As part of our continuing effort to help local communities learn about conservation, our office in Alamos has started a free weekly environmental education program called EcoClub Monte Mojino with local elementary school students.
Beginning with a group of just ten students from several local schools, EcoClub Monte Mojino started as a way to teach kids about their natural environment. Soon after its inception, those ten students began inviting their friends and neighbors to weekly meetings held at the local church that opened its doors to EcoClub. Now, EcoClub Monte Mojino includes 45 students and many of their parents.
A big part of EcoClub is teaching students about the variety of species living in the region. The nonprofit Optics for the Tropics donated binoculars to our Alamos office, and EcoClub students have begun bird watching with our staff. They’re also learning about other pollinator species, like bats, and identifying the many plant species in the reserve. As a result of these activities, many of the kids and their parents are developing an enthusiasm for their natural environment. On the last bird watching trip, one student was ecstatic after seeing a hummingbird for the first time. After seeing the growing interest in environmental issues among the parents of EcoClub students, our Alamos staff have begun planning EcoClub meetings exclusively with parents as well as a field trip to the reserve with them.
EcoClub Monte Mojino has also sparked a community-wide conversation about the need for recycling and trash collection. In Alamos, most people incinerate their garage because there is no formal waste management program. Because wildfires are a threat in the region, incinerating trash is a dangerous and unsustainable practice. Our office in Alamos is now home to a recycling bin, as are several local schools. Each week, the students take plastic bottles they’ve collected to the nearest recycling center in a neighboring town. Moreover, Nature & Culture staff and involved community members have begun a conversation with the mayor of Alamos about implementing a city-wide recycling and trash collection program, and are coordinating with the nearby recycling center to begin collecting recyclables from the new bins.
A grant from Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund in 2014 enabled us to expand our environmental education efforts to include another EcoClub in Alamos and one in El Sabinito Sur, for a total of three groups. These EcoClub students, known affectionately as the “Wildlife Trackers of Monte Mojino”, are monitoring camera traps throughout the reserve that have already revealed the presence of five cat species including the iconic jaguar and ocelot. They will continue collecting data throughout the year, culminating with a presentation on keystone species conservation at Nature & Culture’s first annual Wildlife Festival.