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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Educational Guides and Teacher Training Workshops Go Hand in Hand to Further Raptor Conservation in Panama
Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program    Share

The Peregrine Fund-Panama’s Neotropical Environmental Education Program (NEEP) is currently focused on working in three main target areas within Panama. The first area consists of 16 communities surrounding Soberania National Park (SNP) where The Peregrine Fund-Panama is soft releasing young Harpy Eagles (see Notes from the Field Harpy Eagle Releases). The second area includes 21 communities in Darien, the region that borders with Colombia, and where a significant population of wild Harpy Eagles remains. Most recently, we have begun to work in 13 communities in the Bocas del Toro region, where we have already released several independent Harpy Eagles and where some wild Harpy Eagles still remain.

Educational Guide—<i>Las Aves Rapaces</i
Educational Guide—Las Aves Rapaces
Work in these three areas consists of communicating with adults and children the importance of raptors in general and of the Harpy Eagle in particular. We use PowerPoint presentations, games, art, and interactive exercises in order to teach community members of all ages about the amazing world of birds of prey by disseminating accurate information about raptors while dispelling the many myths that surround these birds. In an effort to further expand our message of Harpy Eagle and general raptor conservation nationwide, we have written an educational guide for elementary school teachers called Las Aves Rapaces ("Raptors" in English). With financial assistance from The Nature Conservancy, we have submitted Las Aves Rapaces for publication and the first 150 copies should be available for distribution in the upcoming weeks. Our goal for this guide is two-fold. First, we hope to distribute it throughout Panama, so that in the next few years, most, if not all elementary school teachers in the country will have a copy. The second step is to ensure that teachers will actually utilize the information and feel comfortable teaching the material contained within the guide. In order to make this happen, we knew that merely having a copy of the guide would not be enough. We had to provide teachers with an opportunity to develop an interest and affection for raptors while building on their general conservation knowledge to include raptor biology, ecology, and behavior. This is where our teacher training workshops come into play.

In October of last year, NEEP held a very successful trial “mini” teacher training workshop, with 12 regional coordinators from Panama’s Ministry of Education’s Environmental Education Department (see Notes from the Field, October, 2005). This month, we held two full-length workshops, one for teachers in the PNS area and the other for the teachers working in Bocas del Toro. The workshop, entitled “Use and Methodology of the Education Guide Raptors.” is four days long (40 hours) and has been approved by Panama’s Ministry of Education, so that participants each received a half “professional point” for their participation.

The first workshop started on 6 February and was open to teachers working in the SNP area. It began with a special inauguration presented by Adelia O. de Pérez, the National Director of the Environmental Education Department of Panama’s Ministry of Education, and our very own director, Magaly Linares. The inauguration was held at our Neotropical Raptor Center in Clayton, Panama. Here, participants got an inside view of the work we do by seeing the education Harpy Eagle live and up-close and by getting a special view of the monitor room where pairs of captive breeding Harpy Eagles are monitored with the help of closed circuit television.

After our visit to the NRC, we traveled to a guest house on the edge of a small forest in Gamboa where we would be staying for the remainder of the workshop. With assistance from the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, who provided us, free of charge, with the use of the Garden House, a large outdoor room where we conducted most of our activities, we had plenty of work space for the 31 teachers that participated.

Teacher training workshop.
Teacher training workshop.
The second workshop, held during the last week in February, was conducted on Isla Colon of Bocas del Toro and had a total of 20 participants from the region. During both workshops, teachers listened to presentations about raptors and Fondo Peregrino-Panama’s work with the Harpy Eagle. They participated in hands-on activities such as constructing life-size Harpy Eagles (an activity designed to reinforce math skills), creating habitat mobiles (an art and natural science activity), writing poetry, and locating, observing and identifying some of the more common birds found in these areas. Participants also had a chance to design and present some of their own activities based on the information contained in the guides.

Based on the success of the past two workshops, we will conduct at least one more this year, for the teachers in Darien. In the upcoming years, we will continue to host these workshops throughout the country. Our hope is that, through the workshop and guide, local teachers will be inspired and equipped with the necessary knowledge to be directly involved in educating Panama’s youth about the importance of raptor conservation for generations to come.

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