Environmental Education in Chiloe

Interns Return from Chiloe


A beautiful view from ChiloeA beautiful view from Chiloe


Five months have already elapsed since the two Institute of Island Studies interns, Ivan Skafar and Marianne Rehder, left for Chiloe, an island in southern Chile. This internship was funded by CIDA, facilitated by ACIC and the topics were developed by the Williche Council of Chiefs of Chiloe. The interns have now returned to Charlottetown and are busy writing their reports and sharing their experiences. The work was mainly focused on the Mapu Nuke Center which is a Williche Health Center primarily interested in indigenous health and education. Twice a month, alternative medicine health services are offered to indigenous and non-indigenous people alike at the center which includes aromatherapy, reiki and reflexology. Traditional plant medicines are also made at the center and prescribed. The land includes a temperate rain forest ecosystem, the health center and a ‘foghon’ (large cabin with a fire pit in the middle) which is where the Williche Council of Chiefs meet.
Working with children at the Alla Kintuy Elementary SchoolWorking with children at the Alla Kintuy Elementary SchoolFor the first months, the center was receiving children from a school nearby in Quellon, where a large percentage of the children have an indigenous heritage. Every day, a different class came to the center and spent the day learning about the environment and about their Williche cultural identity which has strong ties to the environment and is, unfortunately, not often emphasized in family life. This was achieved by spending a good part of the day in the forest. The supervisor of the 2 interns, Manuel Munoz, is the primary coordinator of these activities and the interns were assisting him with this task.
Following this learning experience and once the school year ended and summer began, the interns started their own day camp with the goal of continuing this environmental and cultural education. The day camp took place twice a week at the Alla Kintuy elementary school. They had access to the ‘foghon’ which was used as a classroom, as well as the gymnasium, and the kitchen. Twenty children were registered, age between 7 and 13, and on an average day, 12-15 were in attendance. Half of the day was dedicated to playing games as well as sports with the children. This was considered important because most of the children came from backgrounds that were not very privileged and they often did not have much stimulation during their summer vacation. Lunch was prepared in the staff kitchen, giving the children a chance to participate and learn about health in terms of nutrition. After lunch, they would move up to the ‘foghon’ and the second half of the day would consist of an educational activity. These activities would usually involve making teas with medicinal plants and discussing their medicinal properties, or introducing simple ecological concepts. They also went on various outings at a nearby native forest path, and at the local beach.
In addition to the children’s program, each intern undertook one other project. For Ivan Skafar this was a manual of the plant diversity along the path through the forest at the Mapu Nuke center. This path is very important because, as was previously mentioned, when groups of children go to the center, a significant part of the day is spent walking in the forest. The children learn about nature while simultaneously learning about their culture which is very tightly tied in with their environment. A manual showing the diversity of plants present along the path would therefore be a very important educational tool that could be used at the center in the future. The completed manual contains a description of more than 30 different plant species found along the path and describes traditional medicinal uses of these plants. Ivan is currently in the process of making signs with the information from this manual that will be sent to Chiloe and put along the path.
As for Marianne, she spent her extra time working with local farmers, collecting stories and learning about native ways of working with the land. Multinational companies and commercial pesticides have finally made their way to the island, and country folk are struggling to survive, caught up in pressures of globalisation that threaten to overwhelm their heritage. Her work mainly consisted of observing the different ways that Chilote people work with the land and facilitating workshops in which communities could share their knowledge, gain a better idea of what is happening in the world, and warn how important their skills and approaches are to the future of Chiloe and of agriculture in general.
The interns believe that their activities with the children as well as their individual projects have contributed to community well-being on Chiloe because they feel very strongly that education is fundamental to any kind of development if it is to be sustainable. The Williche cosmovision is one that promotes working in complete harmony with nature, and it was a privilege to have learned about this age old culture. The development of the island in recent years has not proven to be very sustainable, as shown by the rapid development of an industrial aquaculture industry, which crashed in 2008, leaving a legacy of unemployment and polluted water. An education that includes environmental learning and an understanding of a cultural cosmovision that does not seek to use natural resources purely for profit in the short term, will be very important for the children of Chiloe, who are the future of the island.


Environmental Education in Chiloe Powerpoint.pdf7.11 MB