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close this bookConservation Education: a Planning Guide (Peace Corps, 1995)
close this folderChapter 6 - Selecting an educational strategy introduction
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Many educational strategies can be used in conservation education, ranging from producing posters to developing national forestry extension programs. Like every other facet of conservation education, strategies must fit existing environmental, political, and social situations if they are to be fully effective.

Conservation education strategies widely used in the United States may be totally inappropriate in developing countries, for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, however, U.S. conservation educators working in developing countries commonly select education strategies because they are familiar, not because they are the most effective strategies available. Thus educators who have worked as interpretive naturalists will set up nature centers and conduct teacher workshops, without considering whether working with farmers or government leaders would have a greater environmental impact.

Development workers involved in conservation education are more likely to have positive environmental impact if they carefully consider all the possible strategies available to them before implementing any. They need not feel tightly constrained by prior experience with a particular approach; one of the best features of development work is that it offers willing and adaptable people opportunities to work effectively in areas new to them.

Lou Ann Dietz, an education specialist and former Peace Corps Volunteer from Brazil, has implemented several successful education strategies as part of the U.S. National Zoo's Golden Lion Tamarin Project in Poco das Antas Biological Preserve in Brazil. The golden lion tamarin is a small monkey that is now facing extinction in its southeastern Brazilian range. In response, the National Zoo is transplanting zoo-reared animals into the reserve. Lou Ann's husband, Jim, is the on-site biologist in charge of the project; Lou Ann's job is to educate local people about the value of the monkey and the reserve, so that both will be secure, to the benefit of both monkey and human.

To begin the effort, Lou Ann worked closely with Brazilians to identify different target audiences and to learn their environmental attitudes. She found, as did Bill Weber in Rwanda (see page 57), that a survey of attitudes carried out by local teachers provided critical information to guide the program's content and methods. The information she gathered along with her understanding of the people's customs and concerns led her to select a combination of strategies for the conservation education program. In an article published in the National Zoo's magazine Zoogoer (Dietz, 1985) Lou Ann writes:

Our activities have ranged from organizing press events inside the Reserve to producing for schoolchildren free notebooks with a tamarin cover and conservation message. We have aired public service messages on radio and TV, trained teachers in ecology, taught landowners how they can save on property tax by establishing private forest refuges, and lectured local officials, schools, conservationists, farmers, university students, and scientific congresses. We have developed posters, audio-visual programs, leaflets, stickers, buttons, t-shirts, and decals. Approximately 4,700 people have passed through our travelling exhibit and hundreds have seen our production of a children's play about tamarin conservation.

Six schools have organized field trips to the Reserve, where the reintroduced animals-already accustomed to people--have been a special source of delight to the youngsters. During one visit, a daring young tamarin came down from a tree, found a tree frog, and ate it in front of 25 ecstatic high school students.

Although public enthusiasm is growing, we know the changing of attitudes and behaviors is a slow process that will have to continue long after most of us have returned to the United States. Fortunately, an energetic Brazilian biologist, Elizabeth Nagagata, is one project member who plans to stay. She will continue the educational work she has helped begin-keeping public enthusiasm alive and continuing to supply scientific information so that conservation of the forest and all its elements--including the golden lion tamarin--will come to be regarded not just as something in vogue, but as a crucial issue meriting continuing action.

This chapter discusses some guidelines for choosing a strategy or several and briefly describes several commonly-employed strategies. The strategies described here are certainly not the only choices available. Many different educational approaches have been used in various situations around the world; it is also quite possible that a development worker could develop an entirely new and appropriate strategy that has not yet been applied to conservation education. Sometimes, as Lou Ann Dietz's and Bill Weber's programs illustrate, the best strategy is a combination of several coordinated together. The strategy, after all, should fit the situation, and the conservation educator could easily have to address a situation with a unique combination of environmental and social characteristics. Regardless of the situation, however, the development worker will best approach the problem with an open mind, without preconceptions.