PSE: Saving the environment through education

Everyone knows that education is paramount in our fight to save the environment. But how exactly can we do this? And what can schools implement to make students aware of their plastic consumption and other environmental damages? PSE (Pour un Sourire d’Enfant), a Cambodian school gathering around 6,500 children coming from extreme poverty, has a lot to teach us about it. We met with Betty Roubaud, PSE environmental teacher, who told us all about their actions.

The school canteen – no plastic, please

When we arrived at PSE’s canteen, we were pretty impressed by the lack of plastic or styrofoam boxes. How does this school manage to do this? Easy! When the students arrive for the first time at PSE, the school gives them one metal spoon that they have to keep during their schooling. They are also responsible to clean their own plate after finishing their meal. We found this to be such a great idea! This gives them a sense of responsibility and does not accustom them to use Styrofoam and throw it away. The school has also a water filter, preventing thousands of plastic bottles to end up in landfill. Lastly, the food waste from the canteen is also composted, providing organic nutrients for their garden.

PSE students washing their plates to reduce plastic waste
PSE students washing up their plates
Compost established by PSE in Cambodia
PSE compost

Educating about environmental issues – a must

As waste management and climate change are increasingly important issues, they are many discussions on how to teach students about them. How long should the class last, how to make it interesting, and how not overwhelm students with too much information?

PSE embarked on a deep reflexion about it and decided to develop an environmental course for students of all ages. The course was developed in collaboration with Asset H&C and Cam Conscious Tourism to give students basic knowledge of the environment (i.e. planet Earth, biodiversity, interdependence between humans and nature, water, air, energy). The curriculum also goes through the issues their generation is facing such as climate change, waste, water, air pollutions. The plan was for Betty to give the class first to 20 students of the Business School to test it out. Then, the class is planning to be rolled for all classes of the PSE Institute in September 2019.

Questioning students and inviting experts

What’s more? Betty also asked students to fill in a form about their habits (how much plastic they use, energy savings, transport habits) at several times during the year. In this way, she could test their understanding of these issues and see if their behaviours have changed. She also invited special guests such as Sandy from Only One Planet to talk about plastic waste. Sandy also gave the students reusable bottles, reusable cups, and silicon straw. These students definitely have no excuse to use single-use plastic!

Sandy from Only one planet talking about plastic waste to PSE students in Cambodia
Sandy from Only One Planet talking about plastic waste

PSE also organized environmental activities for the youngest (8 years and older). Twice a week, the school implemented artistic activities and/or videos screening about environmental issues. The first session was about plastic pollution: how plastic ends up in the ocean and enters the food chain. The children watched videos about plastic waste and created a world map with bottle caps. Along with understanding more about environmental issues, the students could then use their creative skills and have fun!

world map recycled bottle cap cambodia
World map made with recycled bottle caps

Practice is the best of all instructors

What’s better than learning the theoretical aspects of these environmental issues? Putting them in practice! In May, the 20 Business School students spent one sustainability-focused weekend in Kep. Starting with a beach clean-up, they continued with a sustainability tour of the resort Knai Bang Chatt (who has many green certificates). The students learnt about the hotel’s environmental actions and finished up the day by a visit of La Plantation, a sustainable pepper farm in Kampot. Throughout this weekend, the students were able to understand the impact of plastic in the oceans , but also discover sustainable solutions.

With their class finished, the students were also looking for internships in places that are environmentally responsible. Betty wanted them also to organize workshops to teach other students about what they have learned. With such practice, we bet that they will become future environmental champions!

Beach clean up from PSE students in cambodia
PSE students cleaning up a beach in Kep

Celebrating environmental protection

PSE also decided to celebrate important environmental days, which is a great way to unite people, have fun and get the message across. For World Environment Day, PSE organised many activities during the 31st of May as well as beforehand.

From the 29 to the 31st, PSE asked teachers to deliver their class as normal, but with an environmental thematic. For instance, for Khmer lessons, the teacher could talk about biodiversity loss, the English teacher could talk about water pollution, and so on. PSE also provided the teachers with videos, websites, and games about environmental issues to make it more interactive.

On the D-day, the students participated to many activities including clean-ups  and watching videos about environmental issues. They even had a fashion show with clothes made out of recycled items! We just love these ideas as this enables students (and teachers) to think about environmental topics through diverse angles. Check out their facebook post here for more info and picture.

PSE students cleaning up the streets in Phnom Penh
No plastic poster created by PSE students to educate about plastic waste
PSE school celebrating environmental day
Activities during the Environmental Day at PSE

What can your school in terms of environmental education?

As you can see, PSE is doing A LOT to reduce its impact and raise environmental awareness amongst students. And every school, no matter how big or small, could take similar actions to educate students about the environment. Schools can, for instance, organize a video screening about plastic or biodiversity loss, have discussions between students and teachers about these issues, celebrate Earth Days, put a compost in place, ban Styrofoam,  organize clean-ups and so much more!

Any action, even small, can make a big difference.

What do you think about the actions taken by PSE? Do you know a school that also raises environmental awareness of students? Don’t hesitate to share the actions they take and share the article to inspire people to make a change!

You can also check our school resource pages for videos about plastic waste, biodiversity loss and ideas on what actions to take.


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