Find out how these top international schools in Singapore are working their way towards a greener, more sustainable future.
It’s no secret that Mother Earth is angry. In the last few months alone, there has been devastating bush fires, volcanic eruptions and extreme flooding. It’s pretty scary stuff, all happening (no) thanks to climate change. Which is why it’s more important than ever for our kids to learn how to take care of our planet and preserve it for generations to come. Teaching them about sustainability will make them more aware of our dwindling natural resources and, above all, help them understand the need to save what’s left.
So, HoneyKids had a chat with experts from some of the top international schools in Singapore to find out how they’re teaching kids about sustainability. We dug up all the deets on how green their campuses are, and we also got the lowdown on some easy eco-friendly activities parents can try at home with their kids.
ECO-FRIENDLY & SUSTAINABLE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS IN SINGAPORE
1. Children’s Cove Preschool
Children’s Cove Preschool encourages environmental consciousness within kids by using their surroundings as teachers. By being actively exposed to the environment, they gain a deeper appreciation of the planet and do their part to care for it too.
How do children learn about sustainability at Children’s Cove?
Children’s Cove integrates sustainability into its curriculum. The school uses recyclables extensively, whether it’s for setting up learning and play corners, decorating classrooms, making learning resources, or providing recyclables as materials for term projects. Much thought is put into how recyclable materials can be used in the classroom. In fact, weekly meetings are held to bounce creative ideas off each other!
The school also encourages parental involvement. By partnering with parents, they can be involved in their child’s learning by re-emphasising sustainable practices at home.
How environmentally-friendly is Children’s Cove?
- Most of the kids’ artworks are created using recycled materials brought from home or collected around the school. This involves the parents too.
- The kids are taught to use less water during toilet trips.
- Leftover food is sent for composting.
- The lights and air-cons are switched off when leaving the classrooms.
2. Tanglin Trust School
Sustainability resonates strongly with Tanglin Trust School’s core values. Most people refer to the 17 UN Sustainability Goals (SDGs) when talking about sustainability. However, the meaning of the word is much simpler to Tanglin’s school community. John Ridley, the school’s Director of Learning, explained, “it means taking care of the planet that our students and their children will inherit from us.” He shared how the school puts this into practice.
How does the school maintain a ‘green’ campus?
“Our campus has many ‘green’ features, some very obvious and others more hidden. From solar panels in many of our buildings through to low energy LED lighting controlled by motion sensors in common areas. Our operations team also keeps our campus clean using eco-friendly cleaning products.
“In our dining areas, students eat on washable plates with non-disposable cutlery. We have also worked to ensure tasty vegetarian food options are always available. We aim to minimise food waste, but the generated waste is recycled through a National Environment Agency-sponsored Food Waste to Energy programme.
“On top of this, expanding the biodiversity on campus has been a major focus for us, and we are very proud of our green spaces like our ‘Forest School’. This is a great place for our younger students to experience nature up close, and it is full of native plants and trees. We’ve also created a range of habitats to encourage butterflies and birds, including a simple patch of uncut grass to allow wildflowers to grow, as well as vegetable patches and fruit trees, including mango, banana, papaya and jackfruit.”
What are some of the ways that students are taught about sustainability?
Sustainability topics are integrated into Tanglin’s curriculum through Humanities and Science topics. For example, Year 4 children learn about the water supply and the importance of water conservation, and Senior School students learn about how the greenhouse effect works in Science lessons and explore social issues in Geography. In the sixth form, there is a popular Environmental Systems and Society course as an option within the IB Diploma programme.
However, educating for sustainability goes far beyond the curriculum. Here are some of the other ways Tanglin Trust School integrate sustainability into daily student life:
- Student-led Eco-groups in all areas of the school (like our Infant School Planet Protectors) help promote action for sustainability.
- Reminders around campus to Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Remember (to switch off lights and aircon, for example).
- Annual Eco-week with a different focus each day to challenge students to change their daily habits.
- ‘Walk in Wednesday’ encourage students and staff to use public transport, walk, or cycle to school.
- Sixth Form students undertake a CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) project, and many have a sustainability focus, e.g. working with experts from the Botanical Gardens to establish a nursery for endangered native trees.
- Taking part in international events like the Singapore Young Leaders Summit to design solutions to tackle the SDGs in Singapore.
3. Canadian International School (CIS)
At CIS, the theme of sustainability is interspersed throughout various programmes, in line with its vision of “making the world a better place”. In order to do so, the school works to empower students with values, habits, knowledge and skills that can lead to solving the greatest environmental problems facing our civilisation. Michael Broadhead, CIS Sustainability lead and Chemistry teacher, shares more about sustainability at CIS…
What does CIS do to encourage its students to be more sustainable in their daily lives?
CIS promotes six sustainable-living habits to help heal the earth:
1. Plant-based diets
4. Biophilia (establishing a strong connection with nature)
5. Zero-waste lifestyle (engaging in reducing, reusing and recycling activities)
6. Carbon-positive activities (engaging in activities that go beyond a net-zero carbon emission, instead removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).
How does sustainability fit into CIS’s curriculum?
In our PYP programme, we have a trans-disciplinary theme ”Sharing the Planet”; while in our MYP programme we have units with a Global Context of Globalisation and Sustainability. In the DP programme, we offer the Environmental Systems and Societies course. As long as there is an opportunity, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are integrated into teaching at CIS, to highlight the global collaboration that is underway to create a sustainable future.
3. Singapore American School (SAS)
The folks at Singapore American School (SAS) are on the path to developing an Education for Sustainability (EfS) philosophy. It is a blend of environmental science, community action and service leadership. Its aim? To encourage students to become global citizens grounded in science so they can help build an equitable and sustainable world. Dr Martha Began, SAS Faculty lead, explains how sustainability is promoted at the school.
What are some of the awards SAS has received with regards to sustainability?
Singapore American School has twice received Singapore National Parks (Nparks) Creative Co-Adopter Awards for the design and implementation of the Pulau Ubin Sensory trail. It also has one of Singapore’s largest solar panel arrays, student-managed campus recycling, student-initiated solid waste reduction, food composting and energy-saving programs.
SAS has been awarded the highest green building rating, Certified Green Mark Gold. With a two-hectare patch of secondary rainforest on campus, a partnership with Singapore Botanic Gardens and a generous grant from the SAS Foundation, SAS designed a rainforest nursery adjacent to the campus rainforest patch.
What are some easy activities parents can do at home to teach children about sustainability?
Parents can benefit their children by providing engagement in something they believe in, or something that’s morally compelling, joyful and politically exciting. Creating experiential learning opportunities while contributing to the common good is learning about the present life, in the present life, for the present life.
4. GIIS East Coast
GIIS East Coast sets itself apart by using education as an important medium to create awareness about environmental issues. Through practical experience and activities about sustainability, students develop their sense of environmental awareness and responsibilities towards Mother Earth. Padmarani Srivatsan, preschool teacher at GIIS East Coast campus, shares how the school is teaching kids about sustainability…
What are some “green” practices GIIS East Coast has followed?
At GIIS East Coast campus, students collaborate to perform a number of environment-friendly activities like compost-making with fruit and vegetable waste, reducing the use of single use plastic in our classroom bins and recycling used beverage cartons. Through an action-based learning approach, we help develop a deep love for nature. All these efforts and proactive involvements in sustainable activities have won a number of awards and recognition for our school.
What are some easy activities parents can do at home to teach children about sustainability?
- Making compost is one of the easiest activities since every household generates kitchen waste. All you need is a perforated bin to start the compost.
- Eco-enzyme using orange fruit peels, which can be used as a cleaning agent or as fertiliser for plants.
- Making bags with outgrown t-shirts to reduce the use of single-use plastic.
- Using tissue holders or beverage cartons to make various artefacts.
- Use old beverage cartons to grow plants.
- Collect leaves and twigs to make insects!
5. White Lodge International Preschool & Childcare
White Lodge’s (now known as Invictus International Preschool) five core values, also known as its blueprint, includes the tenet “We respect our world.” This means, just as we respect each other, we need to respect our community and the world around us. Students at White Lodge are therefore taught to have sensitivity and compassion for the world, and learn to cherish what they have been given. They also learn about nurturing our resources and the importance of working to eliminate wastefulness. Raihannah Raimi, White Lodge’s Head of School, explains how White Lodge teaches children about sustainability…
How do children learn about sustainability at White Lodge?
We encourage children to respect each other. Both children and teachers take part in activities that nurture respect towards the community and the world around us. The children learn to look after the resources available to them to ensure waste is reduced. Part of our curriculum even includes recycling to introduce the importance of caring for the environment. Each year, our annual art exhibitions share a message of earth conservation, whereby the art materials and resources used are made mainly of recyclables. Think old fishing nets, food containers, pet bottles and so on. They’re then turned into works of art!
How eco-friendly are White Lodge’s classrooms? What makes them energy efficient?
Each school has its own communal garden with vegetables and herbs that can be harvested and used in our cooking classes. Teachers also practise ‘turn off as you go’, whenever they leave the classrooms.
The folks at MSIS have always believed in being as green and as eco-friendly as possible. They believe in teaching the young the importance of protecting the earth so that they can share the experience of living in a beautiful world with their own children. Sukhbinder Colebourne, Principal of MSIS, shares more about the school’s green initiatives…
How has MSIS integrated sustainability into its curriculum?
All learners at MSIS get to learn all about how to recycle and discover what it means for the environment. Our annual art exhibition always allows children to make something out of recycled materials in conjunction with our art therapist. Last year, we learnt all about saving our planet, so the children created animals such as whales, sea turtles, and corals etc. all from recyclable materials.
How environmentally-friendly are MSIS’s classrooms?
Instead of using disposable whiteboard markers, we use refillable ones instead. We recycle newspaper as well as glass, plastic and paper for the local rubbish collectors too. Additionally, each year, in our art exhibition, we always use recycled materials in our artworks. Lunches are delivered in recyclable containers and all students are encouraged to use refillable water bottles instead of plastic bottles. All air-cons and appliances are also turned off if they are not in use.
7. Dulwich College (Singapore)
At Dulwich College (Singapore), sustainability is not something it does, but part of who it is. The school believes that it is responsible for equipping its students with the scientific evidence and critical thinking skills required to inform their own decisions, and empower them to take action to support the environment. Nick Magnus, Dulwich College’s Headmaster, gives us the lowdown…
How has Dulwich College (Singapore) adapted sustainability into its school curriculum?
Dulwich is the first international school in Singapore to introduce Forest School, accredited by the UK’s Forest School Learning Initiative (FSLI), into the DUCKS early years programme. Dulwich is pioneering the movement here to provide real world learning and interaction as well as problem-solving opportunities to young children in a natural environment. We also have an Eco Explorers camp where students participate in community initiatives such as beach clean-ups and can also access other opportunities across our network.
Carbon awareness is also incorporated into part of the curriculum at Dulwich College (Singapore). Students can look forward to environmental co-curricular activities and demonstrate a conscious effort towards making Singapore more sustainable.
How environmentally-friendly are Dulwich College’s classrooms?
The school is committed to 100% carbon neutral electricity and reducing the amount of single use plastic on campus. We focus on making smart design decisions both in the classroom and in building natural outdoor learning environments. Our purpose-built state-of-the art green campus was designed with a ‘student-first’ approach and revolves around three main focal points to support our holistic learning philosophy – a green, sustainable urban environment, an open and conducive learning community and a reflection of shared values of community and culture.
“As a community, UWCSEA has adopted the Global Network’s definition of Sustainable Development: Wellbeing for all, within the means of nature,” explained Claire Psillides, Head of Environmental Sustainability at the East Campus, as she talked to us about the school’s sustainability initiatives, “We chose it because it neatly encapsulates both the challenge, and a way forward. It is measurable and achievable, suggesting we can aspire to a life of opportunity for all, guided and bound by limits of our planet.”
Has UWCSEA received any awards/recognition with regards to sustainability?
Most recently, both our campuses were recognised as Greenmark Platinum Super Low Energy sites by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority. The new SLE award is reflective of our whole community approach to environment management. We have many student groups who work with our operations teams to make sure we are taking action wherever we can to sustain our environment. Through direct involvement in helping put their ideas into action on campus, our students are given the confidence to imagine what might be possible to achieve elsewhere. We hope that in future, this experience inspires them to keep the environment at the centre of their decision making.
How has UWCSEA integrated sustainability into its curriculum?
We have chosen to focus on the 5 Ps (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnership) of the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development as a conceptual framework. This offers a specific set of Global Goals for short-term action while providing us with a framework in which to develop age-appropriate understanding. While these are simplifications of our complex reality, we like them because they succinctly describe the better world that we at UWCSEA teach, and they can be understood by most ages groups.
9. GIIS Smart Campus
At GIIS, it’s all about following sustainable practices. Green philosophy is well-implemented in the design of the campus as well as the school’s curriculum and pedagogy. In fact, the GIIS SMART Campus is a BCA Greenmark-certified building, built with environmentally friendly materials from Japan. It also has the latest energy-saving technology, and is designed to leave the lowest carbon footprint. Water management is also a big element in the green design of the campus. Features like rainwater harvesting ensure every drop of this precious commodity is carefully utilised. Jagirti Mehta, GIIS’s Environmental Management teacher and Green Activities lead, shares more…
In your opinion, what makes a school green? What are some sustainable practices GIIS has put in place?
A truly green school will offer students enough opportunities to participate in sustainable activities, inside and outside school. By being a member of Singapore’s Community in Bloom Programme, GIIS students get ample chances to learn about environmental conservation and contribute to the cause in meaningful ways. The school building is laced with smart elements, like corridor lights with sensors and water coolers operated by solar energy. At the same time, the school also works smartly by going paperless.
How has GIIS integrated sustainability into its curriculum?
The school appoints around 10 student council leaders who lead the green initiatives in the school. The green initiative leaders raise awareness through a series of planned activities, like raising awareness on Earth Day, voluntary service for environmental causes and so on. We also have a fully-fledged Environment Lab that allows students to perform environmentally-conscious experiments.
The folks at EtonHouse are passionate about empowering and educating its school community to live a greener lifestyle and engage in sustainable practices. Anastasia Edwards, principal of EtonHouse International Preschool at Claymore, shares how the school inspires kids to be more “green” through various long-term learning projects…
Is EtonHouse a “green school”? And if so, in what way?
Together with the children, we have created an edible community Farmer’s Garden that supports us in engaging in healthy and sustainable cooking. Within the garden we have two active composting bins to reduce food waste, a Realdo Lab as well as an outdoor Atelier where we reuse recycled loose parts. We also have a sensory garden, a lizard sanctuary and a mud kitchen, where children can explore and connect with nature on a daily basis.
Additionally, we organise our annual Claymore Earth Day Farmers Market to celebrate our precious Earth. Our school community connects with different green local organisations, with established partnerships over the years.
How environmentally-friendly are EtonHouse’s classrooms? What makes them energy efficient?
The children engage in daily sustainable practises within the classrooms, such as:
- Reducing paper usage and reusing or producing new paper with used or unwanted paper.
- Being mindful of water usage when washing hands.
- Turning off lights when out of the classroom.
- Caring for our classroom plants.
Love the sound of these sustainable international schools in Singapore? Check out their full profiles via the HoneyKids School Selector!