On October 16th, 2019, the “2019 Wetland Education Center Symposium” was held in Haikou, Hainan Province, China. The symposium was supervised by the Wetland Management Department of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), and co-hosted by Paulson Institute, Lao Niu Foundation and Mangrove Foundation (MCF). The symposium also drew up support from Haikou Forestry Bureau, Haikou Wetland Protection and Management center, and the Vanke Foundation.
36 representatives from relevant governmental departments of wetland protection and management, international organizations and civil society organizations attended the symposium. The participants exchanged their experiences and strategies on the establishment of wetland education centers. The “Guidelines for the Establishment of Wetland Education Centers (in Draft)”, which was drafted by the Wetland Education Center of China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network was discussed in detail.
Ms. Gao Jingfang, Director of the General Office, Wetland Department of NFGA, Dr. Shi Jianbin, consultant of Paulson Institute, and Dr. Yan Baohua, Secretary General of MCF, offered appointment certifications to the members of advisory panel. Experts who are well experienced in establishing and managing wetland education vowed to provide guidance and support for the project.
Gao made a speech in the symposium. She said that “Natural education is a vital starting point for ecological civilization and is an urgent need for economic and social development. With the development of economy and society, the improvement of awareness of ecological civilization, natural education, which is characterized by the spirit of ‘walking into nature’ and ‘returning to nature’, has become a new demand of the public”. She expected that the project would enhance the awareness-building and education functions of wetland nature reserves. She hoped that the project could highlight its uniqueness and make it well known by the public. In addition, Gao also appealed that those coastal wetland and nature reserves, which are in good conditions should be set up as models in the national efforts to build a harmony between human beings and natural wetlands.
Ms. Yang Xiaoqing, project officer of MCF, introduced the achievements that the Wetland Education Center project had yielded. From 2018 to 2019, in line with MCF visions and missions, the center organized different symposiums and trainings. Drawing on the data collected from field work, the experts worked out a detailed plan for the building of three “model sites”, which would function as demonstration for the network members.
Bena Smith, British expert from Wild Birds and Wetlands Trust (WWT), shared his experience in building and operating the London Wetland Education Center. In his talk, “How to successfully design and operate a wetland center”, Bena stressed that though different from each other, all centers the share same concept that human beings and nature should be closely connected. Wetland centers should provide both formal and informal wetland knowledge for the public. It is a basic principle, all wetland centers should actively link people with nature and provide both formal and informal learning places for the public. It is very important for young people to acquire the intimacy in their connection to nature and wetlands. At last, Bena noted that the founder of WWT has devoted all his life to realize the belief, which appeals people to be truly involved in activities so as to arouse their enthusiasts in wetlands and nature.
Chen Shihong, Chief Executive of Wild Bird Society of Taipei, shared his long-term experience in the construction of wetland education center in Taiwan and Guandu Nature Park in Taipei City. Chen’s talk was “Establishment, Management and Speculation of Wetland Education Center”. “I believe that ‘walking faster is not as good as walking longer’. I often share this belief with my colleagues. If you want to walk longer, it is not realistic to build a nature park the same as Guandu Nature Park in Taipei City and London Wetland Park right away or you will find it very tiring. So keep your steps, a new model may emerge in five years”, Chen Shihong said.
Ye Simin, who began to work in nature education in 2004, is now in charge of the coordination and operation planning of nature education of WWF, hoping to use education to promote nature conservation. In her talk, “Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Environmental Education Activities”, Ye Simin, Deputy Director of Education of WWF Hong Kong, emphasized that the evaluation should be built into the natural education activities and not an optional external link. The evaluation in natural education activities faces many challenges, such as the determination of evaluation criteria, how to carry out the evaluation within the limited time, and the impact of changes in natural conditions on the evaluation. At the same time, she also shared her experience in evaluation practice.
Symposium on the Revision of Guidelines for the Establishment of Wetland Education Centers
In the round table symposium, participants fully discussed the draft of “Guidelines for the Establishment of Wetland Education Center”, with focus on four key elements, including sustainable development, educational activities, teaching venues, and personnel. Based on their own practices gained from building other nature education centers and wetland parks, participants put forward suggestions for improvement. With the help of constructive suggestions from experts, the project team would revise the draft, which expects to provide clear, practical and feasible guidance for our partners to build and run wetland education centers.
What is a Wetland Education Center?
Wetland Education Center is a place where people can interact with wildlife and organize regular activities through which people can communicate, learn, participate and raise awareness based on wetland protection.
The center provides public with pleasant environment and an approachable place to know wetlands. The establishment of Wetland Education Center is a practical means to promote education, raise awareness and understand the significance of wetland protection.
Why Do We Need a Wetland Education Center?
In September 2018, the Wetland Education Center project was launched by the Wetland Management Department of SFGA, Lao Niu Foundation, Paulson Institute and MCF, in Beijing. The education center project is succedent work after establishment of China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network (CCWCN). In three years, the education center project expects to build 3-5 demonstrative wetland education centers in China, in accordance with international standards. Goals of the project are as follows: a) to build the establishment and operation mode of China wetland education center; b) to promote the specialized and systematic education and publicity of coastal wetland; c) to lay a foundation for public support of, and participation in, coastal wetland conservation.
Following the first and second wetland education center seminars held in January and September 2018, The 2019 Wetland Education Center Seminar was held in Haikou city on October 16, 2019. Haikou City was officially selected as the first international wetland city in the world in October 2018, and it bears more symbolic significance to hold the conference in such an international wetland city.
An Introduction to the Project
In order to curb quick shrink in size and fast deterioration in functions in China’s wetlands, as well as reversing sharp decline of coastal wild fish resources, in 2015, the Wetland Management Department of SFGA (formerly the Wetland Protection and Management Center of the State Forestry Administration), together with Paulson Institute, jointly launched the “China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network” project. Based on the works that done by CCWCN, in 2018, the Wetland Management Department of SFGA, Paulson Institute, Lao Niu Foundation and MCF jointly launched the Wetland Education Center project. The project expects to professionalize coastal wetland education in China through education centers. The project also helps to draw public support and improve social engagement for effective protection of coastal wetlands.
2019年10月16日， “第三届湿地教育中心研讨会” 在海南海口召开。这次研讨会是由国家林业和草原局湿地管理司指导，保尔森基金会、老牛基金会、红树林基金会（MCF）共同主办，海口市林业局、海口市湿地保护管理中心协办，万科公益基金会支持。
英国野鸟与湿地信托基金会（简称WWT）Bena Smith 结合伦敦湿地教育中心的创建、运行等经验分享主题“如何成功设计和运营湿地中心“，Bena 认为“虽然各个湿地中心都不一样，但是都有一个共同特质就是所有的湿地中心都将人与自然紧密的联系在一起，并为人们提供正规的、非正规的学习机会。对于湿地中心都是一个基本原则：所有湿地中心都应该将人与自然紧密联系一起，并为人们提供正规、非正规的学习的地方。让青少年在湿地获得和自然连接的亲密感非常重要，WWT创办人一生都致力于此，一直强调让人们真正的参与自然的活动，引发对于湿地和自然的兴趣。”
The article was prepared by Mangrove Foundation (MCF) 红树林基金会