Whitehawk’s environmental education program has been running for over five years now in Panama. Despite its relatively small size, Panama is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Like many other countries, it struggles to find the balance between progress and preservation. We believe that one of the best ways to promote the continued conservation of a nation’s wildlife and wild places is to instill a love for our natural world in all of its citizens. Therefore, a little over 3 years ago, Whitehawk implemented its pilot Jr. Naturalist Program with first graders from Balboa Academy in Panama City. Last year, we were thrilled when the Metropolitan School of Panama joined our environmental education program.
Environmental Education: Where Nature and Learning Meet
Since we began the program, our goal has been to use the small fee paid by these private schools to subsidize the same environmental education program for public school children. This year we realized this goal! In June we brought our program, free of charge, to the Omar Torrijos school in Paraiso. We worked with three first grade classrooms. We explored themes of birds, bird adaptations, bird identification, and rainforests. The first activity was an in-class visit. Students had the opportunity to dress up like birds and find “birds” hidden around the classroom.
Our next activity was a visit to Metropolitan Natural Park. Over three days, a total of 62 students were able to experience the park’s natural wonders up close. We spent each morning searching for sloths, birds, butterflies, turtles and other wildlife. Likewise, we also spent time learning about the trees and other plants that make up a rainforest. We at Whitehawk were surprised to learn that this was the first time many of the students, or their teachers, had been to Metropolitan Park and it was a thrill for us to see the look of wonderment and joy as they took it all in. At the end of the program, we were invited to come back next year and we are already looking forward it.