Competition combines learning, environmental awareness

"They are challenged by each other to raise their levels of effort and achievement, and everyone benefits as a result."

Friday, 15 April 2016

MORE THAN 20 teachers from across the North-Eastern and South-Eastern Education Districts participated in an orientation and feedback session for the for the 2016 BP Trinidad and Tobago Schools’ Environmental Awareness Competition at the Mayaro Resource centre on Thursday.

The competition, which is celebrating a decade since inception, is endorsed by the Ministry of Education and is administered by Mayaro-based non-governmental organisation, The Black Deer Foundation with the support of energy company BP Trinidad and Tobago.

Cecelia George, former Schools Supervisor II of the North Eastern Education District, is an early proponent of the initiative, and has served as the marker for the essay-writing component. “This competition provides a vantage point where students get to see themselves as part of the global community and understand their role in terms of environmental preservation. It provides this unique understanding through the application of a dynamic mix of academic and life skills that encourages them to be better students and citizens.
The theme of the competition changes every year and so expands to exposure of the participating schools as conduits for the development of these young ambassadors of the environment and the future of our nation,” George explained.

The theme for the 2016 competition, which will kick off in May, is ‘Global Warming, Human Health and the Environment’. Students will express various aspects of this theme as they participate in three categories: Essay Writing; Art/Poster and Debating. Last year, the competition saw participation from 65 schools, with students submitting essays and artwork, while six schools participated in the debating component.

Based on the feedback, this year’s competition is expected to be even bigger with a greater number of schools and students. Ronda Francis, Corporate Responsibility Manager, bpTT, was enthusiastic about this prospect. “This competition is unique in that it melds education and environmentalism while showcasing the talent of our young people. It incorporates important academic skills like reserach, writing, presentation and communication, while also serving to create well-rounded and environmentally conscious citizens. Because of our focus on investing in young people, we have supported this programme for the past decade and the success of the students is a victory for the country’s environment and future.”

The orientation session was guided by Arvolon Wilson-Smith, President and Founder of the Black Deer Foundation with input from Matthew Pierre, Community Liaison Officer, bpTT; Chris Metivier, Schools Supervisor I, Ministry of Education; and retired Schools Supervisor II, Cecelia George.

According to Wilson-Smith, “The competition is structured to encourage participation from the entire cross-section of students because it facilitates individual capability while empowering them to practise various academic skills. They are also provided with a safe, yet challenging, environment that enhances their self-esteem and self-belief, making them more assertive in their roles as protectors of the environment. Over the years the performance of the students who take part in this competition at SEA, CSEC and CAPE, clearly demonstrates that the bpTT Mayaro Schools’ Environmental Competition is a great success.”

Over the next two weeks, members of the Black Deer Foundation will begin one-on-one visits to the various schools that have shown interest as well as others within the catchment area. The focus will be to inform the administration and students about the competition with a view to encounraging wider participation.

Summarising the feedback from the orientation session was English Language teacher at Rio Claro West Secondary, Mindy Beekhee: “The students get to interact with peers from many other schools and this exposure lends to the building of stronger and more tolerant communities. They are challenged by each other to raise their levels of effort and achievement, and everyone benefits as a result. This project merges the best aspects of academic and personal development and the positive transformation of the students is dramatic. I really applaud bpTT, the Ministry of Education and the Black Deer Foundation for making this excellent initiative possible.”