have also launched action projects to help address environmental issues in their communities. These projects encourage students to think about their environment, and take action to effect positive change in their community. By planting trees, leading river clean-ups, creating nature trails, caring for plant nurseries, and informing their community about environmental issues during community walks and educational radio programs, students have put their learning into action.
Students at Barrio Santa Cruz, Cidabenque and Santa Rosa la Zarca—three schools in Melchor de Mencos, an area of Guatemala situated along the Mopán River—have organized a series of river clean-up campaigns to improve water quality. They're also working to spread the word about the effects of garbage on the river's aquatic life; in doing so, they hope to minimize the need for future river clean-ups and protect local wildlife.
Six local schools—Barrio El Campito, Aldea La Pòlovora, Aldea El Arenal, Aldea Santa Cruz, Barrio Nueva Judá and Uaxactún—have planted over 1,000 trees as part of a reforestation project. Some of these trees, like the nutrient-rich ramòn nut tree, can help combat malnutrition and hunger—both of which are ongoing problems in local communities. A few of the schools have also built nurseries to grow important local tree species such as ramòn, chizopote and allspice.
Forest Fire Prevention Walk
In the community of Uaxactún, students have teamed up to combat forest fires—one of the major causes of deforestation in the Maya Biosphere Reserve—through an awareness-raising campaign that includes colorful educational posters and a fire prevention walk.
These are just three examples of nearly 20 environmental action projects currently underway in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve. Each one is proof that lessons learned in the classroom can have very real, positive impacts on communities around the globe.
Our work in the Petén is made possible by a network of organizations including the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, Ministry of Natural Resources and National Council of Protected Areas as well as Project Learning Tree and the Wildlife Conservation Society.