Collect & Connect (CoCo), An experiential learning for upland kids

What better way to learn fast and good about how we are all connected to the natural world than doing it hands on?

This is the essence of the project called Collect & Connect (CoCo), a pioneering initiative of the Youth Desk Officers (YDO) of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO) in Aklan province, which taught students the importance of environmental protection and conservation.

Project CoCo (Collect & Connect): Collect Seedlings to Connect with Nature adopted the theme: “Seeds of Knowledge: Empowering Youth through Wild Seedling Collection and Education,” has successfully educated and engaged the upland community of Madalag, Aklan especially the young ones, in propagating native plant species.

It was an experiential learning that combined environmental awareness with educational incentives.

The Project had a two-week running period, from September 7–21, 2023, which gave students-beneficiaries enough time to collect seedlings and wildlings within their surrounding environment.

With its rolling hills and mountainous areas, Madalag has untouched rainforest and produces high valued forest products such as narra, acacia, mahogany and many more. Thus, students of Ma. Cristina Integrated School in Madalag, Aklan eagerly looked forward in joining Project CoCo.

Forester Kynth Edrel B. Rebaño of PENRO Aklan taught the students about native plant species, their significance and the process of seedlings collection.

Meanwhile, PENRO Aklan YDO Joann C. Inguin, gave the students the step-by-step guidelines on how the students may qualify and avail the project.

Inguin also gave students the list of wild native tree seedlings they can collect, and the quantity needed to avail school supplies as an exchange.

Project CoCo’s target to collect 20,000 wild seedlings was met after the two-week period. School children happily turned over their collected wild seedlings to PENRO Aklan team during the on-site program and activities.

For every 30 seedlings, the students exchange it for either a notebook, a correction tape or an intermediate pad.

Engaging the youths in wild seedlings collection is a means to produce alternative planting materials and combat deforestation.

Growing trees also enhances carbon sequestration capacity of certain forest areas. In this way, the young ones learn their impactful value of being instruments to help mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

Regional Executive Director Livino B. Duran of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) laud this initiative of PENRO Aklan. “It is a commendable thing to help the students understand their role in our quest for sustainability. They may be young but they can do something for environmental sustainability of their own future and the future of those who will come after them,” he said.

Project CoCo’s experiential learning approach enhanced the students’ scientific knowledge and appreciation of their environment, and also helped the young ones in Madalag, Aklan embrace sustainable practices that will benefit their upland community. (DENR-6)