Background and Needs:
The Maya Biosphere Reserve is a stronghold for endangered animals such as jaguars, pumas, tapirs and scarlet macaws. It also serves as a critical watershed for the surrounding communities and as a major carbon sink for the entire planet. The Reserve is of great cultural value because it contains ancient Mayan archaeological sites such as Tikal and the Mirador. Lack of strong governmental regulations, however, has resulted in forest fires, agricultural expansion, wildlife poaching and illegal human settlement in the Reserve, which are causing rapid deforestation, depleting water resources and further threatening endangered wildlife.
There is an early alert system utilized en Carmelita, Paso Caballos and Uaxactún, communities that are found within the Mayan Biosphere Reserve and for which the prevention of fires is of great importance. This system consists of using three alert flags of different colors for coordinating the fires.
- Red means not to burn.
- Yellow means to burn with caution and to carefully watch the fire.
- Green means it is okay to burn.
These flags are put out depending on the conditions and risk of fires spreading and agricultural clearing periods. Through various exercises students will reflect on the topic and paint canvases that creatively and simply explain the significance of early alert, the consequences and ways of preventing fires. The canvases will stay on exhibit throughout the burning season.