A new mission for Environmental Education
Last year we started a new programme of environmental education in primary and secondary schools in South and Central Rupununi. All was going well until the schools shut in March 2020... and they haven't opened since.
We are thankful that fast action in closing Guyana's borders, and strict controls of movement and gatherings within the country, have protected us from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. But of course we cannot reinitiate our environmental education scheme until schools open again, and we have no assurances as to when that will be.
So we are working with 8 village councils to develop a new programme that will start in January. The villages have identified gaps in traditional skills and knowledge in their youngsters, and we are partnering with them to help skilled village elders pass on their knowledge to the next generation. So children and elders will get together to learn basketry, cotton work, language and mocro weaving and to share stories, methods and culture.
This is exciting work because it reminds old and young alike of the value of traditional knowledge in a fast-changing world, while reaffirming indigenous practices of 'taking only what is needed' and making use of natural things all around us.
Implementation of Environmental Education Curriculum
Teaching of the Environmental Education Curriculum has now begun in the 4 pilot schools; Shea Primary School, Sand Creek Secondary School, Macushi Primary School and Kumu Primary School.
The SRCS project team visited each of the schools to participate in the first lesson of the Curriculum. The teachers began the lesson by playing the "flashcard game" where one student describes a plant or animal found in the Rupununi and the rest of the group must guest.
The teachers then described what each term of the Curriculum would involve before Leroy Ignacio, President of SRCS, discussed the reasons behind designing and implementing an Environmental Education Curriculum.
SRCS were delighted to see so many parents in attendance and encouraged them to attend future lessons to impart their local knowledge and perhaps to learn some new things also.
The teachers will now continue teaching one lesson every week with upcoming lessons including birds, fish reptiles and plants.
Teacher Training Workshop
The teachers who will be teaching the Curriculum for the pilot year took part in a 5-day teaching workshop at the SWM office in Lethem. The teachers were also joined by some interested community members from the pilot village who will assist the teachers for some of the lessons.
The first 4 days of the workshop involved the participants going through each lesson of the Curriculum to go through the content. As each lesson aims to be as interactive as possible, the participants also practiced the activities that will be taught in each lesson.
On the final day of the workshop, the participants were each given one of the lessons to teach back to the rest of the participants.
The participants also had the opportunity to use their teaching experience and knowledge about the Rupununi provide feedback about how to improve the Curriculum.
The teachers will now return to their villages to begin teaching the first lessons of Term One which is about the plants and animals of the Rupununi.
Environmental Education Pilot Scheme Begins
The SRCS has over 5 years of experience working with schools on field activities and education outreach and awareness in member villages. The experience from these villages has led to the development of this environmental education plan.
The SRCS has long recognised the need for a long-term environmental programme that blends scientific and traditional knowledge. Through practical activities, students will explore their natural heritage and build skills such as observation, recording and reporting, in addition to literacy and numeracy.
Thank you to the teachers, rangers, students and community members who have taken the time to contribute, plan and implement this teaching handbook.
"My Rupununi and Me: our culture, skills and knowledge" will start in the Sand Creek Secondary School, Macushi Primary, Kumu Primary and Shea Primary Schools