THE Department of Education (DepEd) strengthens and reinforces the integration of environmental education in the elementary and high school curriculum through the introduction of several programs in accordance with one of its core values, Makakalikasan.
The revival of the School Inside a Garden, or SIGA, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) aims 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.
In three to five years, the cherry blossoms of Japan, United States and other countries will find competition with the SIGA in the Philippines.
DepEd has also 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. The department is correcting earlier news items that erroneously mention the planting of heritage trees. 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.
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. Heritage trees are not to be planted, but rather to be properly identified and protected.
On top of these activities, 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. The department 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.
All of these programs are aligned with the department’s goals for the Public Schools of the Future (PSOF) which envision school campuses to become centersof 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), 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.
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. 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.