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While lack of proper internet services and the prevailing conditions attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic have been hampering education delivery in the Rupununi region, wildlife clubs have provided opportunities for children in the area to foster their environmental skills as well as keep their academic interests alive.
Schools in the region, like most parts of the country remain closed except for the higher levels of secondary school, however , the future biologists in the region have been busy , making use of their environment to keep their academic interests and hunger for learning, in a busy mode. At the helm of such activities is the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) and its team led by Samantha James.
With support from the Sustainable Wildlife Management Project – Guyana, the NRDDB is fostering skills with wildlife clubs for resource management, skills which can be transferred to community leadership, tourism and resource management in general.
James, who is the NRDDB’s Focal Point, has been working with clubs of the North Rupununi for over 16 years. She said “kid’s natural interest in the environment and curiosity provides a great opportunity for youth to develop skills related to science, technology, engineering, art and math, or STEAM, they just need a little push. We provide mentoring in leadership, guidance in the technical aspects of monitoring and research for Club Coordinators, who then teach back to their club. The club kids do the rest!.”
The wildlife club activities have provided an opportunity for children between the ages of 8 and 20 to focus their environmental interests as well as academic and life skills.
According to James, the Clubs write monthly reports about their activities which they submit to their village council, building skills in administration and communication. When a club decides on where to set a camera trap or conduct bird monitoring, a lot of different skills are necessary as they are basically designing a research project. She said this involves critical thinking, knowledge of wildlife, as well as respect and care about the environment. Analyzing results or data from activities pulls in math, and sharing the results is all about communication. As such club teams have been benefitting from an outdoor classroom. She said at the NRDDB, remote teachers work along with the clubs as they trouble shoot, share information, reports and results through a social media group.
Said James : “The children have come up with some amazing research projects: Surama and Rewa clubs are setting their camera trap, for one month each in high bush, savanaah and farming areas to compare the animals found in different habitats around their community. The wildlife clubs of Wowetta and Kwaimatta have been identifying and locating rare birds in their area including the cock of the rock, crested doridito, and rose breasted chat. These rare species are high on birder’s lists, so this activity also has direct links to tourism as well as habitat conservation. Yupukari’s club has youngsters learning the basics of bird and mammal identification and ecology which they then interpret though art, literature and story-telling. Older club member venture further from the village to monitor black caiman, river turtles and deploy camera traps for mammal surveys.”
According to the NRDDB, once clubs have six months of either bird or mammal data, the body requests from club coordinators , their research results and make recommendations for management and future research. The NRDDB said when the pandemic ceases, persons can visit these communities and catch a glimpse of the wildlife and be inspired by the youth of the wildlife clubs of the North Rupununi.