This past weekend, there were actual CHILDREN in the Children’s Forest of Coto Brus (at Finca Cántaros) for the first time this year.
(Take that, 2020!)
The Finca Cántaros, San Vito Bird Club and Monteverde Bat Jungle teams welcomed them with impeccable 2020 style:
Big smiles, just hidden behind masks, and lots of enthusiasm, just at a safe social distance.
We set up a rotation of stations with different activities, from Nature Sketch to BirdSleuth International to a lively discussion that responded to myths and questions about bats, including the following: what bananas do they prefer?
(Answer: organic ones!)
At the Children’s Forest station, the kids reconnected with the trees they planted in 2019, and took measurements of the impressive growth of species such as Hampea appendiculata.
The word “growth” is key, since the Children’s Forest is about tree growing, not tree planting.
“Forget tree planting, and start tree growing” is a message that an increasing number of scientists and conservationists are spreading. Climate-change mitigation and adaptation scientist Lalisa Duguma explains that sticking a seedling in the soil is a one-off event, while tree growing is an investment over the long-term (Forest News, 2019).
Many well-intentioned forest restoration projects around the world have failed because of too much emphasis on the initial planting, without a robust strategy to ensure the successful growth of small, vulnerable seedlings.
We can’t plant a tiny tree and expect it to flourish without essential elements: compost that can strengthen the soil, sufficient sun and water to spur on their sprouting leaves, and protection from invasive grasses or unexpected attacks.
(I’m looking at you, leaf-cutter ants!)
Likewise, I don’t believe we can invite children to create a forest without cultivating their investment in the project over the long-term. It’s not enough to simply plant delicate seeds of knowledge in their minds without the environmental education equivalents of the elements that trees need to thrive.
We need to nourish a rich soil of social capital: the community ties that strengthen collective conservation efforts.
We need to foster connection to nature and a sense of place.
We need to build resilience in the face of an unanticipated event. It could be as small as a leaf-cutter ant take-out party of Hampea appendiculata leaves, or as life-changing as this global pandemic of 2020.
No matter what happens, I am grateful we are in this tree growing effort together, and working to support the positive growth of children, too.
The schools involved with this effort:
- José Gonzalo Acuña
- La Isla
- San Marcos
- Santa Rita
- Los Ángeles
- Adele Clarín (Piedra Pintada)
- Linda Vista
Team & Volunteers:
- Carla Azofeifa
- Randall Jiménez
- Yadira Barrantes
- Paula Mesén
- Jeisson Figueroa
- Alison Olivieri
- Peter Wendell
- David Rodríguez
- Marco Mora
- Rodrigo De Sousa
- San Vito Bird Club
- Johanny Perez Alvarado
- Monteverde Bat Jungle
- Vino de Backer
- Mauricio Valverde