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UniversitÁrea Protegida

 

In October 2004, UÁP completed its first two Expansion Through Exposure (ETE) trips. The ETE program is designed to give Nicaraguan youth the opportunity to learn about the biodiversity and cultural variety their country offers. ETE takes selected rural youth, who live in areas in which UÁP-sponsored university students are working, on three- to five-day outdoor education trips to protected areas. ETE gives Nicaraguan students the opportunity to experience a part of their country that they otherwise would not know. UÁP students organize and administer the trips, gaining a valuable learning experience. The program also creates a forum for interaction between university students and disadvantaged youth, thus promoting higher education in rural areas.

UÁP’s first ETE trip included a group of 29 kids from three coastal natural reserves, 13 university students, and three volunteer staff. The group visited the protected area of Tisey-Estanzuela in the mountainous region of Estelí, where two UÁP-sponsored biology students are conducting research on orchid and bromeliad species.

The group departed early Friday morning, excited to experience the mountains that lay ahead. The children’s faces were pressed against the window as they tried to take in the unfolding scene. On the drive into the mountains, the views and the change in terrain enthralled everyone. As we passed the infamous Volcán Casitas, which crumbled under the devastating pressures of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, solemn stories were retold of lives lost.

Arriving at the Ecoposada, the eco-friendly hostel that would be their home for the next three days, the students exiting the bus commented on the briskness of the air and pointed to the pine trees, the likes of which they had never seen. After a quick tour of the hostel, where the children admired the organic shade-grown coffee plants and the citrus and banana trees, two resident UÁPitos led the group to a family-run nursery where they have been conducting research on the reproductive habits of orchids and bromeliads. Each group of visitors listened to descriptions of the over 50 bromeliad and orchid species found in the area. By the end of the tour, the visitors knew the difference between the plants and could name some of the requirements for healthy growth.

That night, with everyone bundled in their blankets to fend off the cold, the visiting group of primary school children from Volcán Cosiguina gave an engaging presentation on the flora and fauna of their area. This presentation led to an open forum in which each group proudly began to share the defining characteristics of their areas. They talked about the types of plants that they passed daily, the wildlife they saw, the food they cultivated, and the jobs they and their parents worked.

Day three of the trip included a long hike passing El Mirador Segoviano, a beautiful vista that seemed to overlook all of Nicaragua. The hike included a brief explanation of the organic farming techniques used in the area. This provided the students with their first look at where their food was actually grown. The students continued through the pine forests, identifying the bromeliads and orchids they passed.

The group reached the Natural Preserve Tisey-Estanzuela Ranger Station after an hour-and-a-half hike, and the ranger gave an overview of the natural reserve’s wildlife.

The last day of the trip included a visit to Don Alberto’s rock carvings. Don Alberto has created over 100 sculptures and 87 paintings along the rock façade that overlooks the valley of Estelí. A guide led the tour of the beautiful carvings of giant boa constrictors and the volcanoes of Central America that this mountain man has created.

This ETE trip was a wonderful success, and UÁP looks forward to more such trips in the coming year. The program is made possible by a generous grant from The New England Biolanbs Foundation to help UÁP support environmental education programs.
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