The Bioma Project provides free classes and service projects to educate youth about the problems facing local ecosystems and how they can help, pairing traditional classroom instruction with hands-on activities and innovative technical tools. We hope to spread our program across the world and bring our hands-on environmental education to every classroom, to every students, regardless of financial circumstances.
We bring together youth from different schools and backgrounds to form a team of stalwart environmental advocates, spreading environmental science programs to schools across Maryland and Washington DC. We have united a ragtag group of young activists and fishermen and directed their energies towards building a better youth environmental movement, holding workshops and lessons at schools and presenting at expos and conferences. These young change-makers have created the basis for a comprehensive service learning based curriculum used by teachers across to Maryland in their science curriculums.
In order to combat environmental illiteracy and apathy, the Bioma program makes use of engaging hands-on activities, such as building a shrimp hatchery or surveying macro-invertebrate densities in a stream, rather than focusing on conventional lectures or textbook learning. We decided early on that the educational program throughout our schools should not involve our direct oversight, but rather allow local autonomy for students and teachers to incorporate local elements and choose how they would learn. By doing so, the program was able to nurture the students’ innate creativity and sense of responsibility, something that the rote memorization approach that characterizes many classrooms today would not have encouraged. The success of this approach can be seen in the student’s proactive approach towards designing and running their own projects; the fundraising, youth fishing programs, and stream surveys were all conceived and run by program graduates. The Bioma curriculum was designed to facilitate genuine interest and curiosity in material. Instead of quizzes and textbook readings, the Bioma approach encouraged classroom discussion, hands-on learning, and student autonomy. At environmental expos, the group held live demos of critters under microscopes and created a touch tank stocked with native species instead of a conventional powerpoint, while in classrooms, students are encouraged to build and shape things with their hands, something that most Bioma teachers have never recalled doing often in past courses. Through Bioma’s technical workshops, such as the virtual reality or disasters simulation project, students can craft and create their own projects based on interesting things they can discover, leading to an innate curiosity and better retention of the knowledge that will serve them for years to come.