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By Virginia Vera
Today it is not only important to transmit some environmental knowledge to students, but to educate them for sustainable development, to promote a change in their behaviors and to motivate them to assume personal and community responsibilities related to the environment.
1. Environment, place and community as key concepts of environmental education
2. El Ramal: a unique subregion of the Argentine Northwest
3. The methodology of service-learning in environmental education, applied regionally
4. A remarkable teacher response: the educational solidarity projects proposed
1. Environment, place and community as key concepts of environmental education
Faced with the "forgetting of being in the contemporary world", the axis of this article will be "keeping ourselves in the world of life", through the recovery of the notion of place and of historical memory, in relation to the concepts of environment and community.
The viability of this proposal lies in the realization of participatory environmental education projects based on and with community realities.
We were prompted to write this communication by the experience of the Fourth Conference on Community, Business and the Environment, held on June 8 in Tartagal (Salta), organized by the company REFINOR. There we held a workshop entitled "School, environment and community", in which three hundred and fifty teachers from the Ramal subregion participated, in an area of great participation and fruitful encounter in educational terms.
We arrived from Buenos Aires with the aim of generating more questions than answers, of proposing other ways to carry out new projects in their educational communities that, in turn, are projected in time and space in their respective local communities. It was not in our spirit to theorize or propose didactic recipes, much less impose ideas.
Teachers from many places participated, coming from Tartagal, General Mosconi, Campamento Vespucio, Aguaray, Salvador Mazza and rural areas. They know much more than we do, about environmental problems and the circumstances of the local social and educational reality. They possess that knowledge that will allow them to apply the service-learning methodology according to their own circumstances and diagnoses and according to the context of their places and sociocultural realities.
For this reason, we wanted, recognizing the identity of the Ramal as a subregion of key features of the Argentine Northwest, to carry a message that allows the debate of teaching ideas and practices, and the critical approach to some proposals that were specified in the book "School, environment and community "2 to, in turn, generate new proposals, applied to local realities.
We advocate complex thinking as opposed to single thought, as a structured and omnipresent discourse that uses economic reason as the supreme reason, its essential condition being the predominance of the economic over the political, the environmental, the geographical and the social. This dominant thought is undoubtedly causing the genesis of an increasingly unequal and environmentally degraded society.
On the aforementioned day, a pluralistic debate was held on the relationship between school, environment and community in the Ramal region. According to our thinking, environmental problems require a change in the modes of community participation, production and consumption, as well as in social organization and lifestyles, and these ends will guide such debates to generate participatory projects between the school and the community. community.
We made a proposal with the teachers, that it serve to objectify and create a culture against forgetting, a culture for the development of the community.
In the first instance, we refer to the notion of place not only as a collection of observable objects, but as a container of meanings. The place is linked to individual experience, to the sense of belonging, to the specific location. It is a geographical location but also a human experience. On it we load certain values, it is the daily horizon that has a sense of belonging and identity.
Regions are places, on a larger scale, because they organize space and constitute centers of significance and historical contiguity.
At present, these qualities are no longer referents of identity and social cohesion. The place with a sense of community has been lost. And the consequence is that many populations have ceased to be communities.
This is what we want, in short, to recover with service-learning projects
The place corresponds to the democratization processes, to citizen participation, to the recognition of human rights, to sustainable development.
The opposite is the breaking up of the social fabric through the worsening of inequalities, the precariousness of the population majorities and the destruction of collective identities.
It is a question, then, of rethinking how the relations between the school and the community can be articulated in a creative and active way, focusing specifically, in this case, on environmental problems.
Our conviction lies in the fact that the local space builds the community, through affective, deep, participatory ties that provide stability to social actors. On the contrary, the strong tensions arising from identity crises such as the one our country is experiencing today causes ruptures in communities.
One way to rebuild the notion of place and community is through education, through service-learning projects and, on this issue, we focus our communication. Today there are residual geographic spaces in the world and in Argentina, also called "non-places" (Augé, 1996, Durán, 1997) 3, in which the uprooted, the unemployed, the impoverished are found. There are multiple spaces in our country that provisionally welcome unemployment, poverty, environmental deterioration, condemning expatriation, urbanization of the poor or reclusion and they correspond to the loss of the social bond that was registered in a place.
The projects that we are going to promote reaffirm social ties to promote cultural contacts and strengthen the society-nature relationship in an environmentally sustainable way.
2. El Ramal: a unique subregion of the Argentine Northwest
El Ramal is a sub-region of the Argentine Northwest, characterized by being a territorially organized border area with the laying of the railroad in the first decade of the 20th century. It is a subregion made up of tropical and subtropical valleys framed by the Sub-Andean Mountains, in the eastern part of the Jujuy province and in the central-eastern part of Salta.
It is a "peculiar area due to its climate and vegetation conditions, extremely valuable for the development of a regional economy, a substitute for numerous imported agricultural products" (Chiozza, Aráoz, 1982) 4
In relation to its environmental conditions, this geographical space is characterized by its biodiversity: the Tucumano-Oranense jungle located in the Chaco domain, with its climax on the slopes of 1000 to 2000 m in height, a floor that receives the greatest impact of orographic rains . It is the densest tree mass in Argentina, which includes species such as urundel, palo blanco, tipa, etc. Above 2000 m the alder and queñoas forest appears.
The subregion is also a faunal relict and an area in which a significant agriculturalization process has taken place through the implantation of sugarcane, soybeans, beans, and other multiple tropical fruits, some recently for the local consumption such as mango, avocados and papaya.
The regional economy has been structured around the development of wood, agriculture, and hydrocarbons (oil has laid pipelines and built distilleries).
The nature-society relationship has created in this singular portion of the Argentine site a motley mosaic of human activities that, however, have not resulted in integral and sustainable development processes for the population that remains in poverty.
Unsatisfied basic needs. October 2001. INDEC.
Geographical space Poverty plus destitution 5 Jujuy-Palpalá 57.3 Salta 52.9 Country average 38.3
The process of agriculturization6 in the San Francisco river valley -provinces of Salta and Jujuy- has generated serious environmental impacts, including:
Large-scale deforestation through clear logging, which leaves no corridors of native forest for wildlife species, nor any impediment to the processes of water and wind erosion of the fragile regional soils. There are no forest curtains in the large plantations and the relict forest on the side of the main road is deteriorated by the "thinning" carried out by the local population for domestic use due to the absence of the laying of gas networks (in an area where there is a notable surplus of such natural resources). It is possible to see how on Sundays, the family and, especially, the children, adolescents and the elderly dedicate themselves to extracting firewood that they transport in small cars, by bicycle or on their shoulders with the consequent road risk.
The massive agriculturization of the valley began 10 years ago and in 1998-99 in some areas the replacement of cotton by beans and soybeans began. This last crop is highly erosive of soils, if precautions are not taken to implement sustainable agriculture.
One of the major environmental impacts of the implantation of large areas of sugar cane (from the town of Urundel to San Pedro de Jujuy - a 100 km long corridor), is the presence of winds that previously reduced the jungle and the forest by its devastating action. In the spring time a layer of dust suspended in the area is appreciated due to the burning of the cane leaves. As of September, the hills cannot be seen, with the consequent impacts on the health of the population, especially those related to the respiratory tract.
In the past, cultivation was carried out in a more sustainable way. The machete was used to remove the dry leaf from the cane. The families that carried out agricultural work were more numerous in the area. Currently they stay six months for the harvest season and then they continue their itinerant path as a swallow population towards the oases of Cuyo and the Alto Valle del Río Negro.
The harvesting machine makes two cuts: one flush with the stem and the other below the green plume of the plant, extracting the peeled cane. Due to the action of fire, the reed becomes weaker and, consequently, a higher yield is achieved.
In the Ramal, the railway service that functionally structured the region was raised, replacing it with automotive transport (trucks for transporting regional fruits, tanker trucks for petroleum products). However, the roads still exist and are used occasionally in the rainy season to transport petroleum products. This is an example of poor territorial organization, lack of environmental planning and a speculative economy. The environmental impact of the replacement of rail traffic is verified in air pollution, rural exodus, the concentration of the population in cities, the loss of productive activity of small producers and the presence of ghost towns.
Rural population decline (INDEC)
Jujuy 94176 89923
Jump 182052 181020
The massive fires that are seen in the landscape through the smoke from Tucumán to the Ramal generate landscape environmental impacts, in road safety and also in the generation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the consequent increase in the greenhouse effect.
In the lateritic soil of the valley there are gullies and crevices of pluvial origin that produce alluvium in times of intense rains that sometimes leave the routes impassable and endanger the lives of the populations settled there. This means lack of foresight in terms of natural risks and the lack of protection for local populations.
3. The methodology of service-learning in environmental education, applied regionally
Education does not escape the impact of this planetary environmental crisis, but its current critical and innovative approaches allow new content to be included in the classroom and in the demand of students and, therefore, there are new opportunities to act against the problem. crisis.
Both environmental education and service-learning are proposals that can play an important role in the face of this crisis at its different scales, especially at the local scale. That is why it is tried here to show its aspects of articulation and integration.
The conceptual confluences of environmental education and service-learning can be seen if we pose them as follows:
· EE is a process of social awareness and promotion for the resolution of environmental problems in pursuit of sustainable development, aimed at all sectors of the population, including the formal and non-formal educational systems and the entire community.
· Service-learning is an educational methodology that promotes solidarity as curricular content and the realization of learning experiences that, starting from school, are projected towards the social demand of the communities.7
From these conceptualizations it becomes clear that:
· Environmental education addresses environmental problems of the communities and, therefore, encourages the application of the service-learning methodology.
· Service-learning, through its methodology, allows students to learn better by integrating educational content with solidarity actions carried out in the community, facing a real need in society. In this way, it improves the educational quality of environmental education experiences that are always related to a socio-environmental demand.
To apply the methodology of service-learning in environmental education, the solidarity activities carried out in the educational community should promote the community solution of environmental problems.
Geographical education is a component of both service learning and environmental education. It is situated as a bridge between the two proposals and allows better integration.
Environmental education and service-learning come together in a series of general principles that should always be underlying in the conception of their projects and experiences. These principles refer to different concepts that support them and the foundations of their respective educational practices.
The concepts mentioned are:
Ø Complexity and interdisciplinarity
Ø Activity or experience
Ø Orientation towards values
How is environmental education integrated to service-learning taught?
Traditionally, environmental education has fulfilled the role of "field education" or "nature studies", and for many years it occupied a minor part of the curriculum. The growing awareness of the problem of sustainability significantly influenced environmental education, making it more complex and demonstrating its links with social, economic, cultural and technological problems. The problem, then, is how to achieve a "critical mass" of a population sensitive to environmental problems. Today it is not only important to transmit some environmental knowledge to students, but also to educate them for sustainable development, promote a change in their behavior and motivate them to assume personal and community responsibilities related to the environment.
The challenge requires personal commitment, motivation, critical thinking, and the skills necessary to identify and formulate problems. This is achieved through interdisciplinary learning and through school research, so that students have the opportunity to distinguish environmental problems in their complexity and not to simplify their causal relationships.
The quality of including the social concerns implied by the nature-society relationship allows students to develop complex capacities, such as initiative, participation, independence and responsibility.
Action research serves as a tool for reflection and constructive evaluation. Learning to act intelligently and thoughtfully in the environment is not so much a process of accumulating information about it and applying it. It involves, above all, learning to define and solve practical problems that one perceives when interacting with the environment.
In this section we will try to promote and deepen the insertion and development of the curriculum as one of the central aspects of learning in solidarity educational experiences.
Service-learning values the academic curriculum of students and must be embedded in it. Likewise, environmental education is based on curricular content with an interdisciplinary approach.
In the integration of service-learning and environmental education, the curricular contents must be open, flexible, renewable and a framework, not a subject, nor an "imperative code" .8
This recommendation of flexibility is essential for the selection of the contents of the project.
The environmental dimension has been widely inserted in what is to be taught and both textbooks and all other types of teaching materials reflect this cultural diffusion of the environment.
Despite the above, it is possible to note the deficit of a deep knowledge about environmental problems. In reality, a superficial, rather declarative and very activist knowledge is revealed in the didactic aspects of national environmental problems, but not a training that culminates in preventive or active community actions in favor of solving them. On the other hand, the positive fact is that citizen participation increases day by day through forums, community activities, clubs, popular libraries, foundations, etc. However, this is not enough given the urgency and depth of the problems.
5. A remarkable teaching response: local educational solidarity projects
In the Community, Company and Environment Conference, teachers were proposed to propose projects for the integration of environmental education and service-learning. The methodology was widely accepted, leading to numerous creative local projects.
Some of the proposals are summarized below.
There are several sawmills in the area that generate a large amount of sawdust, constituting a waste that in most cases is burned in the open. The proposal is the use by students of sawdust as raw material for, by compacting and adding different elements, to make logs. They should also do research and tests to improve caloric power. These logs will be targeted at the neediest households in the community. Later you can generate a productive micro-enterprise.
- Recovery of indigenous memory The incorporation in the past of a large part of the Chané community (wichis) in the productive activities of the area, mainly in the oil industry (former YPF) caused the majority to abandon artisan work, causing the interruption of the cultural transmission of the different techniques used.
The aim of this project is to recover this knowledge and put it into practice through productive micro-enterprises of the different crafts of the Chané community.
- Treatment of domestic water and eradication of polluting wells.
The population does not have a sewer service and most of the domestic water is dumped on the public highway. In the vicinity of the school there is a well where a large part of these waters are deposited, with the consequent danger for the school community.
The project proposes to move away the reservoir well through the construction of channels and carry out research work for the treatment of these waters through natural processes.
Child malnutrition is a pressing problem in the area. The project proposes to encourage the consumption of soy (regional cultivation) to improve the incorporation of proteins in the children's diet, through information campaigns and instructing on different ways of preparation.
- Defense and foresight against the environmental risk of alluvium.
Intense deforestation, produced by the indiscriminate exploitation of indigenous forest resources, puts the region at a serious environmental risk from alluvium, particularly in the foothills of the mountains.
The project proposes to carry out a campaign alerting the population about the need to reforest and preventive measures against the risk of flooding. Also in the school a work of compilation and analysis of the national, provincial and municipal environmental laws and the scope of their compliance will be carried out. In the event of non-compliance, a community participation process will be promoted to complain to the authorities.
- Enviromental health
In the area there is a large number of diseases, many of them already endemic, due to its geographical position (subtropical zone) and the great socio-environmental deterioration.
Dengue is one of the highest risk diseases, endemic in the Tartagal area.
The school has carried out an internal prevention campaign and proposes through a service-learning project to reach the entire community. One of the proposed activities is the putting on of a puppet show made by the students. Other diseases of concern in the area such as rabies, filariasis, etc. will also be included in the campaign.
- Start-up of the school canteen
The school has a new dining room with complete facilities but cannot provide the service due to lack of financial resources.
The proposal consists of the implementation of an organic garden and community farm to supply the school and the neediest families. Different micro-enterprises may arise from these activities.
- Plastic recycling
Garbage is a serious environmental problem.
This project proposes to carry out a campaign to collect disposable plastic containers and, in connection with a local micro-enterprise in Gral. Mosconi, carry out their commercialization. The resources obtained would be used for the construction of the school gym shed, which would become a space for the entire community.
- Other projects presented
Recovery of urban green spaces.
Eradication of urban micro-garbage dumps
Reforestation in areas near the school
As it is possible to appreciate the intensity and clarity of the teaching proposals prepared in one hour of the workshop, they were very remarkable, which shows the degree of participation and commitment of the teachers present at the Seminar.
2Durán, Diana. School, environment and community. Teacher Training Manual. Educambiente Foundation. School and Community Program. Ministry of Education of the Nation. Buenos Aires. 2001.
3Augé, Marc. The sense of others. Paidos. nineteen ninety six.
Duran, Diana. Geography and curricular transformation. Editorial place. 1997.
4 Chiozza, Elena. Fernando Aráoz. The Branch. In Chiozza, Elena. The country of the Argentines. Latin America Publishing Center. 1982.
5Poverty: level of total expenditure per month in which an individual reaches the daily minimum of calories.
Indigence or extreme poverty line: level of food expenditure per month in which an individual reaches the daily minimum of calories. (INDEC; 2001)
6Agriculture: process of massive introduction of agriculture to replace the natural ecosystem.
7 Argentina Ministry of Education. National School and Community Program 1. Guide to undertake a Service-Learning project. 2000
8 Bourdieu, Pierre, Cultural capital, school and social space. Mexico. Siglo XXI Editores. 2000.
* Diana Durán, Graduate in Geography from the Universidad del Salvador. Former CONICET Researcher. Professor at the CAECE University and the Italian Hospital School of Medicine. Project Coordinator of the Educambiente Foundation. Virginia Vera. Degree in Biology from the University of Buenos Aires. Middle and higher level teacher.