Engaging youth in conservation
In a groundbreaking new partnership, UNICEF is working with Blue Ventures to enhance its community-based conservation program through innovative, technological teaching tools for the youth of coastal southwest Madagascar.
The partnership is part of the 'Connecting Classrooms, Communities, and Youth for Biodiversity Conservation'(CCCYBC) initiative launched this year by UNICEF Madagascar. The core program activity is 'Connecting Classrooms'—a global initiative of UNICEF that has been adapted to Madagascar to contextualize the e-learning modules around the themes of conservation, climate change adaptation, and natural resource management, among other key themes. The model empowers and 'connects' youth to engage in dialogue with their peers both here in Madagascar and beyond.
Through an innovative new website called ConnectingClassrooms.net, UNICEF is helping youth around Madagascar and Africa to share their stories with one another over the internet. Connecting Classrooms students learn about the nexus of their local culture and environment and what makes them unique; they also look at issues like changing gender roles, cultural norms, and identity across time and place. Then, with help from the CC coordinators, the students turn their classwork into posts for the Connecting Classrooms website, adding photos, video, and audio files where possible. The Connecting Classrooms curriculum gives young people in rural areas like Andavadoaka their first ever chance to connect to the internet - and to use a computer! - celebrating the unique Velondriake region, while gaining invaluable insight into what makes other cultures and environments unique through their exchanges with CC groups the world over.
The UNICEF JRC programme has trained hundreds of youth to collect and share important community development stories with their peers, creating a corps of "young citizen journalists" across many of the countries where UNICEF works. However, Blue Ventures and Velondriake have the honour of being the first UNICEF partner site to have a Junior Reporters Club whose members are trained to use film! Previously trained to develop educational radio programmes, here in Velondriake our 14 Junior Reporters have learned to use FlipCams to capture and share important stories of local conservation and environmental issues. The 14 JRCs are spread across the Velondriake intervention zone; those who live in Andavadoaka have the added privilege of taking part in the production of the Feom'Bezo radio show as well. JRC films are used on the Village Outreach Tour and other environmental education outreach activities; soon, they will be visible on the new LivewiththeSea.org website, a portal for sharing community conservation strategies and stories. Check out the films our JRCs have produced - and check back often for new films!
Connecting Classrooms & Junior Reporters
Every Saturday morning, up to 175 children from across Andavadoaka gather at the Velondriake Centre to take part in Saturday Schools: environmental education that is hands-on, interactive, creative & fun! Our Education Programme staff works with local teachers, Velondriake Committee members, and other members of staff to develop the Saturday Schools lessons and share them with the participating children. As with all of our CCCYBC activities, Saturday Schools participants include both in-school and out-of-school children, highlighting linkages with in-class learning where appropriate, and providing access to informal education to those who otherwise have no access to the formal education system. The Saturday Schools students are learning through field trips, art projects, songs, and other innovative educational methods just how important it is to love and respect the unique environment of coastal southwest Madagascar, which is key to the long-term survival of the ecosystem.
From among the members of this environmental youth club are sure to arise the future leaders of the Velondriake Committee and the Velondriake LMMA (locally-managed marine area) that makes this region so unique. Studying from the Blue Ventures Community Conservation Handbooks and with guest teachers from BV and the Velondriake Committee, Club Aloalo learns about the importance of the local environment, the strategy of community-based conservation, and the leadership skills needed to manage their own natural resources. Aloalo has been active since 2005, but this is the first time that it has been joined with other similar clubs across Madagascar through the UNICEF-led MYNE (Madagascar Youth Network for the Environment). This is also the first time that BV and Aloalo are working to establish and network other youth environmental clubs here in the Velondriake region, helping to ensure that the next generation will have the skills and passion needed to maintain and grow their LMMA and to protect their way of life.
Club Alo Alo
Radio is one of the most effective and most important ways of spreading community development messages in rural communities in developing countries. For Blue Ventures, Feom'Bezo ("The Voice of the Vezo") is a key component of our community outreach activities, sharing news and updates from across our projects and Velondriake activities with the wider community, including beyond the Velondriake region. Feom'Bezo has regularly aired 15-minute programmes since its inception in October 2011, and we are now training community members across Velondriake to work as Listener Groups, who will listen to the bi-monthly programme, discuss its contents, and provide important feedback as the programme evolves. Feom'Bezo has also been an outlet for sharing local musical talent with a wide radio audience, spreading important conservation messages through catchy popular music. You can listen to Feom'Bezo online at velondriake.org >
Every two weeks, members of our staff and our partners hit the road, travelling from village to village, spreading the message of integrated conservation across Velondriake. This community conservation roadshow, known as the Village Outreach Tour, is a key component of our activities, reinforcing the idea that improving health, providing family planning options, increasing access to education, and locally-based natural resource management are all essential to striking a balance between the local population and the environment it depends on. The Village Outreach Tour uses an informal community education approach, including music, film, games, and interactive presentations designed to educate the public on different PHE (population, health, environment) themes. At every stop along the Village Tour, our Education Programme representative works with the local member of the Junior Reporters Club (JRC) to collect new films and interviews on important local conservation issues. The Tour is also helping Club Aloalo to create a network of similar youth environmental clubs engaging in environment, health, and local conservation activities, as well as helping to establish listener groups for the Feom'Bezo radio programme. The health and education representatives even work with local school teachers along the Village Tour, teaching students fun health and environmental education lessons that correspond to the current Tour topics.