Environmental Education for Mongolia

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Conservation Ink
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Our mission is to support conservation and environmental awareness in natural and cultural areas through the production and distribution of educational materials.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Conservation Ink is all about communication for environmental awareness. We publish maps, guides, postcards, school materials, citizen handbooks, and similar items to support conservation of national parks, wildlands, and cultural heritage areas. We do this in multiple languages, in partnership with other agencies that share our goals.We focus on developing countries where the very survival of parks and cultural sites is threatened by a lack of funding and political support; where the creation of appealing and accurate interpretive materials can make a large difference; and where such materials do not currently exist. Many publications are distributed free of charge. Others, aimed primarily at foreign visitors, are offered for sale; all proceeds are used to support ongoing operations.Our pilot project is based in Mongolia, a huge country squeezed between China and Russia, blessed with a rich natural and cultural heritage but -- when we began our work in 2003 -- with essentially no environmental publications. Concerned Mongolians told us about this, and expressed frustration in trying to publish simple informational pamphlets, much less books and maps. Like us, they recognized that public protection relies on public awareness, and that environmental education is a key grassroots driver of government policy. Having recently emerged from 70 years as a client state of the USSR, Mongolia is looking forward with new energy and optimism but its conservation community is seriously hampered by outdated tools.With the help of talented local people, we set out to put Mongolia's parks and protected sites on the map, literally. The first items on our list were map-guides for the most important and most visited national parks in the country. So far, we have covered five national parks plus adjacent wild areas. Each map-guide provides one or more maps and a small book's worth of information on the area's flora, fauna, geology, history, archeology, and -- in the case of the Gobi map -- paleontology.The Gobi map is included in our upload of supporting files. Please note that we have uploaded English-language versions for the benefit of non-Mongolian speakers; these publications are also available in Mongolian. In addition to the map-guides, we have also produced, in partnership with cooperating agencies, a series of publications designed to help community groups and schools to:• Monitor the quality of their rivers and streams. • Participate in the process by which mining companies acquire licenses to find and exploit mineral deposits. • Take charge of sustainable community management in local nature reserves.• Understand the new legal framework of their ancient but currently re-forming nation.Among our new projects are Nomadic Nature Trunks. These schoolrooms-in-a-box are large plastic trunks filled with books, posters, puppets, CDs, and lesson plans. They circulate to rural schools where resources would be slim -- perhaps nonexistent -- without some outside help. Our first set of trunks, developed with the help of Mongolian and American educators, was field tested by teams of teachers in early 2008 -- to enthusiastic reviews. That set (three trunks total) have now completed their first year of riding the circuit from school-to-school in the remote eastern steppes region.A second set of trunks is in development based on the natural history of Ikh Nart, a large wildlife preserve in southeast Mongolia. Future plans call for additional trunks with different themes including dinosaurs, archeology, and historic sites.Although foreign visitors are an important audience for us, our main goal is to serve Mongolians. For this reason, almost everything we do is presented in the Mongolian language as well as English. Mongolian versions are distributed free of charge through schools and community groups.Publishing lies at the heart of our mission. Were it not for software from Microsoft, particularly the Office suite, we would be nowhere. It begins with research and note-taking, but also involves correspondence, general editing, copy editing, translating, promoting, accounting, and explaining. These jobs are all complicated by having to work between the United States and Asia, in two or more languages, on PC and MacIntosh platforms. Word neatly untangles the English-to-Mongolian and Mongolian-to-English translation puzzle. Excel speaks all languages. Outlook and Entourage keep us in touch over nine time zones, and allows instant consultation on translation issues using actual scripts and fonts. Messenger lets us talk in real time, although it might be middle of the night at one end or the other. Powerpoint gives us a critical tool for educational programming and to explain our effort at fundraising events.In truth, our donated Microsoft software has allowed us, with a tiny staff and a micro budget, to reach an entire nation. People who ride horses as a primary mode of transportation, who live in felt yurts, and look up at a night sky lit only by stars, are touched by Conservation Ink publications.

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