Playing GREEN- Promoting Environmental Education Through Art and a Recycled Playground
San Francisco Apanta is a small, rural town located in the middle of the mountains of El Salvador. It is an idyllic town, known for its natural water springs and very fertile soil. The economy is based on agriculture and cattle herding. However, for the population of less than 400 people, resources for economic development are very limited. Typically, the resources available are likely to be used for larger, infrastructure projects, such as the reconstruction of the roads, rather than for educational or recreational projects for young people.
This project will lead to the building of a playground out of local, recycled materials for the community’s youth. Playgrounds provide a creative space that do not exist in most villages of El Salvador, a space where children can learn from their peers, problem solve, manage conflict, and experiment and be inventive. In a community that has experienced gang violence, mass emigration of young people, and high school dropout rates, building a playground will support children and youth's cognitive, emotional and physical development in a healthy manner. The project will be built around environmental workshops and a recycling campaign at the local school, as well as artisan workshops to show the youth how to ‘upcycle’ trash into jewelry, purses, and even lamps.
The playground is complete with additional swings, trees, plants, and trashcans donated from the local government, US Embassy and local development organization. The students participated in "upcycle" workshops, where they learned how to make jewelry out of magazines, wallets out of potato chip bags, and purses out of tires. In addition to the playground, a swinging gazebo and vegetable garden were implemented at the school. The recycling campaign is in full force, and every few weeks, a truck from a recycling NGO comes to pick up recycled trash from the community. The money earned from selling the recyclables are being used to fund educational excursions for the students, such as a visit to a kid’s museum in the capitol.
"The children are a lot happier because they have somewhere to play. They are able to coexist with one another in this new space and share with one another." - Irma, Project Leader
"At the park, I like to play, learn, and exercise. I am very happy with the playground because we are able to share with our friends and we have lots of flowers and trees now." - Jose, 10, Project Participant