Step 6: Informing & Involving the wider community
One key aim of the Eco-Schools programme is to raise general awareness about the need to adopt sustainable lifestyles and your environmental activities throughout the school and the wider community, - and to ensure maximum people get the opportunity to be a part of these activities. Actions should not just be confined to the school: for example, students should take home ideas to put into practice.
One of the best ways of involving the whole school is to organise a regular, school-wide ‘Day (or Week) of Action’. This is an opportunity for everyone in the school - students, teachers and other school staff – to get together to work towards achieving some of the targets set out in your Action Plan. ‘Days of Action’ need planning; both to allocate responsibilities and to make sure everyone participating knows about them. The event provides an opportunity for everyone in the school and the local community to come together to help achieve some of the targets set out in your Action Plan. An example of Day of Action can be ‘No waste day’ at school and home. On that day every member in the school gets a lunch-box from home (resulting in no throw-away boxes) or packed lunches, and no take-away meals at home.
Involving the wider community brings a range of benefits. Parents, neighbours, local businesses and the local authority can be sources of advice, information, practical help and financial assistance. This is also an ideal opportunity to raise your school’s profile within the community through the production of newsletters to parents, press releases to the local paper, Open Days, etc. Some Eco Committees appoint a ‘Public Relations (PR)’ group from amongst their members to ensure high visibility throughout the school and the community. Ensure your students are also a part of this PR group.
The following are some ideas for you to keep your whole school and the local community informed as you work your way through the seven steps:
Involving the whole school
- When your school first gets involved in the Eco –Schools programme, arrange for a big announcement in your school assembly, send letters to parents, send out letters to local media
- If possible, hold elections for student representatives in the Eco-Committee, and present certificates to those who get elected
- Hold school-wide surveys to gather information about the state of the school’s environment
- Post information about your school’s Environmental Review results, Action Plan, and progress on notice-boards located at strategic positions like the library entrance, cafeteria, corridors, office, etc. and update it regularly
- Regularly utilize school assemblies to launch Eco-School activities and to communicate any progress made. Encourage students to experiment with different presentation techniques like drama, music, power point, etc. to make their presentation interesting and more effective
- If your school has a website, publish regular updates of your activities with colourful photographs
- Hold a school-wide competition for the wording and design of your school’s Eco Code
- This can be combined with a yearly Eco-School celebration event during which the whole school can celebrate the success achieved during the year
Involving the community
- Produce a simple newsletter to regularly update parents about your Eco-School process. Copies of this newsletter can also be sent to other members of the community like the environment department of Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority (SEWA), or Federal Electricity & Water Authority (FEWA), local municipalities, waste management companies, interested charity organizations, etc.
- Request resource persons from organizations like Beeah (Sharjah), Environment & Protected Areas Authority and Sharjah Natural History Museum (Sharjah) Tadweer (Dubai), Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (Dubai), Fujairah Municipality, Environment Protection & Development Authority (Ras Al Khaimah) and others to come to your school to give talks on their area of expertise or help with specific tasks. There are also so many resource recycling companies you can contact for talks or visits.
- Seek help from local business houses to sponsor your activities. Thismay be as simple as helping you publish your newsletter or funding badges for Eco-Committee members
- Encourage students to contact local media and seek their regular support to publish your research results or achievements, for e.g.,request for a regular Eco-Schools space in your local newspaper or a small slot to talk about Eco-School activities in any of the local radio or TV channels
- If possible, conduct community-wide surveys to gather information about environmental issues most relevant to residents living there
- Remember to invite members from the community (other than Eco Committee members) to attend your Eco-Schools celebration event
(Adopted from Eco-Schools USA, Ekoskola, Eco-Schools Scotland)