Ending a Project is just the Beginning

The new sea turtle lesson bookBONAIRE — Just like the nature we endeavor to protect, our project work at DCNA is cyclical. A project never really ends, but rather evolves, building on successes and reconciling faults to advance similar efforts in the future. Here is a great example of a project we are proud of:

Last year Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB), in partnership with WIDECAST, led an effort to bring nature topics into Bonaire’s high school classrooms formally – on the curriculum. Asking overburdened teachers and administrators to take on additional and non-required lessons in a completely new subject area is a challenging task to say the least.

So… we had a local teacher help design a pilot package of six lesson plans in a subject that was already being taught – Dutch language. Our trick was that while the format was identical to the existing lessons, all of the content was based on sea turtles, biodiversity and conservation.

Mabel Nava, Kalli De Meyer, Gemma van der Linden and Helen Hoaen (center back), with Helen's class and their new lesson books. Helen took the lead in designing the lessons last year.

We spent time with the teachers to see what they wanted in the lessons and then taught them about the material in a workshop. Only one teacher with two classrooms picked up the un-mandated lessons…we had hoped for three teachers and six classrooms!

STCB’s manager, Mabel Nava and I visited our one teacher in April to hear straight from her how the material had worked. To say she was ecstatic about the lessons would be an understatement. Thirty-two kids ages twelve to sixteen received Dutch Language lessons once a week for six weeks with our material. Those days more kids were in class, paid better attention and even received better grades!

Mabel, Cynthia Snow and Kalli. Cynthia was our teacher brave enough to pilot the lesson books in 2010.Why? – The material was new, in color and applied to them. They enjoyed learning about the sea turtles living in their islands waters. They were interested in better understanding the tremendous biodiversity their island boasts. They loved the color photos and modern, sleek design of the materials – a vast improvement to the dated handouts found in many of today’s Dutch Caribbean classrooms.

What’s the result? The books generated some interest and momentum… With the new school year starting again I was back at the high school with Mabel and our Executive Director, Kalli De Meyer today. We had with us sea turtle lesson books for every Dutch language student and teacher editions for every Dutch language teacher on Bonaire.

Bonaire students proud of their new material

What’s next? Back to my original point. The project is “concluded” on Bonaire, but as you can see it is really just beginning.  Not only is nature officially in the curriculum on Bonaire, but now we will offer these lesson books to Aruba and Curacao, inserting them based on all of our lesson’s learned from Bonaire. After that… St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius. We will also now consider slipping other nature and conservation themes into existing classes such as geography, biology and mathematics.

Conservation projects do not always achieve success quickly or completely, but by experiencing them as a learning experience they will become just that.

Written by Nat Miller, DCNA Project Officer

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