La Vida Marina de Bocas del Toro Coloring Book
One project I had in the back of my head for a while was to create an educational marine life coloring book for kids in Bocas del Toro. Quarantine and a reminder that September was Ocean Month in Panama was the inspiration I needed to finally do it this year! In August I contacted student alumni of the School for Field Studies, where I teach Tropical Coastal Ecology, and asked if there were any students interested in helping out with the project by drawing pages for the coloring book. Thankfully, we have some incredibly artistically talented students who love Bocas del Toro and were excited to help me out. I wrote the text to go along with the images, a few of my colleagues at SFS and Hope Spot proofread the Spanish for me, and I put it all together with the drawings my students provided. I am very impressed by their artistic skills and although I may be biased, I think the book looks great! We have pages on coral reefs, fish, sea stars, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and rays, mangroves, and messages of pollution and conservation.
Thanks to donations by several members of the community in Bocas del Toro as well as my friends and family back home, I was able to raise several hundred dollars to buy supplies to print out the books (thank you to SFS for letting me use their printer!) and coloring supplies. Over the span of two months I distributed over 500 copies of the book, accompanied by 150 sets of coloring supplies. I partnered with several local organizations in Bocas, including Faces of Bocas and the Soropromists, who delivered coloring books to the children in the communities where they work. In particular, I joined the Faces of Bocas team in September (Ocean Month in Panama) as they delivered bags of food to families in Carenero, Solarte, and San Cristobal, and had the chance to briefly talk with the kids as I gave them copies of the coloring book and colored pencils. In addition, the books were distributed electronically to local teachers.
In addition to the coloring books, I created several series of educational social media posts that can be found on the Bocas Hope Spot Instagram and Facebook pages. These posts each match up with one of the pages on the coloring book so that readers can learn more about the species and topics mentioned in the coloring book. I will post some of these within my blog as well so keep an eye out.
I am very pleased with the 500+ copies of the book that are already out in the community, but I would love to see more! In 2021 I will be looking for opportunities to have the coloring books printed in bulk to 1) provide to more children in the community, hopefully accompanied by in-person educational activities, and 2) sell to tourists at hotels or shops within Bocas to raise money for additional educational efforts in the community. If you are interested in helping me achieve any of these goals, please get in touch!