Fundación Cordillera Tropical publishes innovative
Cuenca, Ecuador (January 2012) – Fundación Cordillera Tropical (FCT) has published a Spanish-language curriculum and activity guide, Don Oso visits my school. The 130-page guide uses the Andean, or spectacled, bear (Tremarctos ornatus) to teach elementary students about endangered species conservation. The guide's seven units include hands-on classroom and take-home activities for use with 4th to 7th graders, each of which transmits information about the biology of the Andean bear, threats to its conservation, and efforts to study and protect this species.
The guide promotes an interdisciplinary approach to conservation, by focusing on scientific inquiry, language arts and communication, skills which will be critical for future conservation leaders. Furthermore, a secondary guide complements the official Ecuadorean curriculum and includes tables which link official learning standards to specific activities. This cross-listing is one of the first instances where information about an endangered species in Ecuador is explicitly incorporated into national learning standards, with the ultimate goal of contributing toward students' understanding and valuation of Ecuador's unique natural resources.
The development team, including community promoters and FCT staff, is currently offering 2-day hands-on course to train park guards, school professors, and environmental educators to incorporate conservation activities in their schools and communities. Park guards and community promoters in southern Sangay National Park are some of the first trainees and author Renata Márquez relates, ¨these activities which use games to teach participants about the importance of habitat conservation in places like Sangay National Park and emphasize multidisciplinary approaches to solving conservation challenges, are well-suited for use in national parks and their buffer zones.¨ If you would like to receive a copy of the Spanish-language curriculum and activity guide, visit http://www.cordilleratropical.org/en/activities/education/education.html, or contact Fundación Cordillera Tropical for a list of training dates.
The curriculum is one component of the Don Oso Program, a holistic long-term approach to conserve the Andean bear. Initiated in 2002, the Don Oso Program includes four major initiatives which engage local landowners and communities in efforts to study and protect the bear: 1) environmental education and bear awareness; 2) scientific research on bear biology; 3) capacity building for locals as para-biologists; and 4) interventions to reduce human/wildlife conflicts. The program represents a collaboration between Fundación Cordillera Tropical and the Carnivore Coexistence Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA), and local communities in the Nudo del Azuay.
The Don Oso Program currently receives generous support from The Overbrook Foundation to support local capacity-building and outreach, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to support scientific research, and CELEC EP – Unidad de Negocio Hidropaute in support of a local program that trains community members as conservation stewards and protectors.