Sharing and Shaping Environmental Education Across Cultures

By Jessica Schultz

In June, Tatiana Garcia Cam from Peru and Maria Manivesa from Uruguay joined Hitchcock Center staff to learn about environmental educational methods, programs, building project and the Living building ChallengeTM. Tatiana and Maria were participants in the Institute for Training and Development’s (ITD) Professional Fellows Program in Environmental Sustainability.

The Professional Fellows Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, brings emerging leaders from around the world to the United States for intensive fellowships designed to gain knowledge of practices and techniques for working with different stakeholders toward environmental sustainability.

Tatiana Gracia Cam (left) and Maria Manivesa (right) participate in the ITD Professional Fellows Program.

Tatiana Gracia Cam and Maria Manivesa participate in the ITD Professional Fellows Program.

During their visit, Tatiana, an Assistant Professor at the University Antenor Orrego, and Maria, a chemical engineer and consultant who also works with teens in environmental education, spent their time with Hitchcock educators observing our homeschool programs. Maria consulted our resource and curriculum library toward her interest in environmental education, while Tatiana pursued background on our building project. Both joined in our staff meetings and group lunches, as well as in independent conversations to better understand the Hitchcock Center and its educational techniques. The two also created a bilingual story walk along the accessible trail for Hitchcock members and students.

Tatiana and Maria toured other sites in Western MA during their visit, including Northfield Mountain Environmental Education Center, and have developed action plans to introduce new projects or methods to communities in their home countries.

Tatiana’s plan is to promote university and professional community involvement in environmental monitoring activities and research to obtain and disseminate updated information to citizens of the city of Trujillo, Peru, specifically in one of the poorest districts known as El Porvenir. She intends to promote environmental awareness and citizen engagement for both individuals and small local businesses using private sector funding and marketing in addition to generating alliances with NGO’s and the municipality of El Porvenir. Her project will promote public environmental awareness for effective decision making, for citizens to enjoy green public spaces, adequate waste disposal management, improved air and water quality, as well as environmental stewardship in industries and all economic activities.

Maria’s plan is to develop environmental education programs for: elementary and high schools students, as well as for adults in companies and government. To this end, she will be identifying and contacting organizations and related NGOs to support the project, assess resources, and  conduct a pilot project with educational centers and companies. Overall, her project seeks to improve the environmental knowledge and involvement in companies and governmental organizations with sustainable development and issues of water quality, land uses, waste and resource management.

Throughout their visit, Maria and Tatiana were impressed by the hands-on learning in the outdoors, as compared with the theoretical learning in the classroom in their countries. The students they observed at the Hitchcock Center connected to and sought out hidden meanings and ideas in the lessons, rather than only listening and watching within a classroom. When asked what resonated the most, Tatiana observed, “The warm ambience, the smile in every educator, worker and volunteer in the organization. It is obvious that what you do, you do it from the heart and the conviction that embracing nature since the early years is essential to preserve and heal the environment.”

The Hitchcock Center’s team, as well as our youth participants, also benefited from Maria and Tatiana’s experiences. We will miss their enthusiasm, thoughtful inquiry, and energy, and look forward to hearing updates about their projects’ successes back home.

About ITD

ITD is one of several U.S.-based non-profit organizations and universities who were chosen to host professionals from Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay in the Spring and Fall of 2015. ITD’s program brings 32 young environmental professionals to Massachusetts, and sends ten American counterparts to Latin America. The program focuses on multi-stakeholder approaches to environmental sustainability. Selected participants are NGO leaders, government officials, community leaders, educators and environmental experts. Participants complete three-week fellowships with public and private host organizations throughout Western Massachusetts.

Jessica Schultz is Communication and Capital Project Coordinator for the Hitchcock Center. She guides on-going media relations, website and social media, publications, marketing planning and photography. She also supports the Executive Director and building committee in planning for a new environmental learning center.

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