WATERTOWN—The Armenia Tree Project has been working on an exciting pilot program this year to introduce its environmental education material in Armenian schools throughout North America. The program, “Building Bridges: Connecting Diaspora Armenian Students with Their Environmental Heritage,” has been funded by a grant from the Thomas A. Kooyumjian Family Foundation.
The program has already been positively received by the heads of Armenian schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, and elsewhere. One of the first achievements of the project was the publication of an English edition of ATP’s “Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree” training manual. The 97-page manual includes information on the importance of forests, lessons on exploring the environment, poetry and the Armenian landscape, and ecological and cultural heritage. A lesson entitled “The Beetle School as a School of Nature,” for example, includes a first-ever English translation of the well-known poem by Hovhannes Toumanian.
The second major achievement of the project to date is the publication of a pilot edition of “Building Bridges,” an ATP newsletter for children ages 6-12. This eight-page color newsletter was written and designed by the creators of the new Gakavig children’s publication. The newsletter and environmental education manual are available on the ATP website and in print format and are being distributed to teachers and students in Armenian schools across North America this fall.
“ATP has been working with Armenia’s teachers and students to promote environmental education since 2005, and since we have developed the resources, it made sense to introduce the material to students attending Armenian schools in the Diaspora,” stated Environmental Education Program Manager Alla Berberyan. “The goal is to raise the level of awareness about Armenia’s rich natural heritage and the challenges of conservation, as well as making connections between young people in Armenia and the Diaspora through environmental education.”
“Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree” was Armenia’s first teacher’s manual for environmental education and it was released by ATP in 2005. It received approval from Armenia’s National Institute of Education and the Center for Curriculum Development of the Ministry of Education and Science for integration into the secondary school system. The OSCE Yerevan Office partnered with ATP and supported the publication of the manual. “Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree” quickly gained in popularity among teachers and schoolchildren, and a second edition was released by ATP earlier this year.
Alla Berberyan is currently visiting Armenian schools in the U.S. to meet with teachers and students about the Building Bridges Program. Several schools are hosting assemblies where ATP is presenting an informative and interactive lesson about Armenia’s environment from the “Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree” manual. In the first phase of the project, Berberyan is visiting schools in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.
In addition to the curriculum materials, ATP is encouraging students from Diaspora schools to visit the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Education Center at ATP’s nursery in Karin Village when they travel to Armenia. Several schools have already done so, including the St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School in Watertown.
“We are grateful that the trustees of the Thomas A. Kooyumjian Family Foundation have supported this ATP pilot program as part of their mission to foster a stronger sense of Armenian-American identity,” added Berberyan. “We hope this work strengthens the bonds between Armenia and the Diaspora and further engages young Armenians to become stewards of the environment.”
From l to r: Nazo Apanian, Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School Principal, Alla Berberyan, ATP Education Program Manager, Jeff Masarjian, ATP Executive Director, Anahit Gharibyan, ATP's Former Community Tree Planting Program.
“We believe that it’s the children who will end up being the great drivers of this project, she continued. “Some of the children to whom we have presented our material have already become strong advocates for ATP and environmental protection. They are making presentations in their schools, talking to their parents about Armenia’s environment, and putting together lemonade stands to raise money to plant trees.”
Meanwhile, as part of its kick off of the ‘Building Bridges’ program, the ATP visited visited the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School in Los Angeles. “We are thrilled to see the Pilibos School embrace this program. Environmental awareness is key to the school and now the students will have the opportunity to learn about issues concerning Armenia as well,” said Hermine Mahmouzian, ATP Southern California Development Director.
Since 1994, Armenia Tree Project has planted and restored more than 3,500,000 trees at over 800 sites around the country and created hundreds of jobs for impoverished Armenians in tree-regeneration programs. The organization’s three tiered initiatives are tree planting, environmental education, and poverty reduction.
For more information about the Building Bridges Program and to request copies of the educational material, please call ATP’s Watertown Office at (617) 926-8733 or send an email to [email protected].