The following description of the Earthkeepers program was taken from the paper: Earthkeepers in the Czech Republic: Experience from the implementation process of an Earth Education program. Written by Jan Cincera and Bruce Johnson, 2012. Document and references available on-line at: http://www.envigogika.cuni.cz/index.php/Envigogika/article/viewFile/397/pdf_397.
Earthkeepers (Van Matre & Johnson, 1988) is an Earth Education program developed and disseminated by The Institute for Earth Education (IEE), an international not-for-profit educational organization. Earth education is the process of helping people live more harmoniously and joyously with the natural world (Van Matre, 1990). Designed for 10-12 year olds, Earthkeepers is a “magical learning adventure” that helps young participants develop a deeper understanding of the ecological systems on our planet, cultivate feelings of connection to the natural world, and take actions to reduce their impact on ecosystems. Like all Earth Education programs, Earthkeepers is based on a programmatic approach rather than the more common infusion approach found in much of environmental education (Wohlers & Johnson, 2003). The program is holistic, with every activity selected purposefully to help accomplish specific goals.
Earthkeepers is organized with the word KEYS, which summarizes the major components of the program. The learning begins with a three-day ‘springboard’ experience that takes place at the Earthkeepers Training Center, a natural area away from school. The focus is on Knowledge (K), building up an understanding of the ecological concepts of energy flow, materials cycling, interrelationships and change, and Experience (E), developing personal feelings for nature. Then the program continues back at school and at home, applying the Knowledge and Experience to Yourself (Y), making personal choices to use less energy and materials and to have new experiences in nature, and Sharing (S) all of this with others.
Participants in Earthkeepers earn four keys (K, E, Y, S) as they complete the different parts of the program. Each key opens a box that contains secret meanings according to E.M., a mysterious character who has set up the experience for the learners. The secret meanings capture the essence of each part of the programme, helping the learners to retain what they have learned while also providing a great deal of excitement and anticipation.
After initial development in the United States, Earthkeepers has spread widely. The program has been translated from English into different languages. It has been implemented in 14 different countries. In most cases, an outdoor school nature center offers the program, and school classes visit the center for a three-day springboard experience, often staying overnight, but sometimes just going three days in a row.
There have been several evaluation studies of the Earthkeepers program. Increases in student understanding of ecological concepts, more pro-environmental attitudes and values, and the adoption of more ecologically-friendly behaviours have been consistently shown (Johnson & Manoli, 2011; Manoli & Johnson, 2007). In addition, a new study (Felix & Johnson, 2013) investigated the continuation of the program back in the classroom after the initial three-days’ experience. The most recent study of Earthkeepers (Manoli, et. al, 2013) took place in Cyprus, showing gains in ecological understandings, attitudes and values, and behaviors, along with high rates of satisfaction from participants and their teachers.
A working Earthkeepers program in Bolivia will have a great impact at different levels. First, it would be the first time a non-traditional environmental education program will be implemented in a Latin-American country and in Spanish where the need of more mindful people about the environment and natural resources is needed. Second, an alternative approach to face environmental problems, with more meaning and more magic, will be a reference for the national education curricula. Finally, the strategic location of the pilot program in the Santa Cruz lowlands will facilitate the replication in the rest of the country and even the rest of the Latin-American countries.Earthkeepers is a trademark of The Institute for Earth Education, Cedar Cove, Greenville, WV 24945 USA. All Rights Reserved.