Belize’s Budding Young Environmentalists Take To The Jungle For A Weeklong Learning Adventure

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In Belize, The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s annual Eco Kids environmental summer camp is once again instilling, “a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world in young people,” during a free week-long learning adventure at the popular Belizean eco-resort’s Macal River Camp.

Chaa Creek's Eco Kids learning about Belize's flora and fauna

When the jungle's your classroom - Chaa Creek's Eco Kids learning about Belize's flora and fauna

We strongly believe in sustainable tourism, and education is an essential part of that

The health of Belize’s environment has received another yearly booster shot with the arrival of 24 young Belizeans for a week of hands-on environmental education at The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s annual Eco-Kids Environmental Education Summer Camp.

Chaa Creek’s founding owners, Mick and Lucy Fleming, said sponsoring the yearly educational adventure at their Macal River Camp is, “an investment in the future.”

“We started the Eco-Kids summer camp in 2001 with the belief that instilling a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world in young people while giving them the skills and confidence to protect it is the best way to prepare for the environmental challenges of the future,” Ms Fleming said.

The Eco Kids Summer Camp, officially called the "Eco-Kids Environmental and Cultural Exchange Camp", sees students between the ages of nine and twelve learning about biodiversity, recycling, conservation, the ancient Maya, sustainable agriculture and a range of other subjects through fun, structured learning activities in a pristine rainforest setting.

Chaa Creek’s 400-acre private nature reserve becomes both classroom and playground as the youngsters participate in guided horseback expeditions and nature hikes along jungle trails to study Belize’s flora, fauna, Maya medicinal plants and abundant bird and wildlife. There are also hikes to ancient archaeological Maya sites, sustainable organic farming at the onsite Maya organic farm, supervised water games, song writing sessions and talent shows.

“Everything is structured to build confidence, teamwork, communication and other skills to assist young people in becoming effective and confident environmental ambassadors,” Ms Fleming explained.

This year’s 2018 camp opened July 15 and will run until the 22nd, when the Eco Kids’ parents or guardians arrive for the closing talent show, songfest and other festivities.

To become an Eco-Kid, Belizean students nationwide are invited to submit a 300 word written essay on “Why I want to become an Eco Kid.” The essays are shortlisted by Chaa Creek’s scholarship committee before being entered into a draw, with twenty-four winners going on to attend the summer camp. The camp is completely free, with no charges for the students or parents.

Chaa Creek provides lodging in the Macal River Camp’s bungalow style “casitas”, three healthy meals and snacks daily, arts and crafts materials, tee shirts, and 24 hour supervision by camp counsellors. All educational activities and guided tours are conducted by licensed naturalist guides, Ms Fleming said.

“Our councillors, staff and guides all genuinely love what they’re doing, and the kids pick up on that. It creates a very positive atmosphere that’s an essential part of the experience.

“It’s become something all of us really look forward to each year, and just watching the kids respond and grow so much in the space of a week is a reward in itself,” she explained.

Ms Fleming said the annual summer camp is part of the popular Belizean eco-resort’s “Chaa Creek Cares” initiative, which sees ten percent of all room revenue going directly into environmental and community projects.

The Flemings also sponsor the Chaa Creek Scholarship Program that offers full board scholarships for secondary and tertiary education, providing tuitions, fees, books and other necessities for ten Belizean students each year, as well as an Environmental Outreach program for Belizean schools, and a range of other educational programs and projects.

“We strongly believe in sustainable tourism, and education is an essential part of that,” Ms Fleming, a former schoolteacher said.

Chaa Creek has long been recognised locally and internationally for promoting sustainable tourism and responsible travel, with the Flemings having received recognition that includes a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Belize Tourism Board, and first place honours at National Geographic’s 2017 World Legacy Awards held in Germany.

“People remark that educating, entertaining, feeding and looking after twenty-four kids in a jungle setting must be exhausting, but we find it to be quite the opposite,” Ms Fleming said, “To see the ‘wow factor’ as these young people become immersed in nature while learning about environmental issues and challenges is exciting. And then seeing them realise that they can be part of a global movement to protect the environment is amazing.

“It’s a great feeling and something that everyone looks forward to being a part of,” Ms Fleming said.

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi-award winning eco resort set within a 400-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize. It was recognised by National Geographic with first place honours at the 2017 World Legacy Awards held in Berlin.

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