Yogyakarta is in the process of planting 10,000 saplings at area schools as part of its green school programme, officials involved in the project say.
The initiative is a joint effort of the local government, the Yogyakarta Environmental Agency (BLH Yogyakarta), a non-governmental organisation called Glimmer of Hope Society (Masyarakat Secercah Harapan), and area schools.
The programme is being carried out at 58 area schools, from elementary to high schools, according to Ika Rostika, head of Environmental Monitoring and Restoration at BLH Yogyakarta.
Environmental awareness and sustainable habits are best learned at school from an early age, Ika told Khabar Southeast Asia.
"Education of the young students is easier through schools. Our target is behavioural change," Ika said after attending a tree planting event at Madrasah Ibtidaiyah Negri Yogyakarta, a state-run Islamic elementary school, on February 3rd.
Ten thousand trees
First launched in 2009, the programme aims to create schools that can serve as pioneering examples of environmental sustainability, while teaching children to love and care for the natural environment.
Green schools not only incorporate lessons about environmental sustainability in the curriculum, but also take concrete action such as tree planting and recycling. Students are taught to recycle waste, to compost, and to separate plastic products.
Harya Rifky, 11, a student at the madrasah, said he and his classmates have learned about the "3 R" method of waste management: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
"We separate organic and inorganic trash," Harya told Khabar.
Students are contributing to the tree planting project by providing pots, pipes to channel rain water, and other equipment.
"We are ready to distribute 10,000 seedlings and trees to schools," Ika said.
Helping their families go green
The objective of the programme is to create schools that teach students to care about the environment, according to Sutarman, the vice-rector of the Gadjah Madah University (UGM) Division of Public Affairs and Community Development.
"Green school is a good programme. It's not just the physical appearance of a school surrounded by trees. We encourage students with real educational activities and teach them to preserve our environment," he said.
According to Sutarman, with their new knowledge and skills, students have an important role to play contributing to change not only in their schools, but also in their families.
"How to appreciate water, understand the importance of reforestation, use of appropriate sanitation facilities, and converting waste into fertilizer – all are integral in improving behaviour and health," he added.
Vania Triastuti, 22, a student in UGM's Geography Department, supports teaching environmental awareness at an early age, and she says it is much needed.
"Every day we see negative behaviours that damage our environment: littering, polluting rivers with sewage, and other behaviours," she said. Environmental degradation contributes to disasters such as landslides and floods, she pointed out.
Green v. modern
Jubaidi, principal of Giwangan Elementary School in Yogyakarta, says that the idea of a "green school" is, in some respects, competing with the concept of a "modern school" where students are surrounded with technology.
According to Jubaidi, the comfort derived from modern technology can have environmental costs. Green schools are cheaper, more sustainable, and good for children, he argued.
And not just because of what they teach. A healthy environment at school helps students feel refreshed and focused while learning.
"Every school should be a green school, because brain health is strongly influenced by oxygen from plants," he added.
Student Rika Mariyanti, 11, agrees. She said she appreciates having a green, clean school.
"I love to see when our class is clean and the surrounding area is beautiful with flowers around and no more trash," she said.