Igniting student interest in sustainability in St. Kitts
For many children, going to school means sitting in a dull classroom, eyes glazed over, watching the clock until it’s time to go home. While this may be an everyday experience for some children, if you step inside a school in St. Kitts, you will quickly realize that this is not always the case. Primary schools in St. Kitts are a constant flurry of activity. Shouts and laughter can be heard filling the campuses as the children are overcome with the excitement and joy of learning. This enthusiasm is contagious, both inside the school walls and out.
Of course, no children stay young forever. Before you know it, these animated youth will be full-grown leaders and decision-makers in their community. Because tourism is such an important economic driver in St. Kitts, many of today’s youth will likely be employed by or involved in the industry at some point in their life. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council over 1 in 4 jobs in St. Kitts and Nevis were supported by the tourism industry – either directly or indirectly – in 2015. This number is anticipated to keep growing over the following decade. One of the most effective ways to ensure the future sustainability of the tourism industry is by influencing its future leaders. Educating these curious youth about environmental and social responsibility at a young age will help them develop a concern for sustainability that will carry on with them later in life and help them positively impact St. Kitts.
The St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism recognizes the vital role that tourism plays for the island’s residents and is piloting a tourism education and awareness program for local youth. Two elementary schools, one high school, and the island’s vocational school are currently participating in the program. The goal of this program is to teach the youth about what tourism is, communicate the depth of its impact in St. Kitts, and highlight the career opportunities it provides. In addition, the program also includes a focus on sustainable tourism topics, such as waste management and environmental responsibility.
As part of this tourism education program, our locally-based program coordinator presented to a room full of nine and ten-year-old students at Dr. William Connor Primary School in Basseterre. During the lesson, approximately 50 students learned about what sustainable tourism means and how it can provide economic, environmental, and social benefits for host communities. They were then tasked with applying this newfound knowledge to real-life examples. The class talked about some of the island’s well-known tourism products and discussed how they are (or are not) doing a good job of incorporating sustainability.
Following this discussion, the students also learned about what can happen if tourism is not sustainable and how it has the potential to harm the local community and environment. Students were asked to brainstorm and share their ideas for ways that the tourism industry could be more sustainable in St. Kitts. This activity was met with great enthusiasm as the students came up with sustainable tourism practices and projects for the whole island. One student suggested adding more garbage bins and signage to lessen the amount of litter, especially on the beaches. The class also voiced their concerns about the increased number of cars and pollution and suggested alternative tourist transportation options such as walking tours, bike rental, and buses.
It was exciting to see how just one lesson could spark such student interest in sustainability. The children left the class equipped with their new knowledge and passion for sustainability, ready to spread what the word to tell others what they learned.
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