Biodiversity and a Critical Pedagogy of Place: An approach for Environmental Stewardship in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

We are currently facing and acknowledge sixth mass extinction. It is happening in front of our eyes, but the needed action to reverse this critical situation keeps being delayed by every sector of society. The functioning of the modern system has brought disconnection for nature, then obliviousness of its destruction. There is an urgent necessity to go back to the source of life, to comprehend the interconnectedness of the different forms of life in the ecosystems and to change the way we humans relate with nature.

This research explores the concept of sense of place and how it can be strengthened to prompt the emergence of environmental stewardship among the youth of one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in Colombia. Through the design, implementation and evaluation of an educational program based on a critical pedagogy of place, the goal is to delve into how the singularities of the Sierra Nevada, as an irreplaceable area worldwide because of its geographical, environmental and cultural particularities, can be the origin, reason, and motivation for the emergence of nature-friendly practices.

The expected societal relevance of this investigation is to empower a new generation in the protection of ecosystems and wildlife and the responsible use of natural resources, through the restoration of the damaging, abusive and exploitive relationship that humans hold with nature, regenerating habitats and communities in the process. To do so, there is a need to build on youth’s capacities, providing them the tools to develop agency and influence their realities, along with facilitating constant, in-place, meaningful contact or experience with charismatic species, landscapes and other environmental features. This process can lead to the development of symbolic meanings and a feeling of connection, belonging, pride and care for local nature, what may evolve in a stronger bond with the local community or biophysical region, further leading to the appearance of environmental stewardship.

About Daniel Couceiro

Daniel is a National Geographic Explorer in the area of education. He holds a master degree in biodiversity and conservation, and has experience managing research projects in the tropics, creating citizen science programs and teaching environmental education in non-formal settings. Right now, he is developing a Young Birders Club in a rural community of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, to generate environmental awareness and positive attitudes and actions towards biodiversity, as well as facilitating the possibility for local youngsters to become professionals in nature-related jobs. Daniel also works with several Colombian NGOs to produce environmental education tools for the schools of the rural communities of the Sierra Nevada.

Project Team