The Dominican Republic is a country of incredible natural beauty. It is home to countless endemic birds, amphibians and flowers, some only found on the island of Hispanola. Its fertile soil produces cacao, tobacco, sugar as 30% of the country is suitable for agriculture.
Pollution and deforestation threaten the island’s biodiversity and green space. Tourism and eco-tourism initiatives offer opportunity for environmental stewardship but also sometimes trample on natural resources. Multinational corporations offer much-needed employment, but sometimes at an environmental cost. Certainly, there are macro-economic forces at play here, as in any country.

Students today will be the leaders of tomorrow who will make decision regarding stewardship, justice, preservation and growth.  It is imperative, therefore, that they are instructed in how to care for their environment, sow seeds, fertilize soil and teach others to do the same. We pray that they sow physical seeds and fertilize tangible soil, but that they do the same in the lives of those around them, too.

The best kind of instruction is modeling, so be encouraged by examples from two inspiring schools.

Centro Educativo El Lirio.

Berkis founded her school in her house, beginning as many school proprietors in the Dominican Republic do, with a handful of students and a big dream. Now with her own, increasingly beautiful building, Berkis has students water, nourish and plant flowers and vegetables around the schools’ perimeter. Moving delicate plants in and out of the sun makes part of selected students’ morning duties.

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Four years ago, Berkis took some older students to a book fair. One student was impacted by an exhibition of recycled trash and asked, “why don’t we do that?”. Starting 3 years ago, Centro Educativo El Lirio began to recycle plastics and paper. Now, students from other neighboring schools bring their recyclables to the school. Parents fill up wheelbarrows and cars with bottles that would once fill the gutters and corners of their neighborhood. “We’re teaching the community to care about how it looks,” says Berkis, “and now the students shake their finger at their parents if they try to throw away a plastic bottle. ‘That’s recyclable’, they say!” The school won an innovation prize from Banco Popular two years ago. With the prize money, they threw a party and invested in educational materials for the younger grades. This beautiful school is in a part of the city where the illiteracy rate exceeds 30% (national average is around 18%).

Colegio Biblico Cristiano

The Dominican Republic rarely wants for sunlight. Turning this amost inexhaustable resource into an asset for a school is one of the ideas that caught Edify’s attention this year. Colegio Biblico Cristiano, a large, well-established school founded by a forward-thinking church, installed solar panels on its roof in 2013. What the school once paid an energy provider, it pays as loan payments. Eventually, the solar panels will cover a larger and larger portion of its energy needs and when it’s loan is repaid, it will have paid for, sustainable energy!

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MBA students from the University of San Diego conducted a feasibility study in January 2014 (see article) to see if more schools could follow Biblico Cristianos’ example. While cost savings and greater sustainability are goals we wish for all schools, the modeling of environmental stewardship to students is one of the paramount advantages to such a project. Students will remember that their school had solar panels. Maybe one day they’ll install solar panels on their home and business. That’s the kind of change that starts with modeling.

We welcome your ideas and insights regarding environmental stewardship and education!