"Education is the gift that can never be taken away."

Eco-Education: Tijuana Students Take Matters in their Own Hands in Earth Day Beach Clean Up Event

Students gather at Parque de la Amistad to begin cleaning up the beach

To rekindle the relationship between today’s youth and the environment, eco-education is taking center stage – and Tijuana students are the lead.

In our last blog post, we talked about eco-anxiety. Now, we talk about a step toward healing for humans and the planet: agency. 

So, what does “agency” look like for the environment? 

What is “Eco-Education?”

Overall, it’s not a stretch to say that humans have a strange relationship with the planet – some drill oil, some plant trees. It begs many questions: what shapes this relationship? Who teaches these beliefs and values? How else are they learned? And, from what age? 

Enter: “Eco-Education.”

While a person develops this relationship through many different avenues, the education system is a big one. But, the majority of public schools in the United States and in Mexico lack a clear eco-curriculum, leaving this relationship improperly explored. 

The Oxford University Press (OUP) defines “ecological education” as the development of an “ecological literacy” which shares information that “allow[s] for sound, scientifically based decisions to be made about a given ecological situation or context.”

While there are many competing frameworks, the OUP defines 3 key “elements” needed for an “ecological education” curriculum:

  1. “Agency”
  2. “Access”
  3. “Content”

Seems simple, right? 

But, the challenge rests in tailoring curriculum to student contexts. It’s one thing to say “the environment is important” – but it’s more pedologically demanding to set an example of environmental leadership. 

How we lead requires an awareness of (a) student sociological + economic circumstances and (b) local ecosystems and political stances on it. 

Let’s look back at the 3 elements:

Agency steers away from passive indoctrination. 

  • Refers to: “…the capacity of individuals to actively… benefit from a study of ecology. Thus, age, interests, gender, education, prior experience, etc. all play a part” (OUP).

Access points to program availability, extent of funding, areas for expansion – and most of all – community safety. 

  • Refers to: the existing “educational opportunities” from “schools, higher education, business, pressure groups, media, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)” and more (OUP). 

Content includes appropriateness to context.  

  • Refers to: “the actual ecological concepts… This would range from a very general overview… to highly specific and detailed information… [and] could range from the most theoretical models through to applied ecology” (OUP). 

Therefore, the most effective classrooms are the ones that make a direct correlation between the students’ actions in their community at large. 

 

What does Eco-Education look like for students in Tijuana? 

At Advancing Students Forward, we are committed to the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals, including: 

    #4: Quality Education

    #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

    #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

    #14: Life Below Water

To do so, ASF has participated in “Project ReCREA” – a multi-organizational effort to transform plastic waste into upcycled products. 

Our part has been to educate students about the negative effects of plastic waste on the border region communities – bringing access to an eco-education curriculum, content applied to the border region, and agency on their part of the equation. 

And so, on April 20th, 2024, our students took matters in their own hands – literally. 

 

36 dedicated students, ages from middle school to university-level, participated in Proyecto Fronterizo’s  beach cleanup event “Salvemos La Playa” at the Playas de Tijuana – a beach right on the Mexico-US border, between Tijuana and San Diego. The event hosted various local companies and NPOs, with our students proudly joining. 

During the daylong clean up, students learned about “ocean conservancy” data, identified the various types of waste found in worksheets, and had interactions with wildlife they otherwise don’t normally see in their routines.

Students positive feedback says it all on the highlight of the event: 

“Working and being together as a team.” – A resounding agreement of their favorite part of the event across ages.

“To see the amount of trash we collected in a little bit of time.” 

“Seeing how many others were also cleaning the beach with us helping the cause.”

Tijuana students became environmental leaders themselves. 

Over 1,000 kg of residual waste picked up and 91.5 kg of plastic bottles recovered

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Want to Support Students? 

If you would like to support our efforts to better students’ social and environmental standing – or wish to sponsor a brilliant student so that circumstances don’t hold back their potential – you may by following the link.