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First Teacher Training Workshop Hosted by Neotropical Environmental Education Program
Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program    ShareFor the past two years, we at Fondo Peregrino-Panama’s Neotropical Environmental Education Program have been working on an educational guide based on birds of prey, designed for teachers working with students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The guide, entitled “Las Aves Rapaces” (Raptors), contains five chapters on the biology, taxonomy, cultural importance and conservation of raptors and a sixth chapter with a variety of educational activities that use birds of prey to teach concepts in language, science, art, math and even physical education. With the help of Panama’s Ministry of Education, we hope to distribute these guides to teachers and schools throughout the country. As a means to better ensure that the guides will be utilized once in teachers’ hands and that they won’t simply sit on a shelf collecting dust, we knew it would be essential to train teachers in the use of this guide.

During the last week of October we hosted the first teacher training workshop for twelve of the thirteen regional coordinators in the country. The workshop began with a tour of the Neotropical Raptor Center where participants came face to face with a live Harpy Eagle and were able to observe the captive breeding pairs on television monitors. We then traveled to Gamboa, where the remainder of the workshop took place. We were staying in an old three story home, converted into a guest house, which is situated along the edge of the Neotropical forest. Upon our arrival and throughout the course, we were visited by coatimundis, agoutis, monkeys, and a number of colorful birds, like the Red-legged Honeycreeper, the Blue-gray and Scarlet-rumped Tanagers, and the White-necked Jacobin, all of which added to the overall ambiance and enjoyment of the course.

Building a Harpy Eagle
Building a Harpy Eagle
After allowing the participants time to settle in, we continued the workshop with a series of presentations and then, using the activities in the guide, moved on to the hands-on portion of the workshop, which included: using recyclable materials to construct less than life-size Harpy Eagles, conducting bird watching/identification activities, simulating raptor migration in an Avian Olympics game, and looking at some of the general causes of extinction in an interactive activity called the Map of Extinction.

This workshop was conducted over a two and a half day period and was a condensed version of the 40-hour workshop we will begin giving to teachers this year. We used this initial course as a “trial run” and we are very happy with the results. We received nothing but positive responses and the only complaint was that the course was not long enough.

Raptor silhouette activity
Raptor silhouette activity
In the near future, with the help of the same regional coordinators that participated in the preliminary workshop, we will begin our first full length workshop to train teachers from the Panama Canal area in the use of this guide. Over the next many months we hope to host similar workshops throughout the country. Our ultimate goal is to train roughly 50 teachers from each region so that local educators will feel comfortable and will be motivated to teach environmental education that focuses on birds of prey, the Harpy Eagle, and the importance of raptor conservation on a local and national level.

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