Coastal region and small island papers 19
Sandwatch as a tool for
education for sustainable development
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.