Life in Middle School: Teaching environmental awareness

Environmental awareness is just what it sounds like: being aware of the environment and making decisions that benefit nature.

At Cayman International School, there is a lot of focus placed on the environment. In elementary school, concepts like extinction, pollution and climate change are presented to students, as well as actions they can take to help the environment — such as walking or biking instead of driving.

In middle school, these concepts are built on and students learn how they can directly raise awareness and make a difference. One class that focuses on this is "core extension," in which students learn about Cayman’s environmental problems and how they can help.

Last year, local experts shared information with students about blue iguanas, a species of iguana unique to Cayman. Afterwards, students were instructed to choose a different animal species to make a documentary about. Some focused on fairly common topics, like lionfish and sharks, while some chose obscure species, like cerion nanus, an endangered snail endemic to the Cayman Islands. Everyone ended up learning about several new species and becoming more environmentally aware.

This mindfulness is built into the classes themselves. Typically, most work is done online and papers will either be retained or recycled. Certain classes have their own ways of raising environmental questions as well.

Science classes heavily focus on the environment. Students build on their knowledge of climate change, using graphs and current news. Recently, the The New York Times held its student editorial contest in which Cayman International School students participated. In English class, students wrote about fast fashion after researching its environmental and social impact. When sight-reading pieces in band classes, sharing a paper with someone and using double-sided sheets is common.

Outside of classes, our school offers many other ways to be environmentally conscious, and not just during Earth Month. Clearly labelled recycling bins are present in most hallways, providing a place to discard empty cans and used worksheets while still respecting the environment. This year, students have also embarked on quarterly beach clean-ups, which strengthens their awareness of local littering.

Being environmentally aware is also relevant now as our islands face the threats of climate change. Cayman Islands Premier Wayne Panton has said we all need to "face up to the reality of climate change" and I believe the education methods used at Cayman International School will help the next generation do exactly that.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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About the author

Laia Swaminathan is an eighth-grade student at Cayman International School.

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