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A Public school teacher in Porto Alegre, Aurici Azevedo da Rosa discovered her passion about the environment when she got to know more about the Brazilian cerrado and, since then, she is an environmentalist and education activist in the area

As a teacher, I always liked to work with local reality. When I lived in Brasilia, my first job was in a private school. In the beginning, I was really prejudiced against the Brazilian cerrado, a vast tropical savanna ecoregion of Brazil. For me, those crooked trees and red soil were horrible. However, when I started teaching, I wanted to understand more about that environment. Then, I found out that, in the cerrado, a plant needs to search water to grow and survive the fires. It’s a huge struggle and I identified myself with that, as my life has never been so easy. At school, I started a project called ‘Conheça o Cerrado para Amá-lo (possible translation: Meet the Cerrado to Love It)’ because I saw that the students didn’t know what the cerrado was. From then on, I was passionate about the cerrado and I started an environmental education course. In 2003, when I returned to Rio Grande do Sul, to the city of Viamão, I did the same thing and researched the local environment. It is my practice. Now, in Lomba do Pinheiro (neighborhood of Porto Alegre), I still do the same thing. Today, I do urban trails with the students so they know where they live and, from that knowledge, they think about the transformation of this place and their empowerment.

Born and raised in Porto Alegre, teacher Aurici Azevedo da Rosa, 55 years old, always liked science and dreamed of being a scientist, but only discovered her passion for the environment after spending some time in Brasilia. With a degree in Sciences and Biology, and a Master’s degree in Education, she ended up becoming an “education scientist”, as she classifies herself. “I could not be a scientist – I’m poor, I was born poor and I had to work hard to pay for my studies.” And, to be a scientist in Brazil, besides dedication, time and conditions are needed and not everyone has it all. But I had a dream of being a Master, and that I could accomplish. Today, I am an education scientist. I am still passionate about the exact sciences – physics, chemistry and mathematics – but I already consider myself a scientist in what I do. So, I’m not frustrated, on the contrary.” She went to the Virada Sustentável Festival in Porto Alegre to catch up, get new ideas and get inspired.

A public school teacher, Aurici has been struggling for the environment issue to have space in public schools, a mission that is sometimes easier, sometimes more difficult, as governments change. At the school where she teaches, she developed the project for a period of time, called “Intelligence Laboratory of Urban Environment”, which was created based on the “Porto Alegre Environmental Atlas”, which shows the natural history of the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, with themed maps, satellite images, photographs and diagrams. For years, Aurici and her students transformed hard land school grounds with plants and even community gardens. For her, understanding the region where the school is inserted is fundamental for environmental learning.

Exploring the local environment is also a way to empower students, according to Aurici. Former teacher of Viamão, a city in the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre, she adopted the same technique she developed in Brasilia and used her classes to teach about the region where the school was located. Viamão is part of the Environmental Protection Area of Banhado Grande, in the Pampas (vast plains in South America) and the Atlantic Forest region, where the restingas (a distinct type of tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forest), and banhados (humid environment, and, generally, with not drained soil) predominate, as well as the sources of the Gravataí River. “The teenage issue is that we have to take advantage of the power they have, the rebelliousness, to try to touch their hearts. When you acquire their confidence, they will always be with you. But you need to have to know how to play with them – they feel empowered and participate in all projects,” she says.

Besides her poor childhood, Aurici also did not have an easy youth. There were many difficulties to support her son and to pay for his education, not to mention the loss of a daughter that she would rather not comment on. Still, she finds the strength to be a public school teacher and to create opportunities for those who have few. “I decided on public schools because I had a hard time conquering what I conquered. It is my way of contributing, helping these youth. I identify myself with them and this is my way of contributing to society. It’s kind of utopian, I know,” she says.

Jonathan’s mother and João’s grandmother, Aurici knows that she is an example of struggle. “I have always shown to Jonathan that we have to claim our rights, and that this needs to be done with respect.” I also made an effort to show that the basis of what we know is knowledge: I taught about environmental issues, respect for the environment and respect for the less fortunate. He was a boy raised in a very different environment from mine and had many opportunities. So, I always insist with him: ‘never forget where you come from and who you are'”.

Content published in April 8, 2018

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