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Michael Wall, Ph.D.
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619.255.0266
mwall@sdnhm.org


Students from Secundaria 69 in Tijuana planting in their schoolyard garden.

Ideas into Action

By the PROBEA Staff and Elizabeth Castillo


Imagine an environmentally literate citizenry working together to improve the quality of life in its community. This is the vision of PROBEA, a binational education program of the San Diego Natural History Museum. A core concept ofbehaviors, and lifestyles required for a sustainable future. Through PROBEA's programs, teachers, students, families, and community volunteers (called promotoras) become active participants in caring for the environment in Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

PROBEA (Proyecto Bio-Regional de Educación Ambiental, or Bio-regional Environmental Education Project) began in 1991 and initially was comprised of ten organizations—five from each side of the U.S./Mexico border. Since then, PROBEA has developed a collaborative network of dozens of organizations. Its programs serve educators throughout the Baja California peninsula, as well as mainland Mexican states bordering the Sea of Cortés.

The Museum's goal was to see the extraordinary riches of Baja California's ecosystem preserved. To accomplish this, education can be the tool that moves citizens to take responsibility for making a difference in their environment—however, knowledge alone is not enough. PROBEA’s success is largely due to bridging the gap between knowledge and action by teaching practical skills such as conserving water, planting native-plant gardens, and minimizing use of household toxics. Over the past ten years, 3250 educators have participated in PROBEA programs, representing 800 schools and organizations, and benefiting more than 90,000 students. More than 18,200 individuals have participated in PROBEA’s capacity building trainings and community events.

When PROBEA delivers its message to 30 teachers, the message is leveraged at least thirty-fold as it is then shared with students and passed on to family, friends and the whole community in a highly cost-effective manner. PROBEA empowers and motivates citizens to take simple actions that can improve their quality of life and their immediate environment. The result is something extraordinary: environmental literacy and behavior change that builds sustainability in each community that continues after the PROBEA team returns to San Diego.

Each PROBEA participant is asked to commit to leading his or her audience—students or community members—in a project that benefits the environment. These projects provide the critical bridge from theory to practice. Examples of these projects include starting a school science club focused on water quality monitoring and conservation, opening a battery recycling center, creating native plant gardens, and cleaning local beaches. From this, it is evident that PROBEA’s goal—equipping individuals with awareness, knowledge, and skills that lead to changes in attitude and behavior—is being realized in a way that will affect the community for years to come. By practicing the steps of environmental literacy, participants develop habits that will stay with them for a lifetime.

A teacher observes plants at a park in Playas del Tijuana.
A teacher observes plants at a park in Playas del Tijuana,
a beach community across the border from San Diego.

What participants are saying:
What I have learned with PROBEA’s workshops has helped me to better teach my students and it makes my lessons much more creative, more focused and helps the students make the connections between theory and practice.
Luz Macrina Guerrero, CETYS Universidad, Tijuana, BC

When I became a volunteer I said to my mother, "I’m your daughter and I’m a promotora. Why do you waste water?" From that moment on, my mom almost doesn’t waste water any more. I believe that this is the way we can start taking care of water: first within the family, then the relatives, the neighborhood and then the whole world.
Brenda Lizbeth Becerril Vera, Youth Volunteer, Age 11

My students are much more motivated and interested in the lessons I teach since I’ve integrated what I learned in your workshop. Congratulations on the high quality of the information and materials you provide.
Araceli Gomez Plata, Secundaria 69, Tijuana, BC

I learned about teaching/learning strategies that teach the different learning styles and about how to integrate other subjects in environmental education.
Daniel Dominquez, Fundación La Puerta, Tecate, BC

This workshop was like a door that opened our eyes to a wonderful world that was right in front of us but we did not see.
Ana Karina Peláez Mendoza, Educator, La Paz, BCS

For more information about PROBEA or to make a contribution to its efforts, please visit www.sdnhm.org/education/binational.

SAN DIEGO NATURAL HISTORY: FIELD NOTES,  September 2007

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