JGI-Uganda’s Aidan Asekenye Travels to Disney for International Conference
Aidan Asekenye, education officer of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)-Uganda, recently presented at the 20th International Zoo and Aquarium Educators’ (IZE) Conference. The conference, which was themed “Connecting Children to Nature,” highlighted activities around the world that are educating youth about the environment and bringing them in direct contact with nature. Aidan was one of 10 IZE recipients chosen from an intensive selection process to present at the five-day conference held between September 28 and October 2, 2010, and hosted by Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Addressing the conference, Aidan described how JGI is increasing the level and quality of environmental education taught in schools and districts bordering chimpanzee habitat. These activities are helping to foster positive attitudes toward chimpanzees and the forests they inhabit. A preliminary JGI assessment found that many teachers were very interested in environmental education but lacked the knowledge and skills to teach the subject. Since these findings were brought to light, JGI has conducted workshops to train school instructors and provide them with the methodologies to teach about the environment.
In addition, with funding from the American people and in collaboration with the PrimeWest Project and the National Curriculum Training Center in Uganda, JGI has developed a teaching guide that integrates environmental education into the elementary school curriculum. Related posters, pamphlets and books developed by JGI also help support teachers in the classroom. To date, JGI has distributed more than 10,000 environmental education teaching guides to elementary school teachers in 16 districts in western Uganda. According to Aidan, “The environmental education materials have been a great success with teachers and students. They have been so popular that some schools not involved in the program have asked to purchase the materials.”
JGI-Uganda’s environmental education materials are distributed to schools bordering chimpanzee habitat.
Aidan highlighted how JGI builds upon knowledge learned in the classroom by engaging youth in informal environmental education activities. Institute-constructed forest education centers, located in chimpanzee habitat, and accompanying forest walks outside the centers enable children to learn about and experience the forest firsthand. Since their construction, more than 6,500 students have visited these forest centers and participated in forest walks.
In addition, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, JGI’s global environmental and humanitarian program for youth, educates young people about the environment and empowers them to take action to preserve it. Roots & Shoots-Uganda works in school communities surrounding six key forested areas that contain the largest populations of wild chimpanzees in the country.
Based on more than 16 years of experience implementing its community-centered conservation model, JGI has found that healthy communities are better able to take care of themselves and their environment. Roots & Shoots-Uganda also educates youth about the social and health conditions affecting their communities, including HIV/AIDS, and provides them with the knowledge to address these issues. All these activities are initiated by the JGI-Uganda team and are designed to complement each other, be self-sustaining, and fit into the Ugandan elementary school curriculum.
To conclude her presentation, Aidan shared the findings of a JGI evaluation conducted to assess changes in student knowledge of and behavior toward the environment. Aidan noted that the evaluation results indicate that JGI’s education program has already led to a significant increase in students’ understanding of the environment and the role that they play in conservation.