September 17, 2012 Silent Snow Active in Costa Rican High Schools, Part 2

Silent Snow Active in Costa Rican High Schools- Program financed by the Dutch Embassy in Costa Rica. An update by Amanda Merkx and Guillermo Jiron.


Rounding up our school visits we went to four more schools, first in a small town close to the capital, Santa Ana, one near the Irazu volcano in Cartago, one by the north pacific coast in the city Liberia, and one on the Caribbean coast, near the pineapple fields in Siquirres. After sending the other blog, we had a few weeks of no schools due to local holidays. We took this time to recap our experiences and see how to improve the program. We realized that what we needed most was more information for the students. So far we have been present at each activity and can see what information the students need and we can give this information to them verbally. Yet, part of our plan is to be able to promote this program even if we would not be able to be present, and instead, have teachers organize it. For this to happen, we obviously needed some written form for the teachers to use. We also thought it would be nice for students to have a concrete booklet, where they can look things up after the activity. So at these last four schools we experiment with the new booklet.


At each of these schools we had about 25-30 students present. Apart from the usual difficulties with sound and visuals, the lessons improved greatly. We were able to get the message across much better than before, thanks to the new booklet.


After the initial moments of silence, which are always nerve-wracking (Did they understand? Are they paying attention?), we gave them a few questions to answer and the students start talking all at once! They talked about things they did not know before and what they liked about the movie. Sometimes we get a joker with “I never knew mosquitoes worked from 8 am to 10 am” (Quoting Don Timoteo) but then they will usually comment on the fact that we are so interrelated and that they did not realize until know that everything they do, affects people around the world, not just their surroundings.


The students in Santa Ana, discussed that although they did not come from a place where there is much agriculture left, they now realize they are nevertheless affected by these issues. They also discussed ways to support more local growers and how to stimulate those to start producing organically. Every Sunday there is a market, where local growers sell their products. They all discussed how, instead of buying fruits and vegetables from the super market, they should buy it there.


The school in Cartago is quite small in terms of how many green spaces it has, so when discussing what they could do to start a school garden, they came up with a great idea: They decided to cut some plastic PVC tubes in half and hang them on the gates surrounding the school. This way they can take advantage of this space, make it look nicer and get some herbs to condiment their cafeteria’s food.


The school we attended in Liberia was an agricultural school; therefore the students had already been given much information about farming. They claimed that chemicals were good and that I had no idea what I was talking about.  We discussed which method they would use in agriculture between monoculture and polyculture. First, they said monoculture. So together on the board, we made lists of pros and cons of both. By the end of the class, some shocked students were shouting “our teachers are just too lazy to do the right thing, so they tell us it’s not the right thing!”


The last presentation, in Siquirres was extremely interesting. This population grew up surrounded by pineapples and huge pineapple companies. Throughout their presentations they explained how there were still places where horrible pesticides were being used without the proper protection and how Nemagon (the pesticide mentioned in Silent Snow) can still be found in the soil surrounding their homes. More than anything, their interest was in how the corporate world and these huge transnational companies controlled the business and did not at all care about the health or situations of their workers. One boy told us he wanted to share this documentary with his family and close community as Nemagon had affected many people he knew. We are now waiting for his phone call to organize the date.


The experience of taking Silent Snow around a country like Costa Rica, which apart from its beauty and diversity has many environmental problems, has taught us so much.  One of the most important lessons is that information and knowledge are of so much value!  By showing this documentary, and sharing these lessons and experiences with these students we are able to (hopefully) inspire them to change their future. Many of the students at the school would end up working in these plantations without seeing another way, but with the knowledge they gain through these types of activities they are able to make a choice, and decide what they want for their future. This is the reason we believe it is so important to continue giving these talks, and if that’s not possible, set up a program to include the activity we have created into the public school system with a copy of the booklet and movie for every school.


We have received a lot of support from teachers, students, directors and even public officials, and there is still a huge demand from other schools and communities for this activity. Now, our next mission is to find more funds!


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