As an April baby myself, I think it is one of the best months of the year: spring showers, flowers start to bloom, days get warmer, school's almost out, bikini season is almost here, and well it’s my birthday (which I celebrate all month). Another reason April is amazing is that it hosts one of the biggest environmental awareness days: Earth Day. The environmental movement has been around for quite some time now, and it celebrates nature and motivates people to learn about their environment and how they can do better.
This year I was in Costa Rica doing my internship and I was able to work with some of my colleagues to put together an event in the local elementary school. Two weeks away from the event we started planning and assessing our resources: we had a total of two weeks to plan activities, collect funds, gather manpower, and produce an event that would be an interest to the children in school. With the support of the school and it’s principal, we started looking for themes that could be both useful for the kids to know and also pertinent to the communities current situation. The themes we chose were water and recycling. We chose water due to the scarcity of this resource in the area. With each day that pases, the Guanacaste province in Costa Rica becomes drier and drier, and the number of forest fires increases. In addition, the amount of trash and rubbish in the area is becoming a problem: people often throw their trash in rivers and streams, or burn most of it in their backyards, unaware of the environmental and health impact of these practices.
In terms of the activities, we divided each theme (water and recycling) into smaller sub-topics that were interrelated and could give the students a better perspective into the issues surrounding them. For water we chose the subtopics of water problems, water pollution, water cycle, and water conservation, and for recycling we chose how to recycle and how to reuse, reduce, recycle. In addition, we wanted to make a recycling station for the kids, so they can start creating good habits at school that could translate to their home and communities. The next step in our planning involved looking at the resources we had available (tools, people, funds) and also find additional funding. We wrote fundraising letters and distributed them to local businesses asking for small donations. I also sent the letter to my mother back in the states so she could ask her friends and colleagues from her church. Through this tactic we were able to fundraise a total of about 200 USD and donations in the form of labor.
We then divided the work up among the four people in the main group (Monse, Annie, Lauren, and I) and started researching activities that were age appropriate for the different age groups we had in the school. The school itself goes from kindergarten to sixth grade, so we had a big challenge when trying to look for activities that were going to be relevant and interesting for the kids. My topic was water conservation and I chose to make a game board with facts about water conservation and how to reduce our impact. The kids loved the game and were really engaged asking questions about water conservation and thinking of different ideas on how to conserve the water that we do have. Other activities included learning about the water cycle and making bracelets to help them remember the steps, watching a video regarding the importance of rain, and learning that once you pollute the waters, it is extremely hard to reverse any effects it may have on the environment.
For recycling, the kids had a chance to talk about the different things we could do to recycle more, how to upcycle, and specifically how to recycle. We also decorated three containers that they will be using to separate their recycling.
Overall, I believe the festival was a complete success and that the kids had a lot of fun learning about different ways to take care of the planet. Personally, I felt blessed to be able to share the day with my co-workers and the kids creating awareness for environmental problems that surround us. I believe that the children can take the message home to their families, and perhaps, influence their homes at a greater scale that we could ever wish to do. Future generations will sadly have to deal with all the repercussions of the choices we have made to this day, but we can help them build the tools to address the issues head on and hopefully turn the fate of our planet.