Sustainability is clearly at the forefront of local, national, and global issues – with economic, social and environmental challenges facing ourselves, our children and future generations. VICS is collaborating with a U.S. national organization, National Wildlife Federation (NWF); and an international organization, Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) to introduce Eco-Schools, a globally established environmental educational program to the U.S.V.I.

Eco-Schools is the world’s largest international environmental education program engaging Pre K‐12 school students, faculty, administrators and community volunteers in a comprehensive, environment‐based program to improve student environmental literacy and skills. In addition to direct environmental benefits, the program helps to dramatically improve student skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). It is also a proven framework for promoting youth leadership and community service.

Eco Schools offers hands‐on learning opportunities and support inquiry‐based education, critical thinking, use of technology and problem solving.  The Eco-Schools model enhances the content and teaching methods while engaging the students in a positive transformation of their physical, social, and mental learning environments, while also providing financial savings and improved aesthetics to schools and school campuses.

Eco-Schools has 25 years of demonstrated success operating in over 67 countries engaging close to 19 million pupils world-wide. VICS is the U.S.V.I. associate member of the Foundation for Environmental Education. http://www.ecoschools.global/

In the U.S., the Eco-Schools program is administered by the National Wildlife Federation, of which VICS is the U.S.V.I. affiliate member. NWF operates the Eco-Schools USA program in close to 5,000 schools.  https://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA  These strategic alliances with FEE and NWF place VICS in a unique position to launch Eco-Schools in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

An MOU has been established with NWF which will allow registered USVI schools to utilize all Eco Schools USA materials free of charge.  In conjunction, Eco Schools USVI will foster locally relevant partnerships to support local environmental education initiatives and collaborate in developing locally relevant education materials.

WHAT IS ECO-SCHOOLS?

Most young people care about environmental issues, and wish to make a positive change in the environment around them. The Eco-Schools program provides an ideal way for fostering environmental awareness in the entire school in a way that links to many curriculum subjects. The program is based on Eco-Management and Auditing System approach and encompasses four principle aspects:

Eco-Schools is an international environmental education program, offering a well-defined, controllable way for schools to take environmental issues from the curriculum and apply them to the day-to-day running of your school. The Eco-Schools program is run by FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education). Eco- Schools operates in over 60 countries world-wide sharing the same methodology and concept, and are identified by the Eco-Schools logo and Green Flag.

For more information about the international program, visit: www.eco-schools.org/

Eco-Schools is holistic. It aims to make environmental awareness and action an intrinsic part of the life and ethos of a school. This should include the students, teachers, non-teaching staff and parents, as well as the local authority, the media and local businesses. Eco-Schools endeavors to extend learning beyond the classroom and develop responsible attitudes and commitment, both at home and in the wider community. Its participatory approach and combination of learning and action make it an ideal way for schools to embark on a meaningful path to improving the environments of schools and their local communities, and of influencing the lives of young people, school staff, families, local authorities, NGOs, and all other bodies involved in this vitally important area of work.

Eco-Schools is both a program and an award system. Any school using the guidelines can adapt the program to their needs. The Eco-Schools Green Flag, awarded to schools with high achievement in their program, is an internationally recognized and respected eco-label for environmental education and performance. While the Green Flag award will be given to schools that complete all the essential elements of the Eco-Schools program, it should be remembered that the program is flexible, and that different schools will find different routes to achieving Eco-Schools status. Implementation of The Consumption and Waste (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) Theme is a mandatory topic for Green Flag certification.

Eco-Schools is a long-term program. The Eco-Schools highest award takes the form of a Green Flag. This can be flown outside school or displayed in the foyer. However, it is important to remember that the program is one of continual reduction of the school’s environmental impact. Therefore, the Green Flag award requires renewal every two years.

1.1 International and National Aspects of Eco-Schools

International Eco-Schools

Eco-Schools began in 1994 and is now the world largest and only pupil-led environmental education program. The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) is the international umbrella organization, which coordinates the international management of the Eco-Schools program. It delegates authority to nominated national organizations, such as Virgin Islands Conservation Society, who run their own individualized Eco-Schools Programs within their designated area and who report back to FEE. More details can be found on the international Eco-Schools website www.eco-schools.org/

Eco-Schools is operated in over 64 countries worldwide engaging around 19 million pupils. Eco-Schools is referred to by a number of different names in member countries e.g. ‘Eco-Scholen’ in Belgium, Eco-Schools in the UK and USA and ‘Umweltshule’ in Germany. Green-Schools is the name used in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the Republic of Ireland.

One of the most exciting aspects of Eco-Schools that is currently being developed is its potential to generate national and international links between schools via international Eco-Schools Connect Websites. School linking is an ideal way to broaden children’s appreciation of other countries and different lifestyles.

1.2 Benefits and Requirements of the Eco-Schools Program

Eco-Schools offers your school opportunities to:

  • Raise achievement and enhance learning styles and thinking skills
  • encourage active citizenship
  • gain access to a network of local delivery partners
  • gain a prestigious award at Bronze, Silver or the internationally recognized Green Flag
  • gain local and national publicity
  • make financial savings
  • reduce waste and litter
  • improve the school environment
  • reduce energy and water consumption levels
  • promote healthy lifestyles
  • involve the local community
  • develop national and global links

It requires:

  • The support of the Principal and Governors.
  • The willingness to involve children in decision-making and action at every stage.
  • Active involvement of staff and support from parents and the local community.
  • The willingness to take action to instigate long-term change.

1.3 Eco School Topics

The Eco-School program is focused around ten key environmental topics.  You do not have to address all ten topics.

Biodiversity
Investigating and increasing biodiversity at school and beyond
A wide diversity of species – animals, plants, and other living things – is the key to a healthy, functioning ecosystem on many scales, from the school grounds to the whole planet.
Climate Change
Incorporating climate change education into curriculum
Schools are joining the movement to solve this urgent environmental issue. They are reducing their “carbon footprints,” and in the process, developing science, math, technology and social science skills.   The impact of Climate Change on coastal communities and their resilience.
Consumption and Waste
Reducing, reusing, and recycling
A school can reduce its environmental impact by analyzing the full life cycle of the products it uses. Trimming consumption, reducing packaging and transport distance, and recycling as many items as possible all translate into smaller amounts of garbage being hauled away
Energy
Addressing energy conservation
Schools are the largest energy consumers in many municipalities. But up to 30 percent of that energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. Schools can significantly cut energy use, resulting in financial savings and reduced environmental impact
  Healthy Living
Promoting outdoor time, physical activity and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle
Time spent outdoors, physically active, and engaged in unstructured play is perhaps the best possible prescription to ensure a lifetime of good health
Healthy Schools
Addressing issues that impact human health in the school building and grounds
Eliminating toxic and hazardous materials, while maximizing elements that promote health, will improve the learning environment for students and staff
Watersheds, Oceans and Wetlands

Water covers about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. Our actions inland impact critical ecosystems as water travels throughout our watersheds, filtering through our diminishing wetlands and into our majestic struggling oceans. Through behavior change, creative design and innovative technology the future stewards of this planet can improve the health of these critical systems.

School Grounds
Developing “green” grounds
Research has demonstrated that in all discipline areas, students who are given the opportunity to directly engage in outdoor education and experiential learning have been able to significantly increase their capacity for learning
Sustainable Food
Improving nutrition and food sustainability at school
Food choices have a big impact on both health and the environment. A campaign focused on food sustainability can help you make nutritious, fresh, local and whole foods a part of the culture of your school and community
Transportation
Addressing school transportation
The Eco-Schools USA program aims to raise awareness of sustainable solutions – transportation that reduces fuel consumption, pollution and car use. Every school can change its travel footprint
Water
Addressing water conservation
Basic water efficiency programs can reduce a school’s water use by 30 percent or more. The Eco-Schools USA program can help schools improve irrigation methods, reduce water runoff, consume fresh water more efficiently, and reuse water to a greater extent

 

SECTION 2.  IMPLEMENTING THE PROGRAMME: ‘THE SEVEN STEPS’

The aim of the Eco-Schools project is to move from environmental awareness in the curriculum to environmental action in the school and wider community. As with any environmental management system, a structure is required to help it run smoothly.

It should be remembered that this process is intended to be flexible enough to accommodate any school and that each should be implemented to the best of the schools ability at that point in time. The nature of the seven steps also allows for the program to be continually updated as the environmental status and requirements of the school change.

The seven steps of the Eco-Schools Program

  1. Eco-Schools Committee

The committee directs the school’s involvement in the project.

Ideally the committee includes pupils, teachers, non- teaching staff, management and parents.

Aim: The Eco-Schools committee aims to direct and address all phases of the Eco-Schools program. It is the driving force of the program and should ensure that the other elements are carried out.

  1. Environmental Review

A process of examining the school’s environmental Impacts in order to identify targets for action and Improvement.

Aim: The aim of the review is to identify the initial situation within the school regarding the environmental theme under investigation (e.g. litter, waste, energy etc.).

  1. Action Plan

This gives specific and achievable targets with proposed completion dates that will show real success.

Aim: The Action Plan aims to identify goals and provide a structured timetable for the reduction of the environmental impacts identified in the review.

  1. Monitoring and Evaluation

This will ensure that progress towards targets is checked, amendments made and where necessary success celebrated.

Aim: Monitoring and evaluation aims to check your progress and indicates areas for change if necessary.

  1. Curriculum Work

Curriculum materials are provided that give ideas on how to integrate environmental issues into lessons.

Aim: To integrate the Eco-Schools program with the curriculum work of the school when and where possible

  1. Informing and Involving

A publicity program keeps the school and wider community involved and informed through displays,

assemblies and press coverage.

Aim: To spread the Eco-Schools message throughout the whole school and the wider community through ongoing publicity and a ‘Day of Action’.

  1. Eco Code

States the objectives that demonstrate the school’s commitment to environmentally friendly actions.

Aim: To state the objectives that demonstrate the school’s commitment to environmentally friendly actions.

The Virgin Islands Conservation Society is seeking funding, networking and partnership opportunities to successfully develop and localize Eco-Schools in the US Virgin Islands.  We ask for assistance in identifying sources of funding/partners/expertise that will support the children and environment of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  All donations will be run through the VI Eco Schools Fund administered by the Virgin Islands Community Foundation (VICF).