Sustainable Study Abroad Grants 2012-13

Clara Maeder
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
"Manos Verdes/Green Hands: Environmental Education to Promote Sustainability"

This project seeks to build upon the progress that has been made by Manos Verdes, an environmental education initiative for at-risk youth in Chile by investigating and working towards fulfilling the environmental and experiential education needs of Valparaíso public school students, many of whom do not have many opportunities to experience learning outside of their classrooms nor explore the environments that exist around their city. The culmination of this project will be educational excursions for elementary school classes of at-risk and underfunded Valparaíso public schools; students will explore local ecosystems, using all of their senses to learn about the natural world around them and how they can work to preserve it. By using nature as a platform from which to base educational experiences, I hope to create a space for young students to meaningfully connect with their environment, developing a love of nature and a desire to preserve our planet.

Elizabeth Foody
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
"Promoting Sustainability Through Environmental Education: A Field Trip to the Botanical Garden"

I believe that one of the best ways to promote sustainability is through environmental education. Many Valparaíso schools do not have the resources to give their students the opportunity to experience and connect with nature. My project works along side Manos Verdes, a partnership program between Southern Nature and Middlebury in Chile, to give students from an underfunded Valparaíso school more exposure to nature and environmental education. With this project, I will coordinate and prepare an interactive and educational class visit to the Botanical Garden in Viña del Mar where the students will have the opportunity to learn and interact with nature.

Leif Castren
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
"Manos Verdes field trip to the Mantagua wetland"
This sustainable study abroad grant funded a field trip to a protected coastal wetland north of Viña del Mar, Chile for an entire 5th grade (40 students) from a middle school in urban Santiago. The course was transported to the site by bus and enjoyed a full day of environmental education activities that included lessons on the ecosystem services of wetlands, how to become a naturalist by observing and asking questions, and how to care for native flora and fauna. Many of the 5th graders had never been to a wetland or received in-field education on plants, animals, or ecosystems. Exchange students from Middlebury's College in Chile led and organized the activities with guidance from tourism professionals who oversee Manos Verdes, an organization founded by a Middlebury student to provide children in under-funded urban schools with opportunities for hands-on interactions with nature to cultivate ecosystem awareness, sustainable practices, and, most importantly, a love of learning. Beyond the academic learning associated with the field trip, we also taught the kids to kayak and gave them free time to play and explore the wetland on their own. We finished the project by making a promise with our students: to continue exploring, learning about, and caring for our natural surroundings. The project was hugely rewarding both for myself, a Middlebury student studying for a year in Valdivia, other leaders and organizers, and, above all, the 5th graders who it was all for.