How do you teach someone to love the ocean?
We know that to love something means to embrace, cherish and protect it. One of the keys to developing a sense of love and understanding is a sound educational program. To instill sense of caring for our seas is critical to the health of our blue planet’s waters.
In the small Baja California Sur city of Loreto, a community-based environmental group, Eco-Alianza, continues to spearhead educational programs for the local youth. They are committed to introducing the sea in all her aspects – above and below the surface – and the problems facing her – with hands on programs. Theses programs serve multiple purposes:
- To awaken a deeper understanding and love of the sea that supports their community and lifestyles.
- To introduce more effective ways to care for the resource, such as proper trash handling and problems associated with plastic
- To clarify problems associated with overfishing and capture of protected species, such as turtles.
“Cursos Naturales” is one of Eco-Alizana’s programs. Organized and taught by course director, Edna Peralta, the curriculum familiarizes children 8-12 years old with the treasures of the sea. The study program is funded in part by local fundraising efforts and by The Ocean Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based philanthropic organization dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments.
During the course of study, the students were introduced to sea kayaking, experienced whales and dolphins, and spent time simply playing on the beach. These activities were mixed with selected readings, learning games and lectures. Toward the end of the classes, EcoAlianza paired with Loreto Art School. Easels were set up, paints provided, and each student was asked to paint a picture of what they had learned and loved.
At the end of their course, a celebration was held in the newly dedicated Community Center for the Environment – CenCoMA of Eco-Alianza. Family members, friends and community members attended the event which included sharing and song. Each student stood in turn and gave a short explanation of what was represented in their painting. Ms. Peralta asked pointed questions, such as, “Why do you love the whales?” “What threats face them?” and “What can you do to help protect them?” Without falter, each student provided answers that reflected an absorbed knowledge base that was now integral to their belief system. “What makes me the happiest,” Ms. Peralta shared with her students, “is when you go home and teach your family and friends what you have learned here.”
What they have learned they now share with their peers, their extended family, and their community – an extension of their education. Their voices become a guiding force for tomorrow. These young new stewards carry the future health of our oceans through their knowledge, their actions, and their commitment to protect the seas.
Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. is a grassroots nonprofit organization committed to protecting the coastal, marine and terrestrial eco-systems of the Loreto region, engaging different sectors of Loreto society, carrying out education and outreach campaigns, promoting and conducting research and actively engaging the region’s decision makers.