By Dr. C. Jean Robaina Sánchez (translated and presented by María Pérez)
This presentation addresses a common challenge in most caving communities around the world: the fact that caver speleological and environmental knowledge vary immensely. Based on my Ph.D. work as an environmental educator and caver in Cuba, I suggest one way to address this challenge: by developing an environmental education program designed by and for cavers. Here I trace the theoretical and methodological elements of such a program, and examples of preliminary results. Given the importance of caves and karst in Cuba, where over 65% of the territory is karst, it is necessary for cavers to be better prepared to carry out research and environmental protection work of greater quality and effectiveness. But this program has an even bigger goal: attracting and preparing a new generation of cavers, a topic of concern beyond Cuba.
A native and resident of Cuba, Jean Robaina recently received his doctorate based on research focusing on the educational value and applications of speleological practice, particularly among young children. Robaina has been an active caver and member of the Speleological Society of Cuba (SEC) for over 20 years. He is currently the president of Artemisa’s SEC Provincial Committee. His principal contributions to Cuban speleology are educating a new generation of Cuban geography teachers. As president of the caving club “Origen,” he has mentored more than a dozen university students in creating their own caving club, the “Grupo Caverna,” which in 2019 was inducted into the SEC. In 2018, Robaina planned and led an extraordinary experience bringing West Virginia University Student Grotto and Caverna members together in a field trip that involved hiking, caving, and interacting with rural communities in western Cuba’s Guaniguanico Range.