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Grassroots Sustainability Education for Children in Mexico

HUNAB inspires the next generation of environmentalists

Submitted by: Richard Lakin

Posted: Aug 21, 2015 – 06:00 AM EST

Series: Education for a Sustainable Future

Tags: education, environmentalism, sustainability, youth action


This is the most recent article in our series "Education for a Sustainable Future". For more articles, go to

A large ceiba tree shades the center courtyard of the Ceiba Pentandra Park in Mérida, Mexico. The Mayans called the ceiba tree Yaaxché, and believed that it connected the underworld, the earthly realm, and the skies. Today, the site of this particular ceiba connects children to the unique environmental heritage of the state of Yucatán, as well as to a sense of sustainability awareness.  

The park is the vision of Maritza Morales Casanova, the founder of HUNAB (in English: Humanity United to Nature in Harmony for Beauty, Welfare, and Goodness), an environmental organization that teaches and certifies young peer educators that then share their sustainability training with other children in their own communities. The HUNAB park also provides schoolteachers with the resources to deliver biodiversity education in their classrooms. 

Maritza describes it as “An educational plan for children 7-14 years old, who want to be environmental instructors. They spend one year at the park  (48 sessions, 2 hours each on weekends) in order to learn the main environmental topics (water, biodiversity, global warming, planting, pollution, energy, forest, etc). They then receive an accreditation as environmental instructors, and spend another year in the field learning the skills to share their knowledge with their peers. All the training is through games and fun. It allows us to engage children and also to inspire them to be the next generation of social and environmental entrepreneurs. The environmental instructor´s program is called “Heroes of Grandmother Earth” and is a unique program where children are peer educators.” 

Maritza started HUNAB twenty years ago when she was only ten years old. Seeing her school mates disrespect plants and animals, as well as each other, she struggled to be being taken seriously at such a young age while creating a movement that fosters a more gentle approach to nature and humanity. Decades of resolve and tenacity with government officials, the press, and corporate funders have finally resulted in the creation of the sustainability education park and a cadre of young environmentalists that are spreading the message. HUNAB is a compelling example of committed grassroots activism making a difference. I saw kids there laughing and excited to be playing games that provide sustainability education…but aside from the environmentalist aspect of the movement, I also saw kids focused on something engaging at an age when they can go astray. HUNAB’s education program imparts a life-long sense of empathy, development of personal potential, and community leadership. 

HUNAB has received support from local and international sponsors, as well as numerous awards, including Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Emerging explorers 2014/ National Geographic, Cemex, Fundación Boxito, Fundación Walmart de México, Mudanzas Continental, and Papelerías Farah. Recently, Maritza won the Giuseppe Sciacca International Prize at the Vatican in the category of Research and Development for HUNAB’s efforts in education and environmental protection.

Come November 3rd, HUNAB will be launching a fund-raising event to build a biodiversity museum at the park. According to Maritza “In Yucatán we have beautiful museums for Art and Culture but there are no museums for biodiversity, so students, especially children, have no access to this kind of knowledge. Mexico is a large and diverse country. It is divided into 8 main regions called regiones biogeograficas. Our goal is to build a museum where people can study the biodiversity of the 8 biological-geographical regions of Mexico. This museum will be located inside of Ceiba Pentandra, the first high-level environmental education training center in the world.”

The campaign will be called “Giro con HUNAB” (Spin or gyrate with HUNAB) where contributors will be encouraged to film themselves spinning in some creative way, post it on social media, contribute, and encourage others to contribute. Look for #Giroconhunab to participate.

For some time now, I have been visiting small NGOs in the field to produce media for foundations and CSR. I have become very close to a handful of them, and have remained in contact over the years because I believe they are actually making a difference. HUNAB is one of these organizations, and is now even more relevant to me because I am moving to Yucatán in the fall, so it will be addressing the environment that I’ll be living in day-to-day. I encourage readers to take a look at HUNAB if you’re interested in sustainability education and grassroots environmentalism: and hope you will watch this video about their organization:

This is the most recent article in our series "Education for a Sustainable Future". For more articles, go to

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