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Environmental Education without Borders Receives U.S. – Mexico Cross Border Innovation & Cooperation Award

Posted on October 24, 2011

Environmental Education without Borders Receives U.S. – Mexico Cross Border Innovation & Cooperation Award

The Woodrow Wilson Center, Mexico Institute, in collaboration with the Colegio de la Frontera Norte and the North American Center of Transborder Studies awarded the prize for its environmental education.

The Border Environmental Project (BEP) and the Bio-Regional Environmental Education Project (PROBEA) received the U.S.-Mexico Cross Border Innovation & Cooperation Award from the Woodrow Wilson Center, Mexico Institute, in collaboration with the Colegio de la Frontera Norte and the North American Center for Transborder Studies.  The award was presented during the Border Governors Conference, held in Ensenada, September 28 and 29.

The prize was awarded for their efforts aimed at environmental education during the course of twenty years.  Margarita Diaz, Director of the Border Environmental Project, explained that their work has been with the youth and community, while PROBEA provides teacher training and program design.

Laura Silvan receiving an award by the Governor of Baja CaliforniaLaura Silvan, President of the BEP Board stated that the organization was created in 1991, with the focus of addressing issues related to environmental education and community participation.  “In 1993, we met PROBEA and established a joint mission related to the region’s environmental education needs.  The first thing that we needed to do was to provide teacher training and PROBEA started to work with teachers throughout the state.  A program providing access to environmental education was also developed and a little at a time, we developed our own curricula focused on our youth and also involved the community in the beach clean up campaigns.”

Doretta Winkelman, Binational Education Director of the San Diego Natural History Museum and PROBEA, stated that they too  were  founded in 1991 and during their first two years, conducted research and outreach with the Mexican communities; together with Laura Silvan, “we carried out the bi-regional environmental education project and the first six years, held workshops for the teachers.”

Winkelman explained that, “in 1997, we got together with the San Diego Natural History Museum and now it’s a program within the museum and we’ve provided workshops to 4,800 teachers and sponsors throughout the Baja California Peninsula, always working with BEP.”

“Our collaboration is unique, we always meet to plan the future of the two organizations, we discuss our goals and challenges,” added the PROBEA Director.

“The teachers and students work on an environmental project and we always organize and take statistics regarding how many students attended the native plant, gardening, and other workshops.”

Margarita Diaz remarked that, “in the long term we see that the children who attended the workshops, and who are now young adults and have their own organizations, are working with us.  The response to the campaigns and projects that we organize, is between three and four thousand people, and that is due to the work that we’ve carried out for twenty years.”

Laura Silvan stated that one of the more singular things that they’ve always done is to tie education into community action.  “Twenty two beach clean up campaigns have been carried out with 25,000 volunteers participating, and collecting ninety tons of trash.” 

Project sponsorship comes from various sources, both from the private sector as well as different levels of government.

“We’ve received not only funding from the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), they’ve also increased our awareness within the broader context of environmental issues; they have expanded our perspective and have led us to define our work priorities,” stated the BEP Board President.

Tonatiuh Guillen, President of Colegio de la Frontera Norte, noted that that this was the first time this award had been given and highlighted that it was among fifty projects that had been reviewed.  In addition to this award, other projects that were awarded include: “Environmental Education Without Borders,” by the Environmental Education Bio-Regional Project (PROBEA), and the Border Environmental Education Project (PFEA), the Border Master Plan of the State of Baja California and CALTRANS, “A Cultural Crossroads” by the El Paso Museum of Art and the INBA in Cd. Juarez, and the “Regional Cooperation Through Global Education,” carried out by the students of the University of Arizona.

The President of COLEF stated that the judges had some difficulty, which was comprised of U.S. and Mexico shareholders, knowledgeable on border dynamics, given that there were many excellent projects.  “We have been able to observe what is happening on a daily basis along our shared border,” he added.

Maria Elena Giner, BECC General Manager, participated as a judge in the process.

Governor Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan presented the awards; also in attendance were other governors and representatives from the border states who were in attendance at the conference, as well as former California Senator, Denise Moreno Ducheny.




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