Sun, Jan 23, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Diplomats tour `eco-campuses,' laud progress

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Malawian Ambassador Thengo Maloya, left, and Gambian Ambassador John Bojang, right, pump rainwater collected by a catchment system at Shengkeng Elementary School. Both ambassadors said they are impressed by the school's efforts to recycle and reuse water.

PHOTO: MO YAN-CHIH, TAIPEI TIMES

A campus with a rainwater catchment system and a school with blank textbooks impressed ambassadors and representatives from 11 countries as they went on a tour of sustainable schools and eco-campuses earlier this week.

"The rainwater catchment system is an excellent and practical idea. Take the hand pump I see here for example: in my country, we practically always use hand pumps to pump water," said Malawian ambassador Thengo Maloya during the visit to Taipei County Shengkeng Elementary School, whose rainwater catchment system recycles two tonnes of wastewater per day.

According to Maloya, people with no water in their villages need to travel around to get water in other places. So conserving and reusing water can be really important, the ambassador said.

Organized by the Ministry of Education, the tour was designed to demonstrate the achievements of schools participating in an "education for sustainable development" program.

Aiming to share the success of the program with the diplomats, the ministry invited them to join the trip for the first time since the launch of the tour last year.

The tour took the guests to Taipei County Shengkeng Elementary School and Ci-Xing Waldorf Education School of Ilan County. Both schools participated in the program, which was orchestrated by the Ministry of Education three years ago to create a more eco-friendly learning environment and develop creative curriculums in schools.

Participating ambassadors said they are impressed by how participating schools help students find satisfaction both within themselves and in their relationship with the environment.

"The two schools we visited showed two different educational approaches based on the same idea, which is to cultivate students' global views. I think both approaches help students appreciate the outside world and the self within," said the representative of the Turkish Trade Office, Unut Arik.

Shengkeng Elementary School, one of the 256 schools participating in the program conducted by the Ministry of Education since 1999, has carried out sustainable campus reform plans.

According to school principal Lin Jian-zong (林建棕), the reconstruction plan has turned the 100-year-old school into a campus with tree-lined pathways, green corridors, wetlands, a rainwater catchment system and solar technology for conserving energy. More importantly, students' involvement in the process provides practical examples of how to protect the environment.

"We continually develop curriculums that motivate students to explore the environment. Activities like tree planting and inviting local farmers to give lessons successfully brings teachers, students and community members together to not only experience nature, but more importantly, to learn from nature," Lin said.

Tomasz Nowacki, the chief representative/director-general of the Warsaw Trade Office said that it is crucial to motivate students to protect nature voluntarily.

"The development of ecological schools in Poland began in the 1980s. I think environmental education should focus on how to bring out children's willingness to cherish nature," Nowacki said.

In addition to sustaining schools' ecology and energy-saving facilities, another key element of "education for sustainable development" program is reorganizing the traditional curriculum.

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