Local Environmental Education Program

LEEP volunteer providing a talk to students at Drago School

There is a now a consensus that considers climate change as the main environmental and social problem that humanity has faced so far.  Currently, reforestation is believed to be one of the more viable solutions to the consequences of climate change.  An even more effective tool than mere reforestation is the restoration of the original ecosystem.  Ecosystem restoration, bringing back the vegetation that was original in an area, is a way to mitigate the effects of climate change and to reestablish its biodiversity.

LEEP group speaking with the Director of Tierra Oscura School

ITEC’s Local Environmental Education Program (LEEP), in alignment with the Tropical Forest Restoration Program, is oriented towards creating a way to mitigate the effects of climate change through carbon sequestration.  LEEP’s goal is to implement an environmental education program that could become an effective way to promote local citizen awareness in both adults and school kids and help provide the skills necessary to take responsible actions in protecting their environment.  Through the encouragement of values and commitment to environmental protection, LEEP wishes to plant a seed of consciousness by improving area school kid’s attitudes towards their environment.

Lecture on plastic recycling at ITEC

Volunteer Activities.  LEEP volunteers will participate in activities at the elementary schools in Boca del Drago (Isla Colon) and Tierra Oscura (mainland), which lie within the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama.  Additionally, volunteers will help in the organization and logistics of elementary school groups visiting the ITEC field station in Boca del Drago and at Finca Maribella where tree planting takes place.

Volunteer showing kids how to plant seeds

The LEEP program includes visits, activities and presentations at local schools that are designed to first understand the level of knowledge and awareness among the students regarding the importance of forests and biodiversity.  This allows the LEEP group to tailor later presentations and activities to specific age groups, and to link this to climate change, forest restoration and carbon sequestration.  Supported by supplementary materials already created by the Panamanian Ministry of Education (MEDUCA), each age group has their own agendas with age-appropriate short lessons, discussions, videos and activities related to the relevance of plastic pollution, forest restoration and biodiversity, among other topics.

LEEP volunteers playing an environmental game with students

Activities for preschool students involve a series of playground games to introduce them to the importance of the forest and its conservation, while students in higher grades (1st to 6th grade) are presented with a sequence of more complex games and lessons including topics such as 1) flora and fauna in the region, 2) general ecology concepts, 3) climate change, and 4) carbon sequestration.  In order to contribute to ITEC´s forest restoration efforts at Finca Maribella, most LEEP projects are planned to involved students in more hands-on activities that take place both at the finca and in the shade house nursery at ITEC’s field station.  These activities include planting seeds and seedlings of native tree species in the shade house nursery and helping in the planting of trees at Finca Maribella.

Drago preschoolers with coloring pages of a plant life cycle

Getting Involved.  LEEP seeks volunteers and interns for unpaid positions.  However, ITEC will provide all housing, meals, local transportation and training for volunteers and interns.  Among other extra activities, volunteers will also have the opportunity to sit in on ecology course lectures, spend time at beaches and caves, snorkel on our coral reefs, visit the town of Bocas del Toro and join all activities at the field station.  To apply, please first contact us at itec1@itec-edu.org and then provide a Letter of Interest and your Curriculum Vitae.  Those applying for an internship will also need to submit a letter of recommendation.

To know what LEEP accomplished last year, please see the 2019 ITEC Newsletter at:  http://itec-edu.org/station-update-2019/.  Click Forest Restoration Program for details about this opportunity.   LEEP was cancelled in 2020 due the Covid-19 pandemic but will be operating again beginning in January, 2021.