Curiosity Makes Us Fly

For many of us, our love of birds and nature begins in childhood, when the world is full of charm and mystery. Children have the wonderful ability to appreciate their surroundings in a way that inspires adults. This way of seeing the world is a treasure that is our collective responsibility to help nurture so that it can last a lifetime. Wawas Emprendiendo Vuelo (WEV) is a Bolivian organization located in La Paz. This group is dedicated to environmental education and helps fulfill the dreams of children and their families to enjoy and take care of nature. One of their main projects is KusisitaWEV, which was developed to integrate and promote inclusive environmental education, taking into consideration the needs of their country. With such noble objectives it is good  that the project is a success!

KusisitaWEV  is a special organization. The word “Kusisita” comes from the Aymara language and means joy. This is the emotion that the organizers wanted to foster and share with the children. KusisitaWEV was developed as a project which would engage children with Down syndrome, autism and childhood cerebral palsy who often do not have the opportunity to connect with nature. The project emphasized three learning styles: environmental education, inclusive education, and learning through art. Environmental education is a way to share our understanding about the world in which we live, transmit knowledge, keep alive our capacity for wonder about nature, facilitate the dialogue of information between participants and teachers and disseminate good environmental practices. Above all it is meant to make the children think about the consequences our actions have on the environment, the health of ourselves and our planet as well as the conservation of life on the planet. Inclusive education recognizes our diversity and is based on the idea that all people have a right to an education, regardless of their position or status in society – this means building a new type of education. Finally, art allows us to express our feelings by uniting the heart and mind. Art fosters creative talent and the ability to express oneself in a unique way alongside others. All these learning styles were integrated in a way to complete KusisitaWEV’s mission of contributing to environmental conservation through education focused on children and their families. KusisitaWEV promotes the participation of the children in issues of ecological conservation by promoting change and activities that encourage equality and solidarity among the children and their communities.

The families of “Down Warriors of Life” participated in the activities, a community group composed of parents who have children that have been diagnosed with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism. All workshops were a collaborative effort between the children, their families, and the volunteers to create a space where everyone felt comfortable learning and helping others appreciate birds and nature. The volunteer group included professionals from fields like biology, physical rehabilitation, education, art, and political science who cheerfully supported the activities. Volunteers organized exciting workshops in the interactive museum “Pipiripi”, each being unique and having a special theme.

Once the workshop series ended the project moved to a virtual space and the focus shifted from the children to their parents. The parents were shown tools and trained to support their children’s educational birding activities. Workshops were also provided which gave parents information and tools on ways to support their family’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Everything is better when the family gets involved! By providing the parents with the necessary tools and information WEV seeks to ensure that curiosity and learning continue long after the official program has concluded. As a final activity and with the support of each family that participated, a beautiful garden was created at the “Pipiripi” Interactive Museum. The families planted different native species to provide the local birds with a green area to feed and shelter. The families also committed themselves to caring for the plants while they grew. This is a very kind and thoughtful gesture, one which will ensure that others will have the opportunity to continue to enjoy nature and take care of it.

The families of the children were interviewed after the activities and asked how the project impacted the children. Below, we share some of their comments:

“Before he was more isolated… afterwards he got used being around other kids”

“He felt very happy about the activities”

“Now when he always keeps an eye out for birds, and seeing them fills him with joy”

“You already know it when you listen to the birds”

The volunteers also said a few words about the families who participated in the project:
“Thank you all very much for making sure all the activities were full of joy and learning, and for your willingness to participate throughout the project”

“I appreciate the time you were able to share with us during this project and I wish you all the best on each of your paths. I hope you remember that even more so than fun activities, we hope share with you our passion for biodiversity and I hope that this approach can give you the happiness and energy to learn, love and conserve.”

KusisitaWEV was a truly special series of events for everyone who participated. A group of unique people came together to learn more about nature and birds, while simultaneously learning more about themselves and  finding powerful strength in their community.

Wawas Emprendiendo Vuelo appreciates the support of the actors involved in this project and thanks them for their generosity and support. They also thank the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for their support; mainly the awarding of the mini grant for Latin American and Caribbean organizations and groups. We also thank the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Bolivia and HB & Luna for their major collaboration in the project, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) – Bolivia for the donation of educational material to be used by the children as well as the Botanical Garden of La Paz, Institute of Ecology – UMSA for the donation of native seedlings.

Photos courtesy of Wawas Emprendiendo Vuelo

Written by Diego Valle