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11/07/2024 Education and outreach Women in science

Creating the next generation of environmental leaders in Galapagos

Ashleigh Klingman introduces us to the Adapt to Change Together Youth Leadership programme, which provides people with the tools to become the next generation of environmental leaders in Galapagos.

Hannah Rickets

Communications and Marketing Officer

Can you give an overview of the Youth Leadership programme and what you hope to achieve?

The Adapt to Change Together (ACT) Youth Leadership programme is designed to give young community members on San Cristobal island the tools needed for them to help their community and take action on social and environmental issues. We use an innovative methodology that improves literacy levels, critical thinking, teamwork and project management skills, along with many other skills.

We have built upon the successful Urban Family Gardening for Tranquility project framework and participatory methods to develop a community education programme that focusses on shaping young climate leaders directly and their families indirectly. We hope to strengthen our community network by creating at least five cohorts of 100 leaders by 2030.

I am excited to report that we are on track to meet this goal. We are finalising the participatory planning process to implement two community projects with the San Cristobal Municipality. In June, our children presented their community project on ways to protect endemic plants on the waterfront walk in San Cristobal to the Mayor, who was so impressed that he asked them to design the green area for his main public work this year: an essential bridge that connects neighbourhoods in the town. The children and their parents are thrilled by this opportunity!

The children presenting their ideas to the mayor of San Cristobal © Ashleigh Klingman
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What inspired you to set up the Youth Leadership programme?

There is a lack of leadership training options on San Cristobal island for residents, but an expectation that more local community members take up an active role in conservation initiatives. There is also a worry that young people are spending more and more time online and looking at screens instead of spending time outside connecting to nature. We have also found that young people want to be more involved in their community but lack guidance and companionship. We therefore designed a programme that aims to overcome these issues by supporting young members of our community.

Image description: Students taking part in a species ID activity © Ashleigh Klingman
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Can you share an example of a recent activity the children undertook as part of the programme and why you chose it?

I love that the programme is made up of lots of different activities and initiatives, which are led by our three co-facilitators and some youth leaders. One particular activity that stands out in my mind is when we took the children up to the Hacienda Tranquila, a sustainable ranch in the highlands of San Cristobal, to read our Letty’s Mission book, which tells the story of ‘Letty’ the endemic Darwin’s Lecocarpus plant (Lecocarpus darwinii). In groups, the children had to present a short puppet story at our lookout point with views of the iconic Kicker Rock.

We chose this activity for several reasons. Firstly, to allow the children to connect to their surroundings in a quiet setting, and secondly, to work as a team to learn the story and retell it creatively. We love taking the children up to the ranch because they are free to explore nature and learn from their experiences.

The students exploring © Ashleigh Klingman
Galapagos sea lion at Punta Pitt, San Cristobal

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How is the Youth Leadership programme helping students to learn and connect with the wildlife of Galapagos?

We are already seeing how the programme is benefitting participants. By the end of the programme, the participants are showing increased levels of self-worth and self-esteem as well as improved public speaking and teamwork skills. All of which are essential to an effective learning process. Secondly, we are hearing amazing stories from participants about how they are leading small, but significant, conservation actions in their communities.

For example, one pre-teen told us how he defended the endemic Galapagos carpenter bee (Xylocopa darwini) from classmates who wanted to kill it after he connected with ‘Carla’, the bee character in our educational books. He remembered that the species is not aggressive and is one of the most important pollinators on the Islands. He proudly told us that this was his conservation project, to share the lessons he had learnt about how to conserve the endemic species found in our backyards.

Students exploring a remote beach © Ashleigh Klingman

We love taking the children up to the ranch because they are free to explore nature and learn from their experiences.

How important is it to support children living on the Islands through programmes such as this one?

We are providing a professional youth leadership training programme that complements the Galapagos Contextualised Curriculum. Knowledge is power, but for our youth, that happens only if and when they feel confident using their knowledge and adults respect their power. We are helping to bridge the gap that our youth find once they’ve been taught about the importance of conservation and adapting to climate change at school, but are not sure how to both initiate and sustain effective action. By supporting boys and girls on the Islands now, we are shaping the present and future leaders to conserve Galapagos.

Students participating in the programme © Ashleigh Klingman

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