ET Teaching Biodiversity in Tobago Schools
Tobagonians continue to be faced with proposals for development of Tobago that threaten to degrade or totally destroy the natural heritage of the island. Environment TOBAGO (ET) strongly advocates that Tobagonians MUST be involved in guiding the process of development in Tobago in order to ensure that is socially, economically and environmentally positive. This can take place through public consultations for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as well as for national development policies, laws, and management options.
But can Tobagonians make informed choices about what developments are best for them when there is a very poor awareness and understanding of the value of the biodiversity resource and the principles of biodiversity conservation?
Education for Sustainable Development
Development choices that conserve Tobago’s rich natural biodiversity in its coral reefs, wetlands, and forests hinge on the development of public awareness and understanding of the complex issues and decisions that threaten natural ecosystems. Further, this must be accompanied by the commitment to make personal and societal choices for sustainable development.
Development of this understanding and commitment must begin with the very young child and continue right through to adulthood.
ET has been developing several education programmes on biodiversity conservation to achieve this, including the Biodiversity Module targeting children at the primary school and secondary centre levels.
ET is piloting a module on biodiversity conservation for primary schools and secondary centres in Tobago. This module contains lessons that answer four key questions:
1. What is biodiversity?
2. Why is biodiversity important?
3. What is threatening biodiversity?
4. How can we conserve biodiversity?
These themes are explored through fun classroom activities that use simulation, drama, art, games, mathematics, experiments, models, and language to teach the scientific principles of ecology and conservation biology that are needed for a full understanding of how management of biodiversity can be achieved.
The module also introduces how plant and animal species and ecosystems are important to human beings. This helps students to start to explore their own personal relationship with and ethic towards the natural environment, which is a prerequisite for action.
The Biodiversity Module is based on a core of lessons that were developed in the Environmental Education Across the Curricula in T&T (EnACT) programme. The EnACT programme aims to infuse environmental education into all subjects in the primary school curricula, and was developed by Nicole Leotaud (who now serves as ET’s Education Coordinator) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and a team of teachers.
EnACT begins with students in Infant classes and continues right through to Standard 5, gradually building a student’s awareness and understanding of increasingly complex principles in environmental conservation and sustainable development. EnACT is an ideal tool to also be used at the secondary centre level, as it is based on using creative and hands-on teaching techniques that reinforce learning in core subjects of mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, and creative arts.
These EnACT lessons are supplemented by slide shows, videos and suggestions for field trips to ecosystems in Tobago.
Module piloted at Tobago schools
The module is being piloted this term at Bon Accord / Black Rock Secondary Centre and Scarborough RC Primary School with Standards 4 and 5 classes. Through the pilot, teachers will further refine and develop the module. Eventually, ET hopes to offer teacher-training workshops to expose teachers across Tobago to this Biodiversity Module. Additionally, the module will be expanded to include all levels in the primary schools through secondary centres.
ET Education Centre
Apart from outreach programmes to schools, ET also maintains an in house collection of educational resources in its Education Centre. This includes resource books, teacher’s guides, and videos. ET hopes to substantially expand these resources in the coming year through support from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives out of the Canadian High Commission. The Education Centre is located at ET’s office on Robinson Street in Scarborough, and is open to the public during normal working hours 9 am – 4 pm, Monday through Friday. Call 660-7462 for more information on the Education Centre and ET’s outreach programme to schools and local communities. - Nicole Leotaud - Education Coordinator - 20th November, 2000