Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Coastal region and small island papers 19


  Sandwatch as a tool for education for sustainable development


Marches and
demonstrations help
make people aware of
environmental issues, as
seen here in the British
Virgin Islands, in 1992.

Education for sustainable development

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 2002 establishing a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The resolution designates the ten-year period 2005–2014, and names UNESCO as the lead agency to promote this decade.

Education for sustainable development (ESD) is a dynamic concept that encompasses a new vision of education that seeks to empower people of all ages to assume responsibility for creating and enjoying a sustainable future. The overall aim of ESD is to empower citizens to act for positive environmental and social change, implying a participatory and action-orientated approach.

ESD integrates concepts and analytical tools from a variety of disciplines to help people better understand the world in which they live. Pursuing sustainable development through education requires educators and learners to reflect critically on their own communities, identify non-viable elements in their lives, and explore tensions among conflicting values and goals. ESD brings a new motivation to learning as people become empowered to develop and evaluate alternative visions of a sustainable future and to work to collectively fulfil these visions (UNESCO, 2003).

During a Sandwatch workshop in Dominica (Cambers, 2003), several islands shared experiences of how they were trying to change the lifestyle and habits of youth and adults on a community-wide basis, and to develop awareness of the fragile nature of the marine and coastal environment and the need to use it wisely. Two of these experiences, which illustrate ways in which Sandwatch is providing examples of ESD in action, are described here.

Community Sandwatch case study from Dominica

The students from Dublanc Primary School in Dominica started Sandwatch monitoring activities in 2003. There were 22 students involved in this project with ages ranging from 8 to 11 years.

Four key questions were put to the students:

  1. What are the factors that affect the beach?
  2. How do human activities affect the beach?
  3. What are the negative impacts these factors have on human life?
  4. What can be done to reduce the level of pollution on the beach?


  1. What kind of beach do you enjoy
  2. Why do you enjoy visiting this kind of
  3. Do you like going to a beach that is
  4. Where do you think materials used to
    pollute the beach come from?
  5. Have you polluted the beach?
  6. How have you polluted the beach?
  7. How do you feel when you see someone
    polluting the beach?
  8. Have you encouraged them not to do so?
  9. How do they respond?
  10. What can you do to help have a better beach?



  • Our beach was great. Now it’s a disgrace.
  • Do not dump garbage on the beach.
  • Beach safety is better than being dirty.
  • Protect the beach.
  • Faeces make our beach unsafe.
  • Now is the time to start taking care of the
  • Dispose of your garbage properly, not on
    the beach.
  • Be wise, stop the pollution.
  • Keep our beach clean and safe.
  • Make our beach a better place.
  • Wise up! Come out and clean up.


Students from Dublanc Primary
School displaying some of their
beach artwork at a Sandwatch
in 2003.

Students were taken out to observe the beach, after which they then recorded their observations by drawing pictures of the beach, writing stories and poems.

They conducted a survey of the debris and garbage on the beach, collecting and counting different items. Then a one-on-one interview survey was undertaken with people using the beach.

All survey respondents stated that they appreciated visiting a clean, safe beach. Yet some stated that they had contributed to the appearance of the beach by throwing leftovers, snack wrappers, styrofoam cups and lunch boxes, and bottles. In addition, some people urinated and passed their faeces on the beach. The students said that on several occasions they had seen people disposing of garbage and passing faeces on the beach. Some students tried to influence the polluters, who on occasion responded negatively by swearing and rejecting advice.

The students felt there was a need to sensitize and educate the community about the appearance of the beach and the effects of a polluted beach. So they made placards showing what they had learnt in the project.

Some of the
students who took
part in the march and
their teachers, June

Ms Vernessa Hilton standing by
 a garbage can recently
painted by the students.

In March 2003, the entire student body along with the Principal and teachers marched through the community of Dublanc holding their placards and chanting their slogan ‘Listen and get it right.’ They stopped in areas where people were gathered, such as by the restaurant, health centre, pre-school, fisheries building, and on the street near the homes of villagers. Many community members left their homes and came to find out what was happening.

It was a successful march. The following day community members voluntarily cleaned the beach.

A year later, the school and students were still busy with related activities such as painting garbage cans for the school and community. Furthermore, their efforts had had a lasting impact in that now the community has taken over responsibility for keeping the beach clean and for planting and caring for trees behind the beach.

Community Sandwatch case study from St Vincent and the Grenadines

Students and teachers at Bequia Community High School in St Vincent and the Grenadines have been actively involved in Sandwatch activities for several years.

Most of the teachers at the school are involved in Sandwatch which is integrated into the curriculum – into science and social science, into practical subjects such as woodworking, into mathematics and English, and into information technology. Sandwatch activities have been the subject of recent School-Based Assessments, e.g. measuring coastal erosion was the subject of one assessment for geography, and designing a crushing device for discarded glass bottles was the topic of an assessment for drawing and design.

Through their information technology classes, and in their own after-school time, the Sandwatch students share their activities with other students around the world through the Small Islands Voice Youth Internet forum (www.sivyouth.org  with username view and password only). They have also travelled to other schools in the Grenadines and in mainland
St Vincent to share their experiences and train other students in Sandwatch.

Language, drama and arts are other areas where Sandwatch has been incorporated into school subjects. In 2004 a poetry competition focusing on Sandwatch and environmental action encouraged several students to write inspiring poems, nearly all of them with action-orientated messages.

By TRACHIA SIMMONS, Bequia Community High School
First Prize Winner

Have you ever thought of the things we need in life?
Things to support our children,
Husband and wife?
These things are found above,
Below, before and behind us.
Yes, my friends, the sea and our
Surroundings should be our main focus.

From the land to the sea and wherever land may be,
The environment should be cared for by you and me.
So, we must be sure that we do not indulge in any harmful actions,
Cause little do we know, it would cause serious repercussions.

We spoil the calm, sapphire blue waters we call the Caribbean Sea,
And allow our air to be filled with smoke until it’s impossible to see.
We agree everyday to let our natural resources go to waste,
And then feelings of regret will one day take its place.

Advanced countries are only concerned with their industrial economies
They build blast furnaces releasing poisons and they do as they please.
Chemicals of all sorts pour into our lakes and seas,
Destroying our marine life and stunting our trees.
With feelings of these, do you think Mother Nature will be pleased?
How can one relax at home and their mind be at ease?

The ozone layer will soon disappear as quickly as the trees.
Listen good, cause you’ll forget where you last heard the buzzing of bees
Think about losing the country’s unspoilt beauty
And losing the calmness, quietness and its serenity.

Soon there’ll be nowhere left to laugh, walk and talk,
Cause pollution would have removed even our natural parks.
Then it would seem that even the trees don’t care
Cause they’ll cease to produce blossoms and the fruits that they bear.

So my plea, friends, is that we take matters into our own hands
To stop air, water and land pollution.
Let’s put our minds together and come up with useful plans
That would prevent the environment’s soon extinction.

Not content with poetry, they have also turned to drama. During a Sandwatch workshop in Dominica in 2003, they presented an inspiring dramatic monologue ‘Up from the deep’ which was performed to drums. This portrays the ocean responding to decades and centuries of misuse by humans.


Extract from a dramatic monologue

Written for presentation by Racquel Phillips and Michael Penniston
of the Bequia Community High School, St Vincent and the Grenadines,
at the Second Regional Sandwatch Project Workshop, Dominica 7–9 July 2003

Up from the deep I come, I rise in protest
look at me, I was here at the
beginning of time, that was before time
created at
       the firmament
            above and below

Keeper of the deep
holder of myriad secrets
provider of needs
I’ve kept the faith
and now, your actions
       will decide my fate

And so I’ve come up
      up, up, up
      from the deep
      from your shores
      from the river mouths

To confront you
Caution you
Plead with you
Pardon me if I am no longer
as beautiful as before
But I am adorned with the artefacts
of your generosity

I remember how I cushioned
your budding islands
in my warmth
and nourished your natives
with the richness of my store

Can’t we work together?
It is time we work together
in harmony
in rhythm of my water
       lapping your shores
You need to protect me
As I have sustained you

You need to promote conservation
       And cut down on pollution
We need to develop cooperation
In the preservation of marine life
For all generations

Look at me,
       Keeper of the deep
       holder of myriad secrets
       sustainer….provider of needs
I am keeping the faith
Now by your actions reverse my fate

Love me as I love you
       Conserve me
       Preserve me
       Sandwatch me
In all generations to come

Racquel Phillips and
Michael Penniston
performing ‘Up from
the Deep’, Dominica,
July 2003.

Sandwatch does not, however, remain limited to the school environment in Bequia. In 2003, the school won the Commonwealth Youth Award for their efforts to monitor the changes in Bequia’s beaches and their role in protecting the environment. Having monitored beach changes for several years now, the Sandwatch group are at times consulted by authorities such as the Planning Department relating to their observations and knowledge about certain beaches. They monitored beaches in the Tobago Cays before and after the filming of the movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ in order to determine the extent of human impact. They have also voiced their environmental concerns at meetings with the Hotel and Tourism Association.

Other activities have included stabilizing a hillside at Park Bay so the sediment does not wash onto the nearby coral reef, beach cleanups, and glass recycling – making their Sandwatch a real community initiative.

Final comments

These two case studies provide a glimpse of Sandwatch in practice and they also provide examples of community involvement in environmental management initiatives. The case studies are based on detailed observations of beaches, accurate measurements repeated over time, careful recording of the data, and analysis and sharing of the results, all of which lead to a greater scientific understanding of the environment. These same steps are also the basis of environmental management, which is founded on scientific knowledge (both natural and human sciences), and has as its goal, the sustainable use of resources. So that we use those resources wisely, taking what we need for today, whilst always ensuring that sufficient remain for the generations still to come.

Sandwatch provides the potential for students, teachers and community members to work together to critically evaluate the problems and conflicts facing their beach environments, and to develop sustainable approaches for addressing some of these problems. It teaches students to apply their school-based learning to everyday life, to develop skills relating to critical thinking and conflict resolution, and perhaps most importantly instils a sense of ‘caring’ for their beaches – their environment.

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