In March, four Hawaii Island educators traveled to Lambayeque, Peru, as part of a program called Forest Guardians. Teachers connected with Peru partners to gain new perspective on the environmental and educational challenges facing each community.
The four Forest Guardians teachers stayed for a week at the Spectacled Bear Conservation Center in northwestern Peru.
They met with teachers and students from the partner program Guardianes del Bosque, toured local museums and heritage sites and hiked through native dryland forests. The last day of their visit culminated in a Guardianes del Bosque festival that celebrated the native culture and species of the Lambayeque region.
Upon returning to Hawaii, Tina Flower, a teacher at Hualalai Academy, reflected: “Knowing that I am part of a broader network of educators here in Hawaii, extending to the communities of northern Peru, provides me with a sense of connectedness and solidarity of purpose.”
Peruvian and Hawaiian cultural histories share a deep connection to their environments —environments now critically endangered. In an effort to conserve these threatened ecosystems and species, San Diego Zoo Global, the Three Mountain Alliance in Hawaii and the Sicán National Museum in Peru formed “Forest Guardians,” a coalition to implement an environmental education and outreach program to build a global alliance focused on environmental and cultural conservation.
The international exchange is a key component to the program. In February, three Peruvian teachers visited Hawaii schools, sharing their students’ crafts made from recycled materials. Other highlights included a hike with a Volcano School of Arts and Sciences’ third-grade class in the Kilauea Caldera and a visit to the Grow Hawaiian Festival at Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden.
“The trip to Hawaii was very important for my professional life because it triggered a reflection (due to) the important proposals Hawaiian teachers made to their schools” said Alejandro Hoyos Collazos, a teacher from Lambayeque, Peru. “But my trip to Hawaii also meant a wonderful life experience because of the precious friends I made. And for that I will be eternally grateful.”
Forest Guardian educators are participating in programs that reconnect local communities with their environmental culture while building environmental education into their schools’ curricula. With these connections to their land, students can become advocates for their forests and the species within.
Peru and Hawaii are different on many accounts but they share elements of high biodiversity, unique climates and, unfortunately, a growing rate of species extinction.