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Day 5: A Lesson in Humanity

June 22, 2012

IguanasThe early morning departure led us down a yellow road to a waiting airplane to Guayaquil. The arrival landed the group in a fast moving metropolitan scene, with familiar fast food restaurants and less traditional dress. Fausto, the Heifer representative in this area, met us at the gate. We rode to a coastal rural area at 522 feet. We enjoyed learning about the candelabra cactus everywhere, and spotted several vultures on the way. Everyone shouted with joy when we first sighted the ocean! Soon, Alex and Luis were telling us about their ocean communities. It was concerning to learn that the fisherman are no longer able to make a living here because the larvae all became diseased. They are attempting tourism to replace the fishing economy. We passed several shrimp farms which, unfortunately, are part of the problem. They kill all the native mangroves, endangering local endemic fauna and damaging the water health. Therefore, ironically, the shrimp farms are one of the reasons the ocean shrimping is no longer viable – and way of life destroyed. The desertification from the industrial farming (such as the shrimp farms) of this area is sadly evident — a huge contrast from the rainforest! The resilient people of this area do the best they can.

We arrived around 11:30 for our visit to Alex’s school, Escuela de Formacion Artesanal Pichincha in Palmar. Goats and pigs were outside the school gate, and a vermillion flycatcher was in the school yard. After traveling with these men for days, it was so wonderful to see their community and even meet their families. Excitement filled the air as we arrived ready to interact with Ecuadorian Teachers in grades 3, 5, and 6.

Teachers and students

The children and community of Palmar greeted us with lots of smiles. The students worked hard to prepare a dance to welcome us. Unfortunately, the electricity was out today, and they couldn’t play the music for the dance, so the teachers sang and clapped. The students wowed us with a traditional dance dressed in vibrant traditional dress. The children performed enthusiastically.
We split into our groups to work with our respective teachers to collaborate on lessons created by the 2010 Ecuador Team. We carried boxes of materials all the way from North Carolina to give to the school for these lessons. Our group worked on life cycles with the third grade, one did an inquiry-based lesson on whales to the 5th grade, and one group engaged in an experiential activity on the water cycle with the 6th grade class. The teachers were enthusiastic and students were super engaged in the lessons. The third grade teacher was brilliant. He was upbeat and animated as he read the book, The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, and students sang and danced to a butterfly life cycle song. Students then put pictures of the butterfly life cycle in order and we placed them on the wall to display their work. It was such an honor to be welcomed into this community. All of us, as teachers, have a desire to make a difference in the lives of children, so today was incredibly rewarding. We knew the materials we were leaving behind would be greatly appreciated. Soon, the school day ended. Many of the children were greeted by parents or sibling outside the walls of the school, gathered under a large ceibo tree.
Participants with Ecuadorian students
Several of the children were carrying home old desks and chairs to be painted over the weekend. It was hard to leave behind the sweet smiles and hugs of the children, but soon we were on the bus and headed for the beach! After a seafood lunch, we checked into our hotel. This place is beautiful — right on the seaside. We were greeted by a green pacific turtle, about 5 feet in diameter,  swimming and feeding in the reef below! We also spotted a huge marine iguana clambering on the cliff. Pelicans, swallows, and frigate birds circle and swoop above. Hundreds of huge crabs cling to the rocks. Oven birds and mocking birds scoot across the ground.

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