A Learning Experience

Keeping the Rainforests Green

Any environmentalist will say education is the key to building a green society. But The Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia is incorporating that idea into its curriculum.

The process began in 1990, when Robert Braddy, head of Lovett’s science department, visited the small village of Santa Rosa, in the Imbabura Province of northwestern Ecuador. Braddy got involved in the village’s work to build a new school house, and called upon the Lovett School’s Ecology Club to help finance the project. The club raised about $2,000 to build the Escuela Rio Cenepa School, which was completed in 1991.

But that was just the beginning. Braddy then found Carlos Zorilla, the owner of Intag, an ecological preserve high in the mountains of Ecuador, who was willing to locate land in the Andes Mountains that the school could use for educational projects. Again, The Ecology Club swung into action and raised over $7,800 to purchase the 320 acres of rainforest land for use as a natural preserve. Since 1993, Braddy has taken students and faculty for summer explorations to their land, named Siempre Verde, or “Forever Green.”

“It’s a biological researchers’ paradise,” says Amy Tuohy, who participated in the first school trip to Ecuador in 1993. “Between hiking through the dense rainforest, observing the native species, and relaxing at night under the endless sky, the natural wonder is enough to dazzle even gringo eyes.”

Teachers also value the first-hand experience in seeing deforestation and other environmental disasters that are often just a textbook subject. “You can read about this in class and tell the kids essentially the same thing, but it’s so different when you’ve been there,” says Jim Crowley, a elementary science teacher at Lovett.

Since Ecuadorian farmers routinely use destructive “slash and burn” agriculture, Braddy hopes the local farmers will also benefit from Siempre Verde’s green mission to preserve and protect. This June, construction began on a Siempre Verde research center, which will be open to visiting students and faculty, as well as the surrounding communities. “Ecuador is just waking up to the fact that environmental education is an important subject. We’re hoping that this will be a center not only of research but of education for the locals in that region,” says Braddy.