The Virgin Islands Conservation Society (VICS) commits to adapting the Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) and the Disaster Risk Reduction Toolkit for the Eco Schools program in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The program will be implemented across seven schools where 14 teachers will be trained to oversee 210 students as they focus on one of the major hazards in the U.S. Virgin Islands: flooding.
Through this commitment and the Eco-Schools Program, VICS aims to (1) empower students to become climate literate and engage in community resilience planning in their communities, (2) raise awareness of risk, mitigation planning, and risk assessment, and (3) assess, prioritize, and advocate for the implementation of mitigation strategies in schools across the USVI.
During the 2019-2020 school year, student-led teams across the seven schools will use the FEMA Risk Map and other tools to better understand their schools’ flood risk. Using data they collect and findings from their Disaster Risk Vulnerability Assessments, which includes audits of their school buildings, neighborhoods, local infrastructure, and coastal defenses, student teams will develop school-based resilience projects. The teams will ultimately collaborate to develop Climate Resiliency Guidelines that will help their schools be more resilient. The student teams will communicate and disseminate community resilience plans and guidelines to peers, community members, and decision makers through social media and the Eco Schools’ partner networks, which include the National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools, the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), island agencies, and non-governmental organizations.
Case studies including pre- and post-evaluation survey results and photos of the seven participating schools will be developed to showcase how the program was implemented, how the curriculum was utilized, how many students, faculty, and community members were involved, and which outcomes were achieved. This will be shared with partners and the global Eco-Schools network.
June – September 2019: Adapt the Eco-Schools Indian Ocean Disaster Risk Reduction Toolkit for the U.S. Virgin Islands; Provide localized context for the U.S. Virgin Islands and incorporate links to the FEMA P-1000 publication, “Safer, Stronger, Smarter: A Guide to Improving School Natural Hazard Safety” in the toolkit; Adapt the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Climate Resiliency curriculum for use in the U.S. Virgin Islands; Use the adapted curriculum to begin lesson plan development and training for teachers.
September 2019 – December 2019: Students will use FEMA Risk Map tools to better understand their schools’ flood risk and additional tools; Student teams will collaborate to develop Climate Resiliency Guidelines for their schools.
January 2020 – April 2020: Using data collected on flood risk, and findings from student Disaster Risk Vulnerability Assessments, teams will develop school-based resilience projects; Students will begin to communicate and disseminate community resilience plans and guidelines to peers, community members, and decision makers through their schools
January 2020 – April 2020: Case studies of the seven participating schools will be developed to showcase how the Eco-Schools program was implemented, how the disaster risk management curriculum was utilized, how many students, faculty, and community members were involved, how environmental themes were addressed, and which outcomes were achieved. Case studies will include pre- and post-evaluation survey results, photos, projects implemented, and how resiliency improved at each school. This will be presented to the USVI Department of Education for potential adoption and implementation.
The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) were hit in September 2017 with two Category Five storms, Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Much like schools throughout the Caribbean, students in USVI are facing a future that includes sea level rise, more frequent and extreme weather patterns, and coastal flooding as oceans and the atmosphere continues to warm.
According to FEMA, when students cannot attend school, the entire community and its ability to recover is affected. Not only is student education disrupted, routine interrupted, and school services suspended, but parents of younger children often cannot return to work, thus stalling the recovery process for parents and children alike. It is becoming increasingly clear that the recovery of the entire community is linked to the resilience of schools.
The community-based Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA), employed internationally by the Red Cross Red Crescent, helps people understand the hazards that affect them, and take appropriate measures to prevent these hazards turning into disasters using their own skills, knowledge, and initiatives. The Eco-Schools Indian Ocean Disaster Risk Reduction Toolkit (Toolkit) provides a practical guide on how to conduct a VCA with and for children alongside broader disaster risk reduction initiatives in schools.
The Virgin Islands Conservation Society (VICS) is the sole host organization in the USVI for the internationally acclaimed green schools program, Eco-Schools. The Eco-Schools program is in 67 countries, reaching 52,000 PK-12 schools, and over 19.2 million students globally. It is the largest and oldest green school program in the world. Combined with the Eco-Schools VCA training module, the Toolkit has the potential to help teachers, school officials, and community members who wish to further support children’s participation in school disaster preparedness and management. However, it must be adapted to be relevant in the USVI context.