From the Zoo to Kwamalasamutu

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Travel to the villages of the remote rainforest interior of the country of Suriname is expensive and difficult, prohibitive even for most well-off residents of the nation’s capital city and certainly for young students.  Could the rainforest and its peoples perhaps meet the Paramaribo youth halfway?

This spring, ACT’s Katia Delvoye met 40 students of the Eugenio Pascellis primary school at Paramaribo’s zoological gardens.  Equipped with a colorful guide to the country’s rainforest plants and accompanying posters from ACT’s Junior Park Ranger publication series, as well as diverse handicrafts from indigenous and Maroon villages of southern Suriname—including a bow and arrow, a cassava press, maracas, a hammock, a fish trap, jewelry made from seeds, and a flute carved from of bone—Katia explained to a rapt audience how the rainforest’s inhabitants exist harmoniously with the natural world. 

Katia Delvoye, Education & Outreach Officer, during the educational “journey” to Kwamalasamutu. Click to enlarge

The indigenous and Maroon forest dwellers, she illuminated, store and transmit a wealth of knowledge about how to use plants as medicine, and see the forest as a kind of pharmacy store. Because they also need game for food and materials for building homes, she continued, the denizens of the interior know they must handle the forest with care so that it is available for future generations.  The students responded with unusual interest, as they are quite separated from such habitats despite living in one of the most forested countries in the world. 

Following this pilot lesson, Katia drafted a basic teaching guide for this module, and ACT donated the published teaching materials to the Zoo.  The Zoo’s education department will now offer the lesson regularly to visiting classes, enabling many more students to make a virtual journey to the village of Kwamalasamutu.

Dutch version can be read on the ACT-Suriname website.

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