Students from schools in St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew tapped their creative genius to develop solutions to a number of local environmental concerns, in order to excel in the 2015/16 staging of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) Schools Environmental Competition.
The year-long, competition which culminated with the second staging of My Croc Adventure and Friends at Hope Zoo in July saw infant, primary and secondary schools vying for this year’s top prizes. However, it was Alpha Infant, St. Jago Preparatory and Camperdown High schools which emerged victors in their respective categories.
“Every year …we invite schools to develop environmental projects, because we feel that it is important that persons see that their actions can make a difference,” explained Miss Danae Vaccianna, Environmental Coordinator at the UDC.
In keeping with the Corporation’s goal to balance physical development with environmental sustainability, entrants took on projects which tackled garbage disposal, recycling, climate change and sargassum invasion, among others. “All that we ask is that these projects benefit the environment to some great extent. We also ask that they consider certain criteria, we look at the sustainability of the project, we look at community involvement of the project, how far reaching it is, and what are the levels of learning of the students,” said Miss Vaccianna, speaking at the My Croc Adventure & and Friends Crocodile Conservation and Environmental Fair.
Alpha Infant School’s winning entry focused on the cleaning of the gully which runs in front of the institution located on South Camp Road. The students observed that while the government carried out routine cleaning of the gully, passers-by continued to fill it with garbage. Principal, Mrs. Nicolette McDonough-Foster related that the students decided to launch a project to increase awareness of the purpose of gullies and the dangers of dumping garbage in them. Strong advocacy on the part of the students drew the support of staff and parents, and garnered wide participation from other schools, agencies and parents in the community in the cleaning of the gully.
St. Jago Preparatory, winners in the Primary School category, opted to address the issue of climate change. The students sought to educate the public on the issue by staging a demonstration outside their school. Distributing brochures and posters they created, they advised the public about poisonous gases being emitted into the atmosphere, their negative effects and what could be done to abate the problem. In addition, they participated in International Coastal Clean-up Day in September 2015, collected plastic bottles and used them to create other products which can be used in everyday life.
Meanwhile, Camperdown High School claimed the title in their category, with their solution to the sargassum (seaweed) deposits along local beaches. “What we essentially did was to collect the sargassum that people would think would be waste from the beaches,” explained Shanique Clarke, Teacher at Camperdown. The students demonstrated how the seaweed could be used to generate bi-products such as fertilizer, iodine and an insecticide that can be used to protect plants. “All of these products are very much organic and can help Jamaica economically and help to boost our school in terms of having an income for the school.” She shared.
The UDC awarded trophies and cash prizes to the top three competitors in each category, with first place receiving Thirty Thousand Dollars. The amount of Twenty Thousand Dollars each was awarded to second prize winners, while each school placing third received Fifteen Thousand Dollars. St. Jago Cathedral Infant School, placed second in the infant school category, however there was no third place winner in the category. In the primary segment, New Day All Age copped second prize, while Jessie Ripoll Primary placed third. The other secondary school awardees were Edith Dalton High and Louise Bennett High Schools in second and third place, respectively. Team members were given certificates as well as passes to UDC attractions.
Emphasising the UDC’s commitment to the venture, Ms. Vaccianna said “What we want is for the students to feel empowered about the fact that they can make a difference in what happens in the environment and manage their impact on it.”
My Croc Adventure and Friends provided a platform for the projects to be widely showcased. The event was hosted by the Jamaica Crocodile Working Group, which includes the National Planning Agency (NEPA), the UDC, Hope Zoo, the Tourism Development Product Company (TPDCo.) and the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, as well as private members.