My experience as a Glocal Education environmental educator

By Ginevra Simoncini

Not long before my graduation in biological sciences, in March 2016, I received confirmation that I would be part of the newly born research project Glocal Education. This was exactly what I had been waiting for: after three years of textbook studies and lab work, this was the perfect opportunity to take all that I had learned outside of the university halls, while at the same time bringing forward scientific research for the project.
I traveled first to Madagascar and then to the Maldives, spending a total of twelve months between the two countries. The environment in which I was working was completely different from what one experiences in a strictly academic setting: I was surrounded by people, tourists and fellow staff members, who came from a variety of different backgrounds, both culturally and educationally, meeting few people with a scientific academic preparation. This was the challenge I had to face, which also turned out to be an excellent personal learning experience.
One would typically expect to find a young biologist inside a laboratory and not walking along a two hundred meter length Maldivian island while being followed by a bunch of tourists, and answering questions such as “Why doesn’t the sand here burn?” or “Why can’t I take seashells home, not even this little one?”. But this was my goal as an environmental educator for Glocal Education: to make people live their vacation as a completely different experience, enriching their days passed by the beach sunbathing and relaxing with dynamic and captivating activities such as botanical walks around the resort gardens and sunset biology lessons.

I learned how to pass on basic and not so basic facts about biology (from corals being actual animals, unfortunately often mistaken for rocks, to the mechanisms and consequences of ocean acidification on their skeletons) in a simple but engaging manner, and with that various notions on how to protect the fragile ecosystems these tourists had chosen as their vacation destinations. Communication skills are the key, and interacting with so many different people has taught me much about trying to bridge the gap between scientific research and the general public.
Thanks to my experience with Glocal Education I feel like I have made a difference, that I have passed on some of my knowledge and some of my passion to the many people I had the chance to meet. Raising awareness and inspiring people to care more about their surroundings, teaching them how to reduce their environmental impact, and knowing that some of them have brought their experience back home and have shared it with others is one of the greatest satisfactions that Glocal Education has given me.