Through various meetings and discussions with the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (MESC), the Va’a based environmental education program “Guardians – Tausi Lou Fa’asinomaga” campaign—which is led and coordinated by Conservation International Samoa (CI Samoa)—will have its interactive environmental lessons and approach incorporated into Samoa’s national curriculum.
This was confirmed by the Curriculum Officer of MESC, Toloai Tipi, who explained that the campaign lessons will be imbedded within both the primary and secondary divisions—which includes primary social studies, geography development studies, economics, and science—as well as literacy for both divisions.
The Va’a-Based Environmental Education Campaign, more affectionately known as “Guardians”, focuses on increasing the environmental literacy of Samoa’s children, and fostering more pride in Samoa’s cultural heritage.
This is done through having the kids participate in hands-on highly-interactive conservation education modules such as Trash Star, Coral Champions, Tree Guardians, Wise Fishers, and the Samoan Voyagers (in-depth campaign details can be found on CI Samoa’s website or the Conservation International Pacific Islands Facebook Page).
“This campaign is unique and very effective,” said Schannel van Dijken, CI Pacific Islands Marine Programme Director and Samoan Voyaging Society (SVS) President, who has led the development of the initiative.
“It has brought together many partners, who are all working collectively for a common cause at increasing environmental literacy and having pride in our ancestor’s accomplishments and knowledge. Through having pride in our unique natural environment, as well as our unique cultural past, we can build on this for wider behavioral change and more effective natural resource management.
“And we are doing this effectively by using the Gaualofa—Samoa’s traditional voyaging canoe (“Va’a Tele o Samoa”)—as Samoa’s floating classroom to act as a platform to teach key environmental and cultural messages, in an engaging and interactive way to local communities around Samoa, in order to sustain Samoa’s terrestrial and marine resources and increase the effectiveness of current management measures.
“Targeting the children/youth, brings this demographic group of the community back into focus, for the decision makers of each of the communities we go to. They see how the children react, and its through bringing the attention to the kids, that the adults are more open to changes—as they are confronted with the reality that their resources are for their kids to inherit. We also teach the kids this ownership principle, and that this environment will be theirs to have in the future. They are Guardians of their environment. The children’s voice and enthusiasm, and songs, games and chants that they learn during the campaign, continually remind the whole community of the messaging and the responsibilities well after our campaign leave each district.”
Mr. Tipi, who spoke on behalf of the Ministry’s involvement in the campaign, explained that the Guardian’s programme is necessary—as it aligns with the Ministry’s mission to improve the quality of education for the nation.
“Anything to do with education and children’s learning is most welcomed by MESC. MESC sees Guardian’s as a challenging initiative for both students and teachers. The campaign is seen as a catalyst that assists the Ministry’s mission, and the Government’s vision for its young people and how they come about the challenges in life.
“Teaching them to be aware of the importance of the environment, and to keep the close relationship between humans and the surrounding is important.
“MESC will always support every move the Guardian’s make because we work towards similar goals,” he added.
Furthermore, Mr. Tipi explained that this move by MESC will also help with capacity building for Samoa’s teachers, who will be providing more interactive environmental lessons to their everyday teaching.
Asked about how necessary the campaign’s lessons are for Samoa’s curriculum, he explained that lessons on environmental issues and the ways to address them—which are highlighted by the Guardian’s campaign—are necessary to improve livelihoods in Samoa.
“Tree Guardians, Wise Fishers, Waste Management (Trash Star), Coral Champions, and Samoan Voyaging—these were all known by our ancestors, but that traditional knowledge has been lost over time,” he added.
“One of the ways we can revive that traditional environmental knowledge into the modern world is through our children. The adults and community decision-makers have a chance to be influenced by their children—so if we succeed in teaching them about their environment through Guardian style lessons, then we have the chance to effect change in Samoa.
“The Guardian’s taught lessons on real issues that Samoa is facing today and our children are the future of our nation.”
With regards to the effectiveness of the campaign for the children, Manono-Uta Primary School principal, Esera Teleiai (whose school grounds hosted the campaign in October) shared on his Guardian experience.
“I have never seen the children react this way, I am genuinely impressed by this campaign. By looking at the expressions on their (students) faces, it’s obvious that they have learnt a lot from this program, and the excitement they show towards learning from this type of campaign, is refreshing.
“One thing that amazed me was how some topics taught during the campaign has not yet been covered in school, but the students were able to learn it all in just one week. I am so thankful for that.
“I now understand that there should be a good balance, between theory-type lessons and practical activities, to help our children really understand what is taught to them.”
Once finalized, the Ministry’s move to incorporate the Guardian’s conservation modules into the national curriculum, will turn what was once a week-long campaign into interactive/hands-on environmental lessons, at school that the children can enjoy all year long.
And with the children being Samoa’s future, having them step up to be “Guardians” and teaching them now on the importance of living sustainably with their environment, is an effective and long-term way to secure true wise management of our natural resources.