On August 10, 2011, 29 high school students from Madolenihmw High School and Nanpei Memorial High School gathered at Senpehn Community Center, the base camp for the 6th Annual Youth Environmental Ambassadors Summer Camp.
Since its inception, the focus of each summer camp has alternated between the terrestrial and marine realms. Senpehn is a community rooted in traditional culture and fully dependent on its rich farming heritage, encompassing one of Pohnpei’s healthiest watersheds, an intact native forest biodiversity, and spectacular natural sites, such as Pahnsile Waterfall. The community was the perfect place for high school students to enjoy a nature-based summer camp, interact with peers, learn about Pohnpei’s natural wonders, and become more informed about issues facing our forests, rivers, and mangroves.
The participating students were all members of the Youth Environmental Ambassadors Club (YEA), which began at PICS High School, Calvary Christian Academy (CCA), and the Seventh-Day Adventist High School (SDA) in 2005 and has since grown to include Madolenihmw High School and Nanpei Memorial High School. Each club has student officers, memberships, and faculty advisors, and meets regularly to address local environmental issues. Club members have organized roadside and campus clean-ups, community outreach activities, and more. Members are dedicated to teaching their knowledge of the environmental challenges facing Pohnpei to others through peer and community outreach.
During the course of the camp, students were led through three days of interactive sessions by CSP’s Terrestrial and Education program staff, during which they learned about the challenges in preserving Pohnpei’s forests, invasive species eradication, grow-low sakau as an alternative farming method, island agro-forestry, sustainable raised-bed gardening for food security and income-generation, the importance of having healthy mangroves to protect the reefs from run-off and as a natural shield against climate change, new technological tools such as GPS and GIS, and the medicinal value of plants. The students were also taken on a hike to Pahnsile Waterfall and enjoyed a refreshing swim. Finally, as a last treat, the campers were led to Senpehn Mangrove sanctuary to explore the state’s third mangrove reserve. It was the first time many of the students had ever visited the Senpehn community.
The Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) would like to express its sincere appreciation to the FSM Office of the Environment, which provided funds through the UNDP SLM project; the EPA; USDA-NRCS; the Weather Service Station; the Department of Forestry; all our partners; the parents of the students; and the Senpehn community for helping make this event a stellar success. We are confident that the participating students were inspired and enlivened by the experience and returned home with a greater understanding of the beauty of Pohnpei and an increased passion for preserving it.