Reporting on 2012 Education Activities
In 2012 BRC implemented various education activities around environment and nature for various age-groups. This environmental education program stems out of activities conducted by the BRC in Adjaria, Georgia in previous years. In order to facilitate improvements onto conservation action in the Caucasus BRC has contributed, every year since 2008, by training young environmentalists. An important challenge as this new generation of scientists and environmentalists will be confronted with many critical challenges in the region, ranging from the illegal hunting of (migratory) wildlife, across overgrazing and waste management to sustainable land management.
Until 2012, we introduced students from the Caucasus region (Georgia, Turkey, Armenia) to the migration phenomenon, the people that study it as well as to the scientific research methods that have been developed to answer various questions in migration research. The main aim of this exchange has always been to raise awareness among young conservationists about the presence and conservation importance of the migration flyway that is situated at the eastern Black Sea as well as to the sensitivity of the bird species that use it to human activities in the Caucasus.
Furthermore the BRC student exchanges bring conservationists from the Caucasus together in an informal learning event where cultural differences and national borders quickly dissipate, as such offering excellent opportunities for participants to learn from eachother, to expand their professional networks, to gain important international project experience and to become inspired about important conservation issues in their home countries.
The continuation of our student exchange program remained a top priority for 2012 but the program was adapted to fit better the interests of regional students. At one hand, the existing raptor conservation course was reshaped into a more general 'Field Research & Conservation Course' during which the BRC work was used as a case-study for students to learn about general important principles in good scientific field research, rather than as a very specific course in raptor conservation. Four Armenian and one Turkish student participated this year. After being introduced to the BRC project and basic field research principles they went into the field with their own mini research projects for which they developed their own protocols and reported in English. This were a project to identify the environmental drivers of millipod movements in the BRC host village Sakhalvasho and a project to quantify the influence of soil and vegetation parameters on frog abundance in a coastal floodplain. We congratulate Tigran, Hasmik, Lernik, Mariam and Serhat with their nice projects for the conservation course!
Secondly, a new ‘Environmental Education Course’ was introduced to the BRC exchange program in cooperation with the Acopian Center for Environment (ACE) from the American University of Armenia (AUA) and the Education Devleopment Center (EDC, USAID) in Batumi. This was a course during which participants had the opportunity to develop and implement a class for regional school children about raptor migration. Here we were fortunate to have 2 Georgian, 3 Armenian and 1 Turkish participants who all completed the course with great enthusiasm and succes. We were very happy to have been able to offer this course for the first time to education students with a soft spot for conservation and vice versa, for conservation students with a soft spot for education.
It is worth mentioning this environmentla education course was accredited at AUA and we will continure to solicit for such accredidation of our course with other important regional educational centers. After the succesful implementation of the BRC exchange program we want to thank the Bird Watching Group of Middle-East Technical University (Ankara, Turkey), Regional Environmental Center for the Caucasus (Tbilisi, Georgia) and Kuzeydoga Society (Turkey) for their support in reaching out to students with the BRC exchange program. Special thanks go to Shota Rustaveli University (Batumi, Georgia) and Ilia Chavchavadze University (Tbilisi, Georgia) for the opportunity to broadly present and advertise our exchange program among their students.
In 2012 we also had the chance to support the development of a new school education curriculum that were proposed, developed and implemented by students that were engaged to work with BRC after participating in the 2011 student exchange: Meri Nasilyan and Rozita Aghamalyan from AUA. Thanks to their enthusiasm, original ideas and many hundreds of hours of work we were together able to expand our education efforts to children and young teens. Meri and Rozita designed a program of 5 classes for 12-14 year old pupils from regional schools concerning the traditional BRC topics of raptor ecology, the wonders of long-distance migration and the international ‘resposiblity’ of Batumi and Georgia for migrating birds as a conservation hotpot. Georgian teacher Elza Makharadze and language student Natia Shotadze contributed greatly to translate lesson materials and to implement these classes in Georgian! The class series included 4 indoor classes with various student-oriented interactive learning activities and a field excursion to the BRC raptor count stations. The response of partner schools and most importantly of all participating children was very positive. It was a great pleasure for all BRC participants to see the enthusiasm and knowledge of our classes during the field trips and our educators were positively surprised by the great level of engagement and knowledge during classes. The BRC thanks the EDC, AUA and the Ministry for Education of Ajaria for their support during this project.
Finally we have developed some important education tools to be used for such child-oriented education work, paying particular attention to ensure long-lasting applicability of these materials, also in future stand-alone education activities. The most importance of these is the development of a comprehensive booklet about raptor migration ecology written specifically for 12-14 year olds is an important step through which we aim to facilitate the regional expansion of environmental classes such as those we implemented in our 2012 school education program. A more detailed report about the publication of this booklet is expected by the end of the year after printing has been completed.
In short BRC has made a huge leap forward in the education aspect of its conservation work in Georgia in 2012; by expanding the scope of the education program, as well as by further consolidating existing and new partnerships with important regional stake-holders in environmental education. We look forward to inform you about the 2013 Education Year Plan that is being developed in accordance with the main conclusions from our efforts in 2012.
There will be plenty to discuss about future education plans on the upcoming General Meeting for all members on Dec 8th at Ghent, Belgium!