The spotlight was placed on merging education and the environment, as over 30 teachers participated in the orientation session for the 2023 bpTT Schools’ Environmental Awareness Competition hosted at the Mayaro Resource Centre on Friday, 22 September.
The outcome was positive as expressed by first-time participant, Melina Burnett, English Language and Literature teacher at Matelot Community College: “From the outline provided today, this competition will provide students with a high level of real-world exposure. It also reinforces the work being done in school, while encouraging self-expression and creativity. As coastal communities, we are all heavily dependent on and impacted by the environment. Our students will be challenged to excel and empowered to make a positive change as environmental ambassadors.”
Now in its 17th year, the competition is endorsed by the Ministry of Education and administered by Mayaro-based non-governmental organisation, The Black Deer Foundation with support from energy company bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT).
Welcoming the teachers to the session was Matthew Pierre, community liaison officer, bpTT, “It’s great to see such extensive teacher participation, and we look forward to the students feeding off your enthusiasm and energy. Having developed a sustainability framework with specific aims, bpTT is focused on getting to carbon net zero, caring for our planet and improving peoples lives. By linking education to the environment, this competition puts that purpose into action. We are proud to be a part of this long-standing initiative and look forward to the excellence produced by the students.”
Representing primary and secondary schools from across the North Eastern and South Eastern Education Districts, the teachers engaged in discussions to facilitate understanding the requirements of the competition that will focus on this years’ topic: ‘Highlighting the impacts of natural disasters on the Caribbean’.
Engaging students between the ages of seven and 18, participants are expected to convey the various facets of the theme in three categories: Essay Writing, Art/Cartoon and Debating. Guiding the discussions with teachers in these three categories respectively were, Cecelia George, retired School Supervisor II; Vanissa Mohammed, art teacher; and Andy Paul, Principal of Mayaro Government Primary School.
According to Paul, “This competition is engaging on many levels, and the students always amaze us with their unique perspectives and creativity. Apart from that, it requires fundamental academic skills including research, writing, presentation and communication. Spanning almost two decades, this competition demonstrates that young people have a lot to contribute. It is an excellent avenue for them to gain awareness and play a greater role in protecting our shared environment.”
Over the upcoming weeks, members of The Black Deer Foundation led by President and Founder, Arvolon Wilson-Smith, will do follow-up visits to the various schools which showed interest, as well as others within the catchment area across the two education districts. The focus is on informing the administration, parents and students about the competition with a view to encouraging as wide participation as possible.
According to Wilson-Smith, “Through the support of bpTT and the Ministry of Education, we have created a safe yet challenging environment that serves to enhance the self-esteem and develop the academic capacity of the students. It has been shown that students who take part in this competition excel at SEA, CSEC and CAPE. With this track record, we hope to take this competition to the national stage so that we can give every student in Trinidad and Tobago this same opportunity.”