Students Across the Azuero Participate in AEP Education Initiative

This past week, the Azuero Earth Project team once again loaded up the cars and hit the road, visiting 4 local schools in as many days to teach local students about the importance of environmental conservation as part of the yearly Spider Monkey Education Initiative.

Students in Los Asientos play The Forest of Luck, a version of chutes and ladders c. Ryan Dibala

From October 21-25, in the fourth edition of the initiative, members of the AEP visited elementary schools in Valleriquito, Oria Arriba, Los Asientos, and Los Asientos. Students at the schools explored the importance of preserving forested areas and protecting the habitat of the endangered Azuero spider monkey, playing a series of educational games, including:

  • Azuero Animal Relay – A guessing game where players learn how to describe characteristics of local wildlife species.
  • Monkey Twister – A game of twister where players do their best spider monkey imitations, learning about important fruit tree species while trying not to fall in a forest that grows smaller and smaller.
  • The Forest of Luck – A version of chutes and ladders that explores how both deforestation and habitat restoration impact wildlife.
  • The Hunter –  A lively game in which students collect as many fruits as possible while evading the poacher who stalks their shrinking forest habitat.
Stretching for the fruits in Monkey Twister c. Ruth Metzel

In each game, students learn how deforestation affects the environment and threatens the livelihood of the Azuero spider monkey. AEP staff and volunteers encourage students to identify local animals and native tree species and consider what happens to the Azuero spider monkey as its habitat becomes more or less fragmented (for example, when someone either plants trees to prevent erosion or cuts trees down to expand their ranch). As part of the process, the students also learn how we can help to preserve important local ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

Getting started on the AEP mural in Oria Arriba c. Ruth Metzel

This year, for the first time, the students also got the chance to put some of their ideas about environmental restoration into practice. With the AEP supplying organic bocashi fertilizer and dozens of tree saplings, students at each school planted their own trees, learning how to dig holes, add organic fertilizer, and properly place root bundles Students also learned about the importance of native tree species, planting important varieties such as caoba nacional (Swietenia macrophylla), guabita cansaboca (Inga punctata), macano (Diphysa americana), cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), laurel (Cordia alliodora), guanabana (Annona muricata), caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito), and guayacan (Tabebuia guayacan).

Students in Nuario gently lower a sapling into the ground c. Jonathan Clay

As part of the initiative, the AEP also arranged evening movie screenings at each of the schools, inviting parents and community members out to learn about the AEP and to see what their students had learned during the day of activities. The short discussions were followed by a showing of Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. In the 1992 cartoon, a logger realizes the error of his ways and helps the animals of the forest to protect their home from a rogue timber machine.

For more information about AEP’s Spider Monkey Education Initiative and other Education opportunities, see Education.

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