It was a marvellous event at the Jamaica Conference Centre earlier this week. The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) held its annual Schools Environment Programme awards. The students were clearly proud of their displays, ready to explain and demonstrate. The teachers sat to one side – it was the children’s big day. There was so much to see; I wished I had come earlier and really had time to browse.
Like the judges, I was deeply impressed by the displays of the fifteen competing schools. I have to confess that I was immediately drawn to the research display by Maryland All Age School (up in the hills of Hanover) because it was about two endemic forest birds: The Jamaican Woodpecker and the Jamaican Owl. I spent quite a while talking to the students. They had all seen the woodpecker (who always makes his presence felt with his loud cries) – but only one had seen the owl, at dusk. “We hear him hooting at night, though,” they said. I was so happy that they won Champion School – the highest score for the 2016/17 school year. But then, all the students were incredibly bright and knowledgeable (and so enthused with their topic). And they had all worked really hard.
The Schools’ Environment Programme (SEP) is celebrating 20 years. It’s the longest running environmental initiative in Jamaica. It once included 350 schools across the island. Since then, due to reduced funds JET had to cut back; however, it has over 50 schools actively involved in the programme – eleven of them now supported by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). The Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) is now the programme’s main donor (for the fifth consecutive year) and Total Jamaica remains a strong supporter. It’s actually the product of a great public/corporate/NGO partnership.
There are also some new corporate sponsors on board, which is great! Special kudos to them for supporting Jamaica’s environment. As guest speaker Thalia Lyn said: ‘We all have a duty to invest more.’ Ms. Lyn, an entrepreneur who heads the popular Island Grill chain of Jamaican food restaurants, gave an excellent presentation, focusing on air pollution, solid waste management, and plastic pollution. Ms. Lyn also chairs the NCB Foundation.
Ms. Lyn noted that her company is steadily moving away from ‘anything that can harm the environment.’ It’s a slow process convincing people, she said – but Island Grill is now using biodegradable containers (which met with some resistance at first) and later, soup cups (‘we’ve had a good response’). The company is partnering with the U.S.-based Inno-pak on packaging that contains no BPA – a potentially harmful chemical used in the manufacture of food containers. Fast food containers are a real blight on the landscape in Jamaica, so this is an excellent move.
Ava Tomlinson of NEPA, one of the judges of the fifteen awesome displays, loved the emphasis on ‘my community.’ Sanguinetti Primary School in Clarendon – a new school to the programme – did extremely well, winning three awards. May Pen Primary School won the Best Solid Waste Research award and Ashley Monteith of Pisgah Primary School in St. Elizabeth was the Best Spokesperson.
Here’s JET’s press release (and some photographs):
June 15, 2017
MARYLAND ALL AGE COPS CHAMPION SEP AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ENVIRONMENTAL WORK FOR A 2nd CONSECUTIVE YEAR
Maryland All Age emerged the champions of the prestigious Schools’ Environment Programme (SEP) for the 2016/17 academic year. Fifteen schools vied for the top prize at the SEP research day and awards ceremony, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston on Tuesday, June 13. Schools were awarded based on their environmental research and an internal assessment of their campus-based greening and solid waste management activities – the Champion School receiving the highest overall score.
Research topics ranged from determining the impact of Blue Stone on Jack’s River in Clarendon to the impacts of sand mining, farming and solid waste on the Rio Minho. In most cases the student researchers explained that their results had already been shared with fellow students and local communities. Some students had invited local authorities including the Parish Councils, National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Ministry of Health and Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) to visit the communities where they conducted their research and provide further information to residents. Guest speaker Thalia Lyn, Honorary Consul to Thailand and Chair of the NCB Foundation, applauded the work of the students and their teachers.
Nine SEP awards were handed out in seven categories at the event. Third place for best research display went to Pisgah Primary while Maryland All Age emerged the second-place winner in that category. The Best Research Display first place award went to Sanguinetti Primary, which also copped the prize for Best New School and Most Knowledgeable Students. Principal of Sanguinetti Primary Winnifred Deacon-Palmer beamed with pride as she said, “I’m elated. We’ve worked very hard. The students put out a lot of effort and so we were rewarded.”
SEP is Jamaica Environment Trust’s (JET’s) flagship environmental education project, and was made possible in the 2016/17 academic year by a number of organizations led by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and Total Jamaica Limited.
Managing Director of Total Jamaica, David Ducognon, emphasized the importance of organizations creating long term partnerships which effect positive environmental changes. “We have a duty to reduce our carbon footprint…contributing to the Paris Agreement to make our planet great again,” he said. The quote mirrored that of French President Emanuel Macron’s recent response to the U.S. decision to exit the Paris Agreement, and drew wide applause from the mixed audience.
JET CEO Diana McCaulay spoke with pride about SEP, explaining that it is the longest running environmental education programme of its kind in Jamaica, and has impacted over 300,000 Jamaican students. The 2017 awards ceremony also recognised the 20th anniversary of SEP.