Educators are motivated by an intrinsic desire to make a positive difference in the lives of young people. We are driven by moral purpose. Lofty ideals of bettering our world are part of our DNA. We work to prepare students for the future world they are inheriting, but children are beginning to view their inheritance as a liability.
Students around the globe are expressing concern about the fate of our planet, and schools are unable to ignore their voices as children increasingly engage in sustainability actions and rise up against the irresponsible behaviors of their predecessors. This student movement is spreading, and it is coming to life on Grand Cayman.
Progressive educators are approaching teaching and learning through relevant, real-world contexts, not archaic lectures and tests with students sitting in quiet rows, and we are supporting students on their crusades to save the world. Students at Cayman International School are not simply being educated about our planet, they are demonstrating their learning through engaging in authentic sustainability efforts on campus and throughout the community. What are they actually doing? Here are some examples:
Students in high school established, and continually operate, a school-wide recycling program. We currently recycle glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard.
Students on the Green Team created an opportunity for composting to occur on campus. We currently compost raw fruits and vegetables, coffee and eggshells, and we have two
Students on the Green Team are developing competencies in gardening and growing foods that can be consumed by our community. We currently have three small plots, one of which is currently growing dill, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, beets, celery, lettuce and kale.
Students on the Blue Team are raising awareness around marine conservation and are working on an investigation in microplastics and sea turtles.
Students in the National Honor Society are working on an anti-straw campaign and partnering with Plastic Free Cayman and other schools on the island.
Students in Elementary Leadership raise funds to adopt a blue iguana (our school mascot) through the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, and students in Grade 2 adopt a shark through Shark Conservation Cayman.
Students are reusing plastics in creative and artistic ways to assert strong environmental messaging around nature and biodiversity. A giant mural is being created out of bottle caps.
Students in Grade 3 focus their Project Based Learning experience on raising awareness around consumption and developing environmental stewardship.
Students in Grade 7 take a trip to the Central Caribbean Marine Institute on Little Cayman and learn about marine conservation.
Students in the National Honor Society are collecting data related to marine trash and cleaning local marinas as part of the Seabin Project.
Students in Grade 5 focus their Project Based Learning experience on renewable energy as they learn about different forms of renewable energy and become activists for change.
Students in Grade 11 will be engaging in a mangroves sustainability project this year.
Students at multiple levels organize beach cleanups and they analyse garbage for learning purposes.
Students across the school are creating Ecobricks for various purposes and projects. An Ecobrick is a reusable building block created by packing clean and dry used plastic into a plastic bottle to a set density.
The school community is supporting these efforts and engaging in additional actions to model sustainable practices. At school meetings, class parties/events and in the cafeteria, efforts are made to eliminate single-use plastics and we are thoughtful about our habits. A multitude of teacher, staff and parent actions, many of them small but relevant, contribute to a culture that is based on core values and principles. At CIS we have a set of Community Principles that help guide us. Our Sustainability Principle states:
“We take into consideration long-term impacts when making decisions. This applies to decisions about programming as well as to our personal and collective behavior. We live on an island with limited resources and our environmental stewardship is essential in keeping it viable and healthy for generations to come.”
We are not claiming to be the beacon of sustainability or the model for the world to follow. But we are certainly making a concerted effort to put our principles into practice, raise awareness, further the movement, build a culture of sustainability and show that we care. We have only begun to establish our sustainability program at CIS and there are more good things to come as students rise up and express their opinions about our environment.
Educators are inspired and energised by students who demonstrate their learning in positive ways and act on their passion. It’s exciting to be a part of their learning experience, share in their passions and feel a sense of fulfillment as we help them better our world and build a better future with them.
Jeremy Moore is the director of Cayman International School.