As part of continued engagement efforts with program alumni, the Edmund S. Muskie Professional Fellowship Program provided 12 alumni with funding to implement community development projects between March and June 2023. Alumni from 9 countries were selected for the first iteration of the Muskie Alumni Small Grants Program, with projects’ topics ranging from environmental and conservation issues, to youth projects, to photo and video projects. Alumna Natalia Davlianidze implemented the project “Biodiversity in Bloom” for the Alumni Small Grants Program, and shares her experience with us below.
Let me introduce you to Biodiversity in Bloom, a project that has grown from a profound passion for pollinators on our planet and their crucial role in sustaining life.
In a world plagued by the decline of biodiversity, the need to protect the intricate web of life has never been more urgent. Pollinators are the humble champions of our food security and ecosystem stability globally. Unfortunately, their significance often goes unnoticed by the public eye. Determined to change this narrative, I embarked on a mission to raise awareness and spark a conversation about the importance of protecting these vital creatures in my home country, Georgia.
This journey has been filled with collaboration and inspiration. Working alongside my peers and colleagues at Nature Conservation Georgia (NCG), we joined forces to develop something extraordinary. During research and consultations, a poignant truth emerged: while rural communities hold deep cultural and economic ties to beekeeping, awareness about the importance of pollinators for ecosystem services, as well as experiential learning programs in schools focused on environmental protection, remain scarce. It became clear that an immense opportunity lay before us. And so, Biodiversity in Bloom was born, driven by a resolute vision to empower teachers and students alike, cultivating a love for nature and fostering environmental stewardship. My primary objective with the project was to bridge the gap in public awareness through a multifaceted approach, combining engaging educational resources and immersive hands-on experiences.
Over the course of two months in early Spring 2023, I collaborated with NCG colleagues and other professionals to develop educational and awareness-raising materials, provide trainings for teachers, and plan a school pilot activity. The teachers’ guide and educational poster, developed within the project, are adapted for the audience and raise awareness about pollinators. The guide includes multiple activities for teachers and educators to implement interactive, hands-on learning in classrooms. The poster, created by a Georgian artist in collaboration with thematic specialists, is an eye-catching piece of art with an educational purpose. We distributed it for free to 100 teachers in different schools across Georgia. More than 70 teachers from public schools in Georgia participated in the online training, receiving the guide and educational materials to implement hands-on activities on pollinators in their schools. These teachers are eager to become catalysts of change, as demonstrated by their active engagement in the training discussions.
The most exceptional part of the project was a pilot activity held in the picturesque region of Tianeti, Georgia. Local teachers from Village Zaridzeebi Public School illuminated the path to engaging the local community and helped us implement the activity for the students. With the support of a dedicated volunteer English teacher from the “Teach and Learn with Georgia” program, we forged a connection that became a catalyst for change. Finally, in early May, we implemented the pilot activity at Village Zaridzeebi Public School. With local schoolteachers and around 30 students, we conducted a class, played interactive games, and participated in activities all aimed at educating and raising awareness the importance of pollinator and their protection. Most importantly, together we installed a home for pollinators — a wooden house construction creating a pollinator-friendly corner in the school garden, supporting the conservation of our tiny friends on the school campus and benefiting the entire community.
Biodiversity in Bloom project is a testament to the transformative power of community projects and the values I gained as a Muskie Fellow. It embodies the principles of leadership for good and community service, driving positive changes and leaving a lasting impact. The Muskie Fellowship Program instilled in me the belief that individuals have the capacity to shape their communities and the world. Empowered by this belief, I have channeled my passion into action, rallying others to join this noble cause. Biodiversity in Bloom is more than just a project; it reflects the spirit of Muskie, inspiring hope and encouraging others to embrace their role as agents of change.