The push for a green education

Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on December 30, 2020

COVID-19 and quarantine restrictions took so much from us but one of the few positive developments was a renewal of appreciation for our environment. My social media news feed was flooded with posts about plants last year. People bartered, paid, or asked for them. A few unscrupulous ones even went to extremes and stole the more expensive varieties. My friends gamely labeled themselves as certified plantitos and plantitas, taking the time to grow exotic plants or even develop gardens. They identified plants according to their scientific names, shared their characteristics, and exchanged care tips.

This rekindled interest in plants made me think about the current state of our environmental education. Yes, we have our Science subjects and the occasional experiments at schools but there is no organized effort to teach our students how nature functions and how our behaviors affect our health and ecological sustainability.

I am reminded of the school principals’ trip to Norway we took on May, 2019. The highlight of the educational trip was the visit to two outdoor schools an hour and a half outside of the capital, Oslo. We first visited the forest school Kausvol Kindergarten in Stange. Students feed animals, plant, harvest, and cook. They also get training on using farm tools. I was impressed how children expertly whittled wood with sharp chisels! They took naps inside forest huts but the young students literally spend their days outside, no matter what the weather is. They had nutrition breaks and lunches outside when possible.

The second visit was to Hamar Naturskole. The school is owned by the municipality and do not have its own students. It serves other schools and kindergartens by providing specialized instruction on nature, the environment, outdoor life, and cultural connections. We followed a group of middle school students that were monitoring traps and learning survival techniques such as collecting water from the trees. They learned through activity in nature, developing and completing problem-based learning activities. They worked together, thereby developing social and collaboration skills.

This visit inspired me to focus on green initiatives at my school. We can pivot adults’ renewed interest on plants and gardening to develop a national green education curriculum to bring learning outdoors so students can experience how to care for the environment firsthand. We can even start with a regional initiative with  public and private schools focusing on developing students’ knowledge of the indigenous area, learn the proper process of caring for plants and animals, and how these actions can ensure the sustainability of food sources and protect our environment for generations to come.

Maya and Her Loyal Friends, the first book of our Maya Storybook series promoting Waray culture, arts and traditions, is now available on Kindle and paperback on Amazon and Google Books websites. The first story has the English-Waray edition and the English-Filipino edition translated by award-winning actor Diether Ocampo. The books are available for purchase at JE Mondejar Computer College in Brgy. Naga-Naga, Tacloban City. Call +63 53 832 3023 for orders.

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