Over 70 children eagerly sit in front of me with their notebooks and pens. Their wooden desks are lined up in tightly packed rows all the way to the back of the largest classroom in Kiminawit Elementary School. There is no electricity in Sitio Kiminawit, a small fishing village in El Nido, so only natural light filters through the windows of the cement structure and gaps in the metal roofing. Since we can’t use a Powerpoint presentation, we have tarpaulin posters with all the slides printed out, which we take along with us to the various schools where we conduct our Be GREEN outreach.
Today’s Be GREEN participants come from Grades 4, 5, and 6. Their teachers introduce us and they greet us with an enthusiastic, “Good Morning, po!” They are ready for class.
Our lesson plan today covers the basics of how to Be GREEN. First, I ask them: “What does Be GREEN stand for?” Without even a moment’s pause, they all loudly recite the text printed on the tarpaulin banner behind me, “Guard, Respect and Educate El Nido!”
This excitement and energy is characteristic of our entire time at Kiminawit. All the students are engaged throughout our hour-long lecture, which was split into three segments: the natural endowments of El Nido (Yaman ng El Nido), the threats to our environment, and how to protect it. Every question that we ask is immediately met with an answer by the students. At some points, I don’t even have to prompt them, they just read aloud what is on the slide or respond to the photos. “We’ve seen those turtles!” they yell, or, “We have a lot of hornbills here!” They are all keen to learn and take part. Their hunger for knowledge and eagerness to engage themselves is a refreshing motivator for me, as a student too, to keep on striving to learn as well.
When it is time to sign the Be GREEN pledge poster, students obediently line up at the front of the classroom. They each write down one habit they promise to adopt to protect the environment. I will not litter. I won’t pick flowers. I won’t use my slingshot on birds. We leave the pledge poster at the school for them to revisit throughout the school year. It’s now up to them to live up to their promises. All I can do is hope that what we shared with them today will leave even a small impact.
As environmental officers, our duty is not only to educate the staff and guests, but also the members of the surrounding communities. El Nido extends far beyond just the resort islands. We have to remember that villages, like Kiminawit, with families and their children are also stakeholders in our local environment. By bringing our Be GREEN program to them, we are able to further expand our sustainable practices from resort operations to everyday living. After all, these students deserve to learn about the current state of their environment because they bear the responsibility as stewards of our planet. Who knows, with all the enthusiasm that we saw today, there might even be a future environmental officer among them.
Gaby Coseteng is an intern for the environment department. She is currently a student at Stanford University and is still undeclared. Gaby is passionate about nature conservation and climate change, and hopes to pursue a career in a related field. She enjoys kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling, especially since El Nido is so beautiful. Gaby is also a big fan of animals, but if she had to choose just one, her spirit animal would be a fur seal because they love to lay out in the sun and eat lots of fish. She’s really happy to be back in the Philippines for the summer and to have the opportunity to learn more about the local environmental situation.