Wednesday, 17 Apr 2002

QUEZON CITY, Philippines

On my way to work, my attention was caught by a red streamer on the side of the road, emblazoned with the words “Center for Positive Futures.” Intrigued, I decided to check the place out. I was ushered in past a school seal with “St. Joseph College” written underneath. On the opposite wall, a huge sign read, “The Alternative High School Education.”

It was then that I realized that I’d just walked into the new neighborhood school I’ve heard so much about — all good things. The school advocates integrated and thematic learning, which is refreshing compared to the all-too-rigid methodologies of many traditional schools. The school’s creativity in presenting lessons was quite impressive. Take, for instance, physics and physical education. In a traditional setting, these two subjects are normally taught separately. Here, however, they are integrated to study a specific theme, such as inertia or force.

A brochure about the school states, “The realization of our dream as Filipino parents is to provide our own children with an alternative education that would make them think critically, be socially responsible and technically adept, to prepare them to face the challenges of our increasingly complex society, but more importantly, to be peaceful and self-confident in the here and now.”

This mission statement resonated with me, because it is very similar to the values espoused by Happy Earth. Essentially, we also provide an alternative learning approach. I’m glad I dropped by, as it gives me hope for the future to know about institutions like this.

Appropriately, I spent most of my time today planning for a “positive future” for Happy Earth. Today was an extremely hectic but productive day. Joining me for a marathon strategic planning session was Karen Shih, an environmental science professor in one of our leading universities. Later in the day, another colleague stopped by to share her valuable ideas as well.

At the top of our agenda was a reassessment of the process we are going through in materials development. To understand what I mean, let me fill you in on some of the background: The Philippine government, through the Department of Education and the Environmental Management Bureau, has a prepared a 600-page Environmental Education Manual for teachers. The manual was created three years ago, but so far, it has not been successfully implemented because of a dearth of relevant indigenous educational material.

This is precisely why Happy Earth came about; to address a perceived need for such materials. First, though, we need to verify and quantify this need. One way to do so would be to conduct a nationwide study on the existing environmental materials being used in classrooms. Because this would be an expensive proposition (involving payment for transportation, food, lodging, communications, research — the list goes on and on), we next brainstormed about if and how we could actually do this. Being a small nonprofit is a disadvantage at a time like this. Like all other organizations that have noble causes but tight purses, we constantly have to pass the begging bowl and seek funding for our projects.

Eventually, we hope to assure a true “positive future” for all. Going through the arduous but reliable path of thorough information-gathering will help ensure that we meet this goal. For now, however, the thought that we are doing the most we can to achieve a sustainable planet (by educating children) is enough to give me faith in a better tomorrow.