This past month, over 400 students at five local schools in the Chiriquí region of Panama culminated a yearlong environmental education program with a week of bird festivals. Implemented by the Panama Audubon Society, the Aulas Verdes program provides environmental programming to schools in underserved and vulnerable communities across Panama. While primarily focused on the nation’s capital (Panama City), generous funding from the Islas Secas Foundation, founded by Louis Bacon allowed the Aulas Verdes program to expand out to Chiriquí in 2016. The Chiriquí province is home to important wetlands and coastal mangroves, which provide a suite of ecosystem services to communities, however their conservation and protection remain a low priority. 

Aulas Verdes students participating in bird costume contest, Chiriquí, Panama

Over the past year, students have received 6.5 hours of environmental education a week, with a curriculum that promotes a greater understanding of the benefits that coastal wetlands provide for people and biodiversity. The curriculum promotes the development of critical thinking skills in the participating students so they can play an active role in preventing and finding solutions to the environmental issues facing their region. To close out the year and mark the return of the many migratory bird species that pass through Panama every fall, each of the participating schools hosted a bird festival, inviting local community members to participate. The festivals featured student-led plays and songs, a bird costume contest from recycled materials, and mural competitions between participating classrooms. With over 100 participating community members, the bird festivals highlighted the amazing impact that the Aulas Verdes program has on local students and beyond in Chiriquí.

Find out more about Aulas Verdes here.