This profile was prepared when Mauricio Canedo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Mauricio Canedo has implemented an environmental education and awareness program in the elementary and high schools of Cochabamba that is designed to make children and young people aware of the need to look after the eco-system of which they are a part. Mauricio believes that environmental awareness should be part of everyday life and that preserving the environment should become a natural reflex. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Mauricio's education alternative is that he has created a process to produce the elusive chemistry of getting people to care, and he has integrated it from the classroom to the halls of city government. In the environmental education curriculum that Mauricio has developed, each student grows a plant. The process is easy to manage, takes up very little space, can be carried out anywhere there is sunlight and costs $1.50 per child. The children learn about their role within the ecosystem and gain a valuable feeling of responsibility as they take charge during the lifecycle of their garden. Through their prolonged contact with one seed, one plant, they come to care about it and to see how the large environment is an extension of it. Then Mauricio takes the next step with his students, of reaching out to identify problems and take action in their urban communities, working with local officials, media and businesses. In this aspect, Mauricio's work is especially attentive to its Bolivian context, where concern about the environment is rising but the mechanisms for its improvement have not yet been created.