In celebration of the International Day of Education, our first #RealiTalk for 2022 aims to highlight the critical role of education in raising a generation of advocates for climate action and sustainable development in the country.

 

In this regard, we talked to Pinoy Climate Reality Leader and Mentor Rey “McRey” Sario on how to advance climate change education for elementary and high school students.

McRey is the Head of the Student Services Department, Assistant Principal of the Grade School Department, a Senior High School Professor, and a Management Committee Member at St. Joseph’s Academy of Las Piñas. He is also the founder and animator of Living Laudato Si’ Las Piñas.

As a staunch advocate of climate change education, McRey shared with us in this feature he is ensuring the integration of climate change concepts and solutions in his teaching strategies. He urged the government and the private sector to work hand in hand in strengthening climate change literacy in the country.

ARTICLE 6 OF THE UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (UNFCCC) COMMITS TO “THE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF EDUCATIONAL AND PUBLIC AWARENESS PROGRAMS ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS EFFECTS.” WHY IS EDUCATION A CRITICAL COMPONENT OF CLIMATE ACTION?

16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg said, “Some say I should be in school. But why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?”

Greta Thunberg on her school strike. (Photo from Greta Thunberg Facebook Account)

Climate education is very important to understand and address the impacts of the climate crisis. It empowers learners with the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes needed to act as agents of change towards climate action.

Transformational Outcome-Based Education should be the goal, mission, and vision of every educational institution so that it could enable learners to be the agents of change that will safeguard the living conditions of future generations. We must teach our children that it is our responsibility to take good care of our common home, the earth, because God allows us to establish dominion over nature, assigning us to be stewards over the creation and form kinship with the rest of the creatures.

It is the responsibility of the Department of Education (DepED), including both public and private educational institutions to integrate climate education into the country’s education system. This requires the collaboration, coordination, and support of different government agencies and private institutions. Climate scientists and experts should help in developing curricula, teaching methods, and strategies about climate actions to be included in the In-Service Training (INSET) so that teachers may acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies for climate change education.

As the UNFCCC commits itself to the development and implementation of educational and public awareness programs on climate change and its effects, the government and the private sector should pledge to adopt and help establish policies and practices on climate education outside for sustainable development.

WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE STATUS OF CLIMATE LITERACY IN THE PHILIPPINES? WHAT LAWS, PROGRAMS, OR INITIATIVES IS THE GOVERNMENT IMPLEMENTING TO INTEGRATE CLIMATE CHANGE INTO OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM?

The goal in climate literacy is to make learners and personnel become proactive stewards leading to resilient and sustainable communities. In 2009, the country inched closer to this goal through the enactment of Republic Act No. 9729 or the Climate Change Act.

The law mandated the DepEd “to integrate climate change into the primary and secondary education curricula and/or subjects, such as, but not limited to, science, biology, sibika, history, including textbooks, primers, and other educational materials, basic climate change principles and concepts.”

The DepEd DRRMS website learning materials on climate literacy and climate action.

Learners and teachers are now able to understand the necessary competencies of climate change education because DepEd has been tasked with the responsibility of equipping the learning environment with skills and competencies that focus on communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity that enable students to become individuals who deeply care about the climate crisis and its solutions.

Since 2017, DepEd has also regularly conducted the National Climate Change Conference. Last November 19-15, 2021, they were already in their 5th year of encouraging participants to become stewards for biodiversity and discover innovative solutions to address climate change and maintain the quality of the natural environment for current and future generations. Celebrating the yearly Global Warming and Climate Change Consciousness Week is a great opportunity for learners and teachers to participate in climate change education.

McRey Sario teaches climate change to children and parents during a community outreach in one of the adopted barangays of St. Joseph Academy of Las Piñas.

With climate education, it is also important to practice what you preach and walk the talk. Students remember things that people did more than what they said. Teaching children what it means to be environmentally aware is important, but it will have a more lasting impact if teachers can lead by example. If we see litter, pick it up even if it’s not ours because those little eyes might be watching us.

Moreover, programs and activities related to climate education are also being adopted, such as the implementation of the 3 R’s (reduce waste, reuse resources, and recycle materials. Encouraging children to switch off all appliances and lights when not in use and ensuring taps are closed properly after use and using water sparingly are the day-to-day reminders of the teachers to become responsible stewards.

St. Joseph Academy of Las Piñas’ Living Laudato Si” Garden.

Organizing tree-planting activities also promotes “intergenerational responsibility” over environmental protection. Since schools are closed due to the pandemic, students should be encouraged to plant trees and vegetables in their own backyards as part of their performance tasks of the subject.

Funds coming from the government should always be available to these school climate change adaptation and mitigation programs and activities, especially for the community-based capstone research projects.

WHAT ARE THE GAPS THAT NEED TO BE FILLED OR CHALLENGES THAT MUST BE OVERCOME IN TERMS OF STRENGTHENING CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION IN THE COUNTRY?

“A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.”

– BARBARA JORDAN

The lenient implementation of climate change education by different educational institutions is a major challenge. In most remote areas in the country, there are inadequate instructional materials for educators and lack of capacity development for teachers on teaching climate change-related topics.

Failing to recognize that we are on a climate emergency may also be a gap towards strengthening climate change education in the country. Last November 2020, Speaker of the House of Representatives Lord Allan Velasco issued a resolution declaring climate emergency in the country. In an interview with the Philippine Star, he said: “Declaring a climate emergency means recognizing that the climate crisis is the fight of our lives and that there is an urgent need for a massive-scale mobilization to protect Filipinos and the environment from climate change and its devastating impacts…” “Such a declaration is necessary to encourage swift action to mitigate the impacts of climate change, particularly natural disasters, by compelling the government including congress and other stakeholders to consider climate change in planning and policy-making.” 

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda has also given an emphasis on the role of the education sector in responding to the climate crisis during her speech at the 3rd National Climate Change Conference in 2019. “Widespread recognition of the youth and the role that they play is needed, and that is what this event provides.”

HOW IS ST. JOSEPH’S ACADEMY (SJA) RISING TO THE CHALLENGE OF EMPOWERING THE FILIPINO YOUTH THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION?

SJA is a leading school in climate education in the Philippines. Inspired by St. Joseph, our patron, we are soaring high to influence everyone to become an agent of change, socially responsible, and actively involved in the social, moral, and political issues affecting the community, environment, and the world. Students are empowered to join and participate in dialogues about different environmental issues and share their climate action.

Our engagement with #Decarbonize: #Decolonize – Youth Action Dialogue organized by the Centre for Global Education and TakingITGlobal was one of our major accomplishments. Selected grade 10 to 12 students and Faculty Mentors actively participated in an interactive virtual classroom and a series of live video-conferencing and collaborative paper works related to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Another best practice that we have in SJAis the collaboration of our faculty members with different organizations and groups that have a major role in advocating environmental justice. Religion is the core of our curriculum. We ensure that religion is always integrated and incorporated in all learning areas. Climate change education as part of the science curriculum is also incorporated in the instructions in Christian Living curriculum. In the Senior High School curriculum, Living Laudato Si’—the Encyclical letter of Pope Francis on taking care of the Earth—is a subject in Grade 12 Theology.

Many Climate Reality Leaders were also invited to give lectures and to contribute their expertise and knowledge on environmental issues affecting our society. Their contributions to the climate change education of SJA have a great impact on the knowledge of our students in preserving the environment that leads them to become advocates of climate justice.

Teachers and students from St. Joseph Academy participated in the 2021 Climate Reality Leadership Global Virtual Training.

Recently, ten (10) members from the SJA faculty, students, and alumni joined the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Virtual Global Training last October 16 to October 24, 2021, and became new Climate Reality Leaders. They attended live broadcasts, panel workshops, networking meet-ups, and skill-building sessions—all taking place online and led by the former US Vice President Al Gore and his team of world-class scientists, climate justice leaders, policymakers, communicators, and other experts. The training focused on the science of climate change and its practical solutions, how the climate crisis is fueling the global health crisis, the climate and environmental justice around the world, the effective organizing for climate action, connecting natural and technological climate solutions, and the COP 26 on making 2021 a year for breakthrough action.

SJA Artivista Logo

On January 24-28, 2022, we will be having an Artivista Week (Environmental Activism through Arts), which aims to accumulate funds that will be used for the upcoming SJA Community Pantry on March 19, 2022 during the feast of St. Joseph. This environmental activism was initiated by the SJA Climate Reality Leaders from SHS. The two main fundraising events for Artivista are the following:

Resonating the Beats on the Care of Our Home Competition. It is where the Grade 11 students will showcase their talents in composing songs for the environment and creatively interpret them through video submission. It aims to educate people about the environmental crisis. It will be shown on January 27, 2022.

Trashion Runway Show Competition. It is where the Grade 12 Students will create clothes designs from the collected trash and garbage in their homes and surroundings and showcase their designs through Runway shows on January 28, 2022.

We are also encouraging parents, faculty, and staff to share their environmental knowledge with their kids at home. Let the children practice at home doing small tasks like picking up their trash, segregating, and throwing the garbage. Teach them to turn off the faucet when they are brushing their teeth or washing their hands with soap and not let the water run down.  Shutting off the lights when they’re done using them. This will help them be more knowledgeable about environmental issues.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE NEXT GENERATION OF CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL CRUSADERS THAT AIMS TO BUILD UPON YOUR WORK ON ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION?

Many environmental advocates are fighting to reverse the effects of the climate crisis that we are facing right now. They are using different platforms to send the message of change—from street activism, online webinars, and social media engagement, to engaging with the different influencers, climate change education, doing simple acts of leadership and kindness just to lessen their carbon footprints contribution to the environment, among others. These actions all contribute towards the global movement to arrest global warming and its effects.

By promoting the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the United Nations and the seven (7) Laudato Si’ Goals, we can redefine and rebuild our relationship with each other and our common home. Let us band together to call for a spiritual and cultural revolution towards sustainability.

Let us commit to helping the education sector on advancing climate change education and setting an example on reducing carbon footprints. Let us also remind the government officials to formulate effective policies on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

TESTIMONIALS FROM SJA STUDENTS AND PERSONNEL WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE 2021 GLOBAL VIRTUAL TRAINING OF THE CLIMATE REALITY LEADERSHIP CORPS:

“Beyond the confine of our own homes lies a planet that is slowly dying and gasping for its breath. The Climate Reality Leadership Corps allowed me to not only realize this but also to take action against the crisis that we are facing. The damage we have done can never be taken away but if we start now, then we will be able to leave behind a bright future for the generations to come.”

– MAVERICK DE CASTRO

“Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this global training. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be with the climate activists and the climate leaders across the globe banding together for the environment.”

– CHRISTIANE CARYL TORIO

“Joining the Climate Reality Project training is another milestone of achievement to mobilize our shared vision for climate change. “Collaborative action, Robust activism, and Positive advocacy” would describe my noteworthy CRP takeaways. Together, we will continuously strive to capacitate and harmonize our collective efforts on climate action. Let us make it REAL for the #ClimateRealityProject.”

– TEOFILO VIRAY

“With the state of our world right now, it seems like so little effort is being put into action to save it. It is heartbreaking to realize what the state of our world has succumbed to. The CRP training helped me realize what is happening not only in our country but in the whole world as well. It truly opened my eyes and made me see how much action is needed to be done to reverse the intense damage we have done to our earth.”

– NICOLE DELA CRUZ

“With the state of our world right now, it seems like so little effort is being put into action to save it. It is heartbreaking to realize what the state of our world has succumbed to. The CRP training helped me realize what is happening not only in our country but in the whole world as well. It truly opened my eyes and made me see how much action is needed to be done to reverse the intense damage we have done to our earth.”

– ALEX BARRERA

“This is my first time to join global training like this. I’m glad because I met many environmental activists sharing our advocacy. It made me realize just how long our fight is with climate change. I hope people will give action because our environment need climate justice now.”

– MARINEL ELAMPARO

“Our Earth is dying. How seriously do we take this statement? CRP Training has not just made me aware of the real-life problems we are currently facing but also how humanity is solving the problem. Action is being done but not enough, that’s why I, myself, should start moving and encouraging others.”

– RV DESPABILADERAS

“Through this training, my knowledge about the ongoing environmental crisis keeps on growing. With my awakening, I cannot just sit still. The gravity of this catastrophe was—and still is—instilled unto me deeply. It urges me to move and make a change.”

– YSABELLE MARIE BASA

“Being a part of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps was a life-changing experience for me. Aside from learning more about the climate crisis, it was a great opportunity to meet other people with the same advocacy. With them, I felt empowered to share my thoughts and take action in order to make the world a better place. It also allowed me to improve my leadership skills as I began to have more confidence in myself and in my ideas. Using everything in my arsenal as a climate leader, I want to be one of the voices of Mother Nature to ensure the sustainability of our planet for the coming generations of life.”

– ARONE JERVIN OCAMPO

“The climate crisis brings about so many problems in different facets of our lives. But there is also a plethora of solutions readily available to us now. The CRP shows me that actions from all sides of the world are necessary to meet the goals that we’ve set and eventually go net zero. With the privileges that we have, it's our basic responsibility to help lead the way to a sustainable future.”

– IRENE REYES