By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) continues to strengthen and reinforce the integration of environmental education in the elementary and high school curriculum through the introduction of several environment programs.
DepEd Undersecretary Alain Del Pascua, in a statement, said that the Department highlights its “Makakalikasan” core value through various environment programs such as the revival of the School Inside a Garden (SIGA) in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). “SIGA” aims to “establish and maintain a mostly indigenous and endemic flowering colorful plant garden in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide.”
“The program aims to transform school campuses as gardens of medium-sized flowering and colorful native trees and plants,” said Pascua. In three to five years, he explained that “the cherry blossoms of Japan, United States and other countries will find competition with the SIGA in the Philippines.”
Pascua also noted that DepEd has initiated the “Search for Campus Heritage Trees” where schools are enjoined to “identify and submit heritage trees found within their school campuses for inclusion in a nationwide inventory.”
Earlier, Pascua said that there have been “news items that erroneously mention the planting of heritage trees.” Thus, he explained that “Campus Heritage Trees” are “defined as native and endemic Philippine tree species that are living and healthy, found within school campuses and in their immediate surroundings; have a minimum girth of 100cm; and have significant educational, social, cultural, historical, or aesthetic value.”
Pascua explained that selected “Campus Heritage Trees” will be “given tree markers identifying them as such and will be provided protection against danger from damage and displacement due to construction and other related activities.” He added that Heritage Trees “are not to be planted” but should be properly identified and protected.
Schools are encouraged to participate in the annual A Million Tree Challenge (AMTC) spearheaded by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) by planting trees in nearby watershed areas. Pascua said the DepEd has been supporting this program through tree-planting activities since 2017. “This school year, a total of 500,000 trees have been pledged by the DepEd,” he said.
Pascua underscored that all of these programs are aligned with the DepEd’s goals for the Public Schools of the Future (PSOF) which envisions “school campuses to become centers of biodiversity and conservation as well as to serve as living laboratories for learners.”
Through the Youth for Environment in Schools Organization (YES-O), the Supreme Pupil Government (SPG), and the Supreme Student Government (SSG), Pascua said that “these programs aim to inculcate among learners the importance of planting and conserving indigenous and endemic tree and plant species and their role in the ecosystem, especially since the past years have seen a trend in planting exotic species in many tree planting activities.”
Furthermore, Pascua noted that DepEd is also partnering with local scientists, non-government organizations, enthusiasts and advocates in the “identification of native, indigenous and endemic trees and plants that will be used in all these projects.”
“The DepEd’s environmental programs hope to sustain environmental consciousness and action among its learners,” Pascua said. “Also aligned with another of the Department’s core values, Makabansa, these programs hope to strengthen learners’ appreciation and love for their country’s environment and that they become empowered to participate in its conservation,” he ended.