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Before deciding on the best approach for our environmental education program, we hired a local NGO (Ação Ambiental) to conduct a 6-month study of the 7 communities within the reserve buffer zone to identify the problems and challenges people face and how this affects the environment they live in. With the data from this diagnostic, we decided that the best approach was to work with the youth through the schools and clubs that we formed in each of the four selected communities and in municipal schools. A fundamental aspect of our approach is to concentrate on activities in the communities rather than in the forest so that the benefits of their exposure to new ideas helps improve their quality of life in their home environments. In each community, interested youths were organized into groups with the idea of inspiring "multipliers" - individuals who would be exposed to ideas, concepts, and methods for improving their local environment who would then teach others in their communities what they have learned. Issues dealt with include water sanitation, the correct use and disposal of agro-chemicals, and the implications of dietary choices, and concepts such as ecosystems, biodiversity, the consequences of deforestation and the extirpation of wildlife, the logic of environmental legislation. We also organize outings in the reserve forest where we explain concepts that they had learned beforehand and to try to inculcate a sense of appreciation for nature with which they share the landscape. We do not try to impose our viewpoints and do not criticize their behavior or traditions even when these are illegal (e.g. hunting) as our role is not to act as law enforcers but to expose young people to new ideas that may help improve their lives.

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For more information about our environmental education program contact Mônica Pereira and Tarcísio Botelho of Ação Ambiental Consultorio Ltda at the email address: acaoambiental11@gmail.com
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