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  • Writer's pictureChrista Preston

Environmental Education in Africa (aka Stop burning your trash for crying out loud!)

We diverted from special education for a training to focus on address environmental concerns. In a country that burns all it’s trash I think it’s a worthy diversion. Thanks to a generous grant from ERM and assistance from volunteers we developed an environmental education curriculum for the St. Ursula Special School.

We started with a nature walk to see what was in our environment, collecting leaves, sticks, corn, plastic bags, papers, rocks, the works. Then talked about what was good to have in the environment and what was bad. Next the students and asked them to tell us how to throw away rubbish. We walked through each step (testing my lacking artistic abilities) as we moved from rubbish to rubbish bin to rubbish pit and then lit is all on fire (not really though!)….and that’s when the bell rang (environment not saved by the bell today).

The next day we went back undeterred and recounted the steps BUT this time we able to add that burning trash is bad! Students were taught the famous 3Rs of recycling (reduce, reuse and recycle) and worked on separating the different types of recycling into recycling bins (excellent sensory experience).

And all that was fine and good but what was really fun was training the teachers. We went in thinking the teachers would hate the training as a lot of it talked about what we assumed they already knew, e.g. how to purify water, recycling, climate change. Climate change they were familiar with, a bit to my surprise. But the first shock was when we were told filter water was safe to drink. Where are the myth busters when you need them. We quickly diverted to the difference between purified and filtered water.

That shock was nothing compared to the one our trainer gave the teachers as she casually mentioned the long list of dangers of burning trash including but not limited to asthma, birth defects, colds and cancer. The room turned white I kid you not. We wrapped up the training with another recycling lesson and a compost exercise. Something tells me this recycling/waste reduction idea just might stick. Can’t say I’ll miss the sweet smell of burning plastic in the morning.

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