Wednesday, August 5, 2009 - 2:15 PM

SYMP 13-3: The importance of role models in fostering diversity in ecology education

DC Randle, St. Francis High School and Francis Gatz, Environmental Expeditions.

The rate of deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest and the subsequent decline of Earth’s biodiversity calls for models of sustainable practices that benefit local people. Conservation in the Amazon depends on a holistic approach to ecological education, sustainable development, and reducing poverty.  This challenge is too large and too urgent for any single organization, government, or person to tackle alone. On a large scale, we need pragmatic approaches, new partnerships and support among tropical scientists, international business and industry professionals, citizens, and local organizations. On a small scale, we describe a science education fieldtrip program that promotes science-based environmental awareness, conservation, and hands-on research opportunities in the Amazonian rain forest canopies.  In 1992, we began the Educator’s Rainforest Workshop expeditions to the Amazon for US teachers, which has expanded to include student groups, family groups, and scientist workshops. Using a research site with a canopy walkway, we inspire American students and teachers to learn about tropical ecology, and become engaged in conservation. We partner K-12 teachers with professional ecologists as role models to inspire their careers.  Through the enthusiasm of participants, we also developed an Adopt-a-School program with a Peruvian non-profit (CONAPAC) organization, which now extends into over 72 communities and reaches over 4,200 school children along the Amazon each year. 

Results/Conclusions Through science education outreach, we created an international program that now offers sustainable opportunities and teaches environmental values and self reliance both locally as well as globally.