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Teaching Indonesia’s children about their special natural environment

Indonesia is home to a third of the world’s mangroves and now teachers in the country are telling their students all about this very special natural environment.

Mangroves grow in coastal and swamp regions, with two common types – the red mangrove with its distinctive stilt roots and the white mangrove which grows where ground is not always submerged. Mangrove forests create a unique habitat for marine and bird wildlife and are home to a number of endangered animals. But even more crucially, they store carbon.

Researchers now believe that the destruction of mangroves could be accounting for as much as 10 per cent of the world’s total emissions from deforestation. Indonesia’s mangrove forests have certainly reduced dramatically over the last twenty years. It is thought that of the original 8 million hectares of mangrove reserves across Indonesia, only around 4.5 million now remains. Some have been cut down to make room for manmade fishing areas or for other land use, while some plants have succumbed to industrial waste and seawater contamination.

This week the Inter Press Service reports on a ‘Green Teacher Network’ in Indonesia. Teachers from elementary, junior and senior high schools are learning all about the mangrove environment in special workshops run by the Sampoerna School of Education in Jakarta. These sessions give the teachers specific knowledge about the environmental issues surrounding mangroves and how important the plants are in helping to offset rising sea levels and erosion of land. They also learn about how the trees can be used by local communities to make fruit juice, syrup and jam. The teachers are then taking this learning back to their schools in Greater Jakarta, Southeast Sulawesi, North Maluku and Banten provinces.

In Southeast Sulawesi, pupils in Wakatobi have been learning about the environment since 2005, since the topic is introduced into classrooms of children from playgroup up to senior high school. Since Wakatobi has more water than land across the territory, it’s vital for the children to understand about the importance of mangroves. For younger pupils, awareness is introduced through story books. Older children are encouraged to join practical projects, such as the sowing and planting of mangroves. One teacher explained that he and his students were going to germinate seeds and plant them in areas where mangrove sites had been destroyed. Teachers involved in the ‘Green Teacher Network’ initiative also hope to set up an online forum where they can publish information about the subject. As one female teacher explained “many of the country’s schools are located near mangrove forests”. It is also hoped such a site may enable teachers and pupils to share knowledge and link up with others across the globe.

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