The Leatherback Trust educates the next generation of sea turtle biologists and conservationists in communities near nesting beaches and foraging habitats. TLT believes that communities dedicated to conservation and connected to sea turtles can help to secure a future for the park and for leatherbacks. Our scientists initiated a conservation education program for children living near Las Baulas National Park in 1993. The goal is to give local schoolchildren the opportunity to directly experience nature and learn about local ecosystems.
Despite their proximity to critical habitat, many students and their teachers are unaware of the importance of their beaches or coastal waters to sea turtles. Almost none of children from the nearby town of Matapalo had ever seen a leatherback and some students had never been to the beach.
Working with local educators, we designed conservation-themed worksheets, skits, puppet shows and games to introduce children to leatherbacks, understand the importance of Las Baulas National Park and discuss the community’s role in protecting turtles. We invite ecotour guides and park guards visited classrooms to talk about their work. Students learn about the rich biodiversity within the park and the importance of protected areas to saving sea turtles.
Students from the Matapalo and Playa Grande schools are invited on an estuary tour, where they learn how to identify local species of animals and plants with field guides. They are also invited to see a nesting turtle during a night tour with a park guide. These experiences enable local children to develop an appreciation for the habitats around them and a sense of stewardship for sea turtles.
The Leatherback Trust also hosts students from primary and secondary schools in the US for site visits and field courses at the Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Station. We gather students from Costa Rica and the US to join in educational games and school improvement projects, inlcuding painting murals, and we join the parade through the streets during the annual Leatherback Turtle Festival.