Education in the Galapagos is extremely important for a number of reasons. A strong fundamental education can encourage the natives on the island to explore their possibilities in life. With a solid education, they can seek jobs in a broad number of fields rather than sticking to the conventional jobs involving tourism and fishing that may harm the environment. Furthermore, a strong environmental education for both natives and tourists will spread awareness about the importance and uniqueness of biodiversity on the islands. Once the people understand the significance of preserving the environment, they may take action to help reduce the harmful effects of civilization on the ecosystem.
Environmental Education Centers for Galapagos Youth
The Environmental Education centers (CEA), developed in 1997, aim to bring together conservation and environmental specialists, and local students and teachers. They have been developed on a number of the Galapagos Islands, including Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal. Each center includes infrastructure, equipment, library, and specialized personnel for service to the community. The centers focus on educating the community on the importance of marine preservation, the problems of invasive species, and the participation of the community in conservation through a number of innovative programs:
Teachers on Board
Educating teachers on the importance of biodiversity is one of the best ways to incorporate environmental education into local schools. Teachers are taken to other islands outside where they live and work. They are taught about the ecosystem and wildlife. The knowledge they obtain from this program can then be used to develop a curriculum on nature and conservation.
Funds for Local Action in Conservation
Conservation efforts cannot succeed without the necessary resources. This program has funded forty-three local groups interested in strengthening conservation efforts. These groups focus mainly on education in a variety of environmentally related topics, including. Some examples of programs include: Hydroponics and family gardens, town murals and slogans, development of educational materials, Galapagos beach protection, expansion of educational games, production of brochures and magazines with conservation themes, restoration of botanical gardens, construction of an "ecological park", and Galapagos coastal cleanup
Friends of the Tortoises
Through this program, children of Isabella are able to learn about tortoises and how to protect and care for them. They are allowed to visit tortoise-breeding centers on Isabella, where they participate in breeding and rearing process of tortoises. The children can then share what they learned through the center with others in their communities.
Children Scientists on Board
This program, based in San Cristobal, allows children to travel on board a number of tour boats to visit the different islands. The children travel with logbooks to take observations on the ecosystem and the wildlife. They are given the opportunity to see the archipelago and wildlife of the Galapagos as well as learning valuable information about conservation and monitoring activities from the crews of the tour boats.
The GLOBE Program (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment)
This program unites students, teachers, and scientists around the world to get a better understanding of the world's environment. Around 3000 elementary and high schools from more than 70 countries participate in this program.
Students collect data about their local environment, including atmosphere, ecology, and biology. All the data from around the world is collected in a database, where students can access information and exchange scientific data with other students.
Not only does this program allow students in the Galapagos to become more aware of the environment they live in, but it also educates other students around the world on the ecology of the Galapagos.
Communications Dissemination Program
Awareness of the environmental situation in the Galapagos is a prerequisite to conservation. The goal of the Communications Dissemination Program, started by the Charles Darwin Foundation, is to spread awareness through audiovisual and graphic elements that focus on educating the population about the ecosystem in which they live.
A local television show, "Archijuegalo," is an example of one of the audiovisual programs. The themes of this game show where high school students compete against one another are the exploitation of marine resources and the danger of introduced species.
Social Action for the Prevention of Invasive Species
A major part of preventing the introduction of invasive species is increasing the independence of the Galapagos Islands, so that it does not have to depend as much on imports from the mainland, one of the most likely sources for invasive species. A communication program has been set up to promote safe agricultural policies. This program has set up workshops on the three main inhabited islands about the use of pesticides and the management of seed-plots. Model farms have been built, and a list of permitted, restricted, and prohibited products has been drawn up. The program also provides farmers with technical advice and training so they are more able to handle the new environmentally safe technologies that can be found in the model farms.
There seems to be a good number of programs set up to educate the people on the environment. However, what is missing is much incentive to participate in the programs. Another issue with the current environmental education programs set up is that they focus too much on learning about the ecology of the Galapagos and less about what needs to be done to move toward conservation. Furthermore, most of the programs focus on children in the Galapagos, when a large contributing factor to current environmental problems is the adults that live on the islands. Finally, too much focus is being placed on environmental education, and too little on formal education itself.
Create incentive to participate in programs
Give the people a reason to participate in the environmental education programs. There are many was to go about this. One great incentive is money. Teachers that participate in the "Teachers on Board" program could be paid more to teach students about the environment and ecology of the islands. Students in the "Friends of the Tortoises" program can be paid for helping out with breeding and raising the tortoises. Farmers who participate in the program to prevent the introduction of invasive species could be subsidized for their efforts to use environmentally safe products and to incorporate aspects of the model farms into their own farms. (The experimental farm technology could be given to the farmers for free). Other incentives include allowing the children who are part of "Children Scientists on Board" to travel not with local tour boats but with fancy international tour companies and tour guides.
Expand the scope of environmental education
Part of living in a village on the Galapagos Islands and trying to conserve the environment involves things such as recycling to reduce the amount of waste and conserving water and energy to save resources and reduce pollution. Although it is important for the inhabitants of the islands to understand the importance of conservation of the ecosystem, it is equally if not more important that they know how to go about conserving the environment. Therefore, programs focusing on educating the public about things such as water conservation, energy conservation, and recycling should be established. They can be similar to the programs that travel around American elementary schools educating students on drug use, cigarette use, and recycling.
Expand the target audience
Children are influenced to a great extent by their parents. Therefore, to interest a child on the importance of preserving the environment of the Galapagos, the parents need to be interested and well informed as well. Programs that are now open to children of the Galapagos should be open to adults as well. Perhaps fishermen that learn about the devastating effects their fishing has on the sea cucumber population (and consequently the rest of the food chain), he or she may decide to tone down their illegal fishing activities. Although this example may seem idealistic, it is nevertheless important that adults are aware of the effects of their actions on the environment as well as the significance of preserving the Galapagos.
Encourage and improve formal education
Although the immediate future of the Galapagos depends to a certain extent on the awareness of the population of the Galapagos environment, the long-term future of the islands depends on the formal education of the people. Students who attend high school and college are more likely to find jobs in sectors other than fishing and tourism, both industries that harm the environment to varying extents. In order to stop illegal fishing and slow down tourism, it is necessary to shift the native population of the Galapagos away from those sectors, since the demand for sea cucumbers and the number of tourists are unlikely to decrease. Children of the Galapagos should be paid to go to school, as are many children in developing countries such as Brazil, in order to discourage them from spending their time working or in other pursuits. Furthermore, scholarships should be awarded to students of the Galapagos to attend colleges, an important step to the high level education that will give the student more options than a fisherman or a tour guide.