Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic  — The Dominican Republic is one of the top 10 countries in the world that will be impacted by climate change.

Addressing this challenge brought together Counterpart International, Hiram College’s Igniting Streams of Learning program and science teachers from 10 bilingual schools in Santo Domingo.

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Omar Ramirez, Executive Vice President of the National Council for Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanism, opens the workshop.

The training session for teachers focused on incorporating innovative strategies in the classroom to address climate change. Keynote speaker Omar Ramirez, executive vice president of the National Council for Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanism, opened the two-day workshop, hosted by Saint George School.

Ramirez reminded the group that adaptation to climate change as a “key element of land use and environmental policy” is part of the Constitution of the Dominican Republic.

“Climate change and environmental conservation is also the fourth pillar of our National Development Strategy 2030,” said Ramirez. The Dominican Republic is the only Spanish-speaking country to participate in the United Nation’s Learning About Climate Change program. And a portion of the country’s education budget is earmarked to train teachers about climate change. Already 1,600 teachers have received training.”

“We’re grateful for Counterpart’s commitment and willingness to partner with us on this important issue,” added Ramirez.

Counterpart International started working with local partners in the Dominican Republic more than 10 years ago to protect coastal resources and promote sustainable tourism. The program has now expanded to include a focus on climate resiliency and youth education.

“Working with our local partners, we want to help the country prepare for the impacts of climate change. Engaging youth is an important way forward,” said Joan Parker, Counterpart International’s President and CEO. “The more understanding youth have about the problem of climate change and its potential solutions, the more effective they can be as future leaders in the country,” she added.

Igniting Streams of Learning, an innovative program at Hiram College, helps teachers engage students in learning about coastal climate resilience, marine biology and conservation. Teachers learn how to jointly build curricula with students, and to help students learn to conduct research, perform volunteer services and interact with communities to develop a system of learning called a “learning community”.

“It was an honor for Saint George to host this valuable exchange of ideas to help address the challenges of climate change and ways to involve our youth. We want to help be part of the solution to protect our communities from this grave danger,” said Donald Gotz, a teacher at the Saint George School and director of Project Green.

Counterpart International and partners from Hiram College hope to take this innovative teaching strategy to a broader level and involve the country’s public education system. Counterpart is working with private bilingual schools in Santo Domingo to pilot this approach and to facilitate work with the Ministry of Education to expand its reach in the future.

“The government’s commitment to change the country’s school curriculum to address climate resiliency is really unprecedented,” said Denny Taylor, co-director of Igniting Streams of Learning. “If it happens, it’ll be a model for the entire Caribbean, even the world,” added Taylor.

Teachers Ana Maria Carpio and Rebecca Zilberstein agreed that there is a need for this kind of training to help their students see the big picture. “They are the future leaders of our country, and they don’t see the consequences of their actions on nature,” said Carpio.

“We are excited that now we have a community of teachers that will support each other so we can have a larger impact on this issue,” added Zilberstein.

“Our country is vulnerable,” said Lissette Gil, a participant and Board member of Fundemar. “We need a commitment from everyone to address climate change. This is our home. Where else is there to go?”

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