Connecting children to nature within the Dutch Caribbean: 2019 DCNA Junior Ranger Exchange Event Evaluation

The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) initiated its first Junior Ranger Annual Exchange event on 25-29 October 2019, as part of the new approach for the cooperation between the park management organizations in the six islands of the Dutch Caribbean. DCNA just finalized their evaluations report that provides an overview of this successful event and valuable lessons-learned for the next edition. Empowering kids to be excited and knowledgeable about nature is critical for the preservation of the spectacular nature within the Dutch Caribbean.

The 2019 Junior Ranger Exchange was first and foremost a pilot program, as the time span between the idea and execution was short (four months). This was a challenge for both the organization and the funding. On behalf of the DCNA team, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks to those who coordinated the event. This event was a success due to the tremendous efforts made by Sietske van der Wal and Natasha Silva (Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba (FPNA)), Roxanne Liana Francisca, Xenah Cicilia, and Maria-Guanela Sluis (STINAPA Bonaire), and Emeray Neuman-Martha (DCNA). Thank you for all that you do for the youth in nature education.

For the 2019 DCNA annual convention, 12-13 year old youth participants from the six Dutch Caribbean islands were invited to join the Junior Ranger Exchange with the special theme: Marine and Coastal Conservation. To represent Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba (FPNA), STINAPA Bonaire, CARMABI on Curaçao, Curaçao Sea Aquarium, Saba Conservation Foundation, Saba Nature Education and St. Maarten Nature Foundation, four teenagers were selected per island and brought together at the convention. DCNA’s activities are generously supported by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Thanks to co-financing of the Rabobank, World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF-NL), STINAPA Bonaire and support from Warehouse supermarket, the program was organized, with two overnight stays, field excursions and workshops in the Washington Slagbaai National Park.

In total, 20 Youth Nature Ambassadors and 5 adult leaders (and 3 coordinators) were part of the exchange event as well as three more experienced STINAPA Junior Rangers – whom at a slightly older age of 15-18 years functioned as peer leaders during certain activities. The 2019 Junior Ranger Exchange proved to be a unique experience in which the youth participants had the opportunity to learn about each other’s nature and conservation challenges, as well as create memorable experiences together. The ‘camp’ ended with a ‘high profile’ presentation which conferred the youth’s acquired knowledge, discussed lessons learnt as well as how they wanted to initiate further action together with the respective local organizations on their home islands.

The principle of participation of the youth begins with the notion that children are not passive or helpless and without capacity. Rather, this principle recognizes children as capable and active communicators who participate and are involved in (the selection and design of) activities that affect the improvement of their general welfare, including their environment. This type of participation occurs vertically between children and the organization/institution and horizontally between the children themselves through processes focused on child-to-child interaction. Children’s relationship with nature is key to a sustainable future for the Dutch Caribbean islands.

For more information see the evaluations report, https://www.dcnanature.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/JRE-Report-Online.pdf.