The parks and conservation organisations of the Dutch Caribbean are working together to address a subject many consider to be critical to the long-term success of nature conservation on our islands.
Just over two years ago, the education officers and park staff who are responsible for nature education came together in a workshop to engage in peer-to-peer learning, planning and material production. Their goal was to develop a standard, regional framework for youth nature education, which could be conducted as out of school activities.
In just two short years, this investment started to pay direct conservation dividends, when in 2012 young people involved in our education programmes jumped headfirst into local conservation programmes…
On Bonaire, where STINAPA’s nature education programme has blazed the trail for the other islands, the Junior Rangers were able to work alongside conservation professionals and assist in monitoring of the threatened Queen Conch, controlling invasive lionfish as well as serving as ambassadors to teach younger children about their natural surroundings.
On St. Eustatius, in addition to a full Snorkel and Junior Ranger Club, two high school students joined STENAPA in the field to assist in critical nest monitoring of the threatened Red-billed Tropicbird.
On Saba, youth took matters into their own hands; some 50 children from Saba Conservation Foundation’s nature education programme energetically demonstrated the threat of plastics to our oceans by cleaning up and constructing a raft completely made from discarded plastic bottles.
These are just a few examples of the immediate and powerful impact awareness, education and involvement is having on nature conservation on our islands. Perhaps the greatest achievement for nature education in 2012 was Parke Nacional Arikok’s launch of their Junior Ranger Programme.
“Nature teaches us so much about life and can lead to happier healthier people. The challenge is to get our younger community excited about nature education and to become our future leaders.”
Indra Zaandam, Research and Education Manager Parke Nacional Arikok
Their programme is based on “Wild4Life”, the regional framework developed in consultation with education professionals and park staff from all six islands. Wild4Life is a fun, cool, feel-good, dynamic and active programme of learning with opportunities for skills development, all connected to real nature conservation on our islands.
In 2012, the National Park hosted the island’s first ever nature education camp, fittingly called the Arikok Junior Ranger Camp as this is where the first Junior Rangers were recruited. The focus of the camp was to provide youth ages 11 to 15 years with knowledge and unique insights into local flora, fauna, geology and culture. The camp also promoted the development of leadership skills amongst the youth. The Arikok Junior Ranger Programme was made pos- sible through the generous sponsorship from CEDE Aruba.
The 2012 annual nature education workshop, which was held on Bonaire, providedanother first when a Dutch Junior Ranger joined the event to share with and learn from local rangers about nature and conservation in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.
The Dutch Caribbean now boasts Junior Ranger programmes on each of the six islands. 2012 also marked the completion of exciting new bird resources such as bird identification cards and classroom bird boxes developed with education partner IVN and with funding from Vogelbescherming Nederland.
A Dutch Caribbean brand for nature education has been developed, materials and knowledge are being shared and implemented by dedicated and energetic staff. We are strategically planning together how to best educate and engage our youth with nature. The sky is truly the limit for nature education in the Dutch Caribbean.