By: Borderlands Restoration Network
Environmental education is an organized effort to teach individuals about how to sustainably manage ecosystems. Graduates from the various education programs that Borderlands Restoration Network offers develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and are taught the skills to engage in preserving the natural environment and biocultural diversity.
The Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) is a nonprofit organization leading in advancing environmental education throughout Arizona. AAEE collaborates with practitioners in the field to establish frameworks for quality environmental literacy programs, EE certifications, and working groups.
The nonprofit started hosting the AAEE Excellence in Environmental Education Awards to honor individuals and organizations that have made a significant impact on environmental education through innovative and inspiring practices in Arizona. Leona Davis, Earth Grant Program Coordinator with the Arizona Institute for Resilience nominated Jordan Sene, BRN’s Youth Education Program Coordinator in the Outstanding Young Professional (age 23 and under) category. On November 5th, Jordan received the award during an interactive award ceremony.
Jordan Sene, 21, is from Rio Rico, Arizona. She is a student at Arizona State University majoring in sustainable ecosystems at the School of Sustainability. She is also pursuing her Master of Sustainability Solutions (MSUS 4+1) degree at ASU. Jordan participated in the Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) program when she graduated from Rio Rico Highschool, before heading off to university. During the program, she was a youth leader first learning about sustainability and permaculture while doing watershed restoration work. Participating in BECY sparked new interest and passion in Jordan and it changed the trajectory of her study and career path.
Six months in as a BRN staff member, Jordan learned hands-on how to coordinate the BECY program with the Patagonia and Douglas 2021 cohorts in the summer. By the fall, she designed and implemented an 8-week online course internship for students in Douglas, Arizona, Agua Prieta, and Hermosillo, Sonora. The course, Jaguars 101: Jaguar Habitat Restoration & Community Resilience was multidisciplinary and featured guest speaker practitioners from the U.S. and Sonora.
The course started with the basics on jaguar biology, ecology, history, and cultural value. Then, interns learned more about the importance of stakeholder engagement throughout the borderlands, watershed restoration techniques, and cases for conservation. Jordan also moderated a panel discussion focused on environmental justice, representation, and advocacy with three local environmental advocates. The last section of the course emphasizes sustainable management of food systems and current sustainability research that young conservationists are conducting at the University of Arizona and Universidad de Sonora.
By: Jordan Sene, BRN Youth Education Program Coodinator
This fall, we offered our first youth program centered around jaguar habitat restoration and community resiliency. It was an 8-week internship course that included eight youth ages 15-20 from Douglas, AZ, Agua Prieta and Hermosillo, Sonora Mexico. The purpose of this introductory course was to teach youth interns about the importance of jaguar habitat restoration and building community resilience in our southwest region of the US/Mexico borderlands.
Youth interns learned about environmental and community restoration, conservation, binational collaboration, environmental justice, and overall sustainability with an emphasis on regenerative management of natural and cultural resources. We also hosted many conservation professionals and experts from both sides of the border from diverse backgrounds and experiences in their expert fields of conservation and jaguar habitat restoration. Interns learned about the causes of jaguars critically endangered status and mitigation efforts aimed to prevent the jaguar's extinction in the Sky Islands region. Those efforts include various methods of water and land restoration. Throughout this online course, interns worked on an applied project centered around jaguar advocacy and community resilience which they successfully presented during the final week of the course.
The Story Behind Jaguars 101: The youth interns from Agua Prieta conducted virtual storytelling behind the Jaguars 101 course and shared their internship experience through their presentations. The students gave their perspective on the course including, jaguar history, cultural value, jaguar biology, and their role in the Sky Islands ecosystem. The interns also produced a jaguar video. Their purpose behind this project was to demonstrate that internships can be personal, captivating, and engaging for a younger demographic.
Youth Workshop at Douglas Public Library: The Douglas youth interns from Cochise College completed a series of workshops for young children, ages 6-11, at the Douglas Public Library. They taught the younger children and their families how they can help their environment and why it's so important to do so. Their purpose was to educate the youth, their parents, and the community about the importance of healthy ecosystems, conservation, and wildlife.
Biodiversidad de Hermosillo: Hermosillo youth interns from the Universidad de Sonora focused their project on sharing and educating young children about entomology, the study of insects. Their project took place at a local children's home called Todos Somos Hermanos, where they taught young children environmental science-related topics through a series of workshops while making it a fun experience. The purpose was to generate sincere interest in the nature that surrounds them and learn to respect it. The series of workshops focused on mammals and tracks, desert plants, and insect diversity. Youth played games and completed activities such as plant pressing during each short course. The youth interns plan to continue these workshops as they continue practicing environmental education and citizen science.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
As the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator, one of my many roles is to teach occasionally. The Borderlands education program brings in students from all over the globe, and frequently they are interested in wildlife. I begin my classes by presenting about the preserve and sharing some beautiful pictures and videos of some of the most charismatic animals in the area. As a relatively introverted person, this is always a challenge for me. Still, I am more grateful for each opportunity to teach I get.
Both of my parents in their younger years were teachers. They were not teachers in the traditional sense of working in public schools or universities. Still, they taught students what they were experts in, art and solar. I still admire their ability to answer just about any question on these topics. I now know how they gained this wisdom, and it was through teaching and being open to answering all those questions!
Each time I teach, I strive to have all the answers in my head. I study up on jaguars and bats and try to anticipate what I will be asked. There are so many animals to know about. Each time I am caught off guard with questions like, how many different stink bug species are there? How many jaguars exist worldwide? How high do butterflies fly? And the tough ones like, will humans ever be able to coexist with predators? What animals here will go extinct due to climate change? Are you hopeful for the future?
I take some time after each class to research the questions I don't have answers to, and frequently I learn so much more than I ever expected. Some of the questions are answered with even more questions. These are the best questions and an invitation to students to research more and find the answers themselves, their curiosity is needed.
So, am I hopeful for the future? Yes, I am hopeful each time I teach because the students' questions are full of hope, wonder, and care, and that is exactly what we need to save each other and the wildlife we love. Thank you to all the students out there, the ones in school and the ones who refuse to stop learning. Keep the questions coming!
Just in case you are wondering. There are around 120 pinacate beetle (stink bug) species found in the western United States. Worldwide jaguar estimates range from 15,000 to 170,000, more conclusive research is needed, but most experts lean towards the lower end of that range. Some butterflies have been known to fly at heights of 11,000 to 20,000 feet! Who knew!
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Lead Technician
The Dirtbags are an all-volunteer trail building group located in Patagonia, AZ. Founded about ten years ago and named after huge canvas bags used to haul dirt, they pride themselves on creating free access to natural areas to the public through creating expertly crafted hiking trails. Friends of Sonoita Creek, another Patagonia-based nonprofit conservation group focused on protecting, restoring, and educating people on the importance of Sonoita Creek (flowing seasonally from Sonoita to Nogales, AZ), provides the materials for the Dirtbags to do their fieldwork.
The Dirtbags adhere to a social contract of giving back to the communities they love. The gift given is access to beautiful, protected landscapes within the Sonoita Creek Watershed and surrounding areas. One of the areas they have enhanced with their trail building skills is the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve (BWP). The BWP, thanks to the Dirtbags, has a trail system consisting of three excellent and easy-to-access trails. In addition to building trails occasionally, one of the Dirtbags, Joe Watkins, creates and places wooden benches to enjoy the mountain views.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe about the bench building process and the experience of being a Dirtbag. Joe took a furniture building class back in the early 2000s and has been perfecting his craft of woodworking ever since. The latest creations now located within the BWP are two white oak viewing benches. One placed on the Smith Canyon Loop Trail and one on the Connector Trail. Designed after the famous conservationist Aldo Leopold’s bench designs, they create peaceful resting points along the trails.
These two benches took at least thirty hours apiece to craft and finish with UV protectant. The wood of Joe’s choice, Redwood or Cedar, was not available, so White Oak was used due to its natural insect repellent qualities. The planks are fitted together tightly to provide more of a water repellent design. With the help of the Dirtbags and Joe’s wife Barbra, the benches were placed on blocks on a rock patio to preserve the wood further. This process took about three hours, and Joe joked that the Dirtbag’s motto is “we don’t work fast, but we sure work cheap!”.
Borderlands Restoration Network would like to extend a special thank you to the Dirtbags for the fantastic work they do in this community. The trails and benches they build have opened access to nature to many and left our community a better place for all. Thank you to the Friends of Sonoita Creek for providing the materials for the Dirtbags to do their work and to Lou and Jim Schatz for donating the funds to create the two benches recently installed.
If you would like to know more about the Dirtbags and potentially volunteer with them, please reach out to Joe Watkins at (520) 377-7294 or email@example.com.
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