|Wednesday, Jun 18, 2008|
Children from seven different public schools in Puerto Rico gathered at San Juan National Historic Siteâs Castillo San Felipe del Morro in late May to learn about the endangered Puerto Rican parrot and to be inspired by the beauty and history of the park.
This event was organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. National Park Service to implement a shared vision of bringing kids close to nature and into our national parks with activities to engage children physically, intellectually, and emotionally with our resources.
"We featured the iguaca (the endangered Puerto Rican parrot), as an emblematic species and a symbol of conservation for Puerto Rico,â said Edwin MuÃ±iz, field supervisor for the Ecological Services Offices for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Caribbean. âEl Morro and the Puerto Rican parrot share the need for greater public awareness and conservation. Both are important elements of our heritage and are recognized symbols for Puerto Rico around the world. We recognize that effectively safeguarding these treasures depends on a culture that embraces conservation as an important value."
"We were delighted to sponsor this event along with the Fish and Wildlife Service and offer Castillo San Felipe del Morro to the kids as an outdoors classroom where they learned and played freely," said Walter J. ChÃ¡vez, the parkâs superintendent.
The almost seventy kids in attendance are part of the Schoolyard Habitat Project in Puerto Rico, which is an initiative to make children fall in love with nature as they restore lands within their schools.
âThis particular group has a collective goal of restoring 10 acres of land. The schoolyard activities are designed to be fun and age appropriate, making it easy for children to learn as they laugh and play. The kids usually develop a species inventory for their school and plant native trees that will provide habitat for birds, reptiles and insects", said Silmarie PadrÃ³n, coordinator for the Schoolyard Habitat Project for the USFWS.
The event at Castillo San Felipe del Morro grounds gave these children a unique opportunity to complement the field work they are doing with a historic perspective of conservation and greater sense of self-awareness by exploring a part of their shared history, participating in different activities and visiting El Morro. Some of the activities included a session of Q & A between the children and USFWS personnel related to the Puerto Rican parrot in which kids were able to receive first-hand information from experts who deal with the parrot day to day. The children were also able to participate in the parks Junior Ranger Activity. Through the activities found in the San Juan National Historic Siteâs Junior Ranger Booklet, kids had the opportunity to understand and better appreciate the importance of the historic site as well as how they can help in its preservation and protection.
Rita, the parrot mascot, sponsored by the community organization Voluntarios Por Ponce, made a delightful appearance and interacted with kids and parents alike. Participating children shared artistic expressions of their hopes, dreams and concerns for the environment. Two girls interpreted a folk song written by them, a girl dressed in a costume displaying the colors of the Puerto Rican Parrot, others gave short presentations. An art exhibit showcasing the childrenâs art work related to the Puerto Rican parrot remained on display for a week at one of El Morro's casemates (rooms) following the childrenâs visit. The kids had fun as they gained knowledge about their local history and reinforced their environmental values.
The following schools participated in the event:
- Escuela Elemental RamÃ³n Alejandro Ayala- ComerÃo
- Escuela Botijas- Orocovis
- Escuela Monserrate Moreno- Utuado
- Escuela Intermedia Rafael Aparicio JimÃ©nez-Adjuntas
- Escuela Elemental Playa Grande- Vieques
- Escuela Rafael Cordero-CataÃ±o
- Escuela Elemental RamÃ³n Emeterio Betances, Cabo Rojo