Flor Matarrita’s history with environmental protection goes back decades. Since she was a child, she has dedicated her life to reforesting trees in the province and she has transmitted that passion, as she describes it, to many generations of students as a “debt to the planet.” Those efforts over the years made her deserving of the 2019 Nature Guardian Teacher Award.
Matarrita teaches children between 7 and 10 years old at the San Gerardo school in Hojancha. Part of her work has been to instill in the little ones the importance of caring for the environment and conserving the planet.
She has been a teacher for 30 years, and just as she has seen her students grow, she has also seen the trees they have planted grow over the years.
“When you pass near the school, you see large ceiba trees that are already 20 or 15 years old. These were planted by my little ones, who are also big. How happy it makes me to see them,” she related.
Along with her, three more educators from the Nicoya and Nosara school districts were presented with the same award. They are Hannia Jimenez, from Pilangosta’s school, Alice Canales, from Santa Marta School and Efrain Aviles, from Del Mar Academy.
Canales won because he runs multiple student programs in his educational center for sorting garbage and reusing plastics. One of the biggest problems in Nosara happens to be bad solid waste management, since it wasn’t until 2019 that the Municipality of Nicoya began to provide garbage collection service in the district.
“My interest is to sow the seed in future generations to take care of the environment, because they are the ones who are going to be affected by all the consequences if we do nothing,” the teacher affirmed.
According to the founder of Guardians of Nature, Jessica Sheffield, the award is designed to promote more environmental actions within schools. The award is open to the school districts of Nicoya center, Hojancha center and Nosara, the circuits where the environmental project has an impact.
Educators were nominated by community members. After accepting the nomination, they sent the members of the Guardians selection committee an explanation of the work they have done within their schools and how it has impacted students. That, along with the project work already monitored, made them deserving of the award.
Canales said that the award is shared with all of her students since they are now the ones proposing more environmental initiatives.
“For them, taking care of the environment is something routine. Now students teach ecobrick classes and other things to students from other schools who are not familiar with this process. They are empowered and they like it. Many times they have tried to teach their parents at home. The award is really theirs,” he emphasized.
The next award period is planned to take place in the second half of this year. For the first time, it will be opened to all districts in the Chorotega region.
“This project is very beautiful because it recognizes the efforts that are already being made. It puts the importance of creating environmental spaces on the table from when children are starting their growth processes,” Sheffield emphasized.