Safe, clean, and affordable drinking water is not readily accessible to school children, or the wider community, in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) due to a complex set of factors. Children must bring single-use plastic water bottles to school daily to stay hydrated in the warm climate, which is costly and further exposes them to health and environmental impacts. An integrated healthy school’s approach focused on these issues does not yet exist, yet several existing initiatives demonstrated a recognized need and desire to address it.
EPIC is partnering with local agencies and conservation groups to help facilitate a series of fun, interactive educational activities through the Eco-Schools program, called Water Smart Schools VI at seven schools across the territory. Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local partners, additional US Virgin Islands students will learn about drinking water safety, how to use water testing kits, and receive free water bottles and a water bottle filling station. Key partners include the Virgin Islands Conservation Society, Eco-Schools, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS), the University of the Virgin Islands, and the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Young water heroes at Eulie R. Rivera K-8 School on St. Croix, USVI.
St. Croix Eco-Schools Coordinator Kai Nielsen kicked off this project in October at Eulie R. Rivera K-8 School on St. Croix by helping to lead students through the Water Heroes curriculum. This three-part curriculum was led and designed by Howard Forbes at VIMAS, and includes teaching students how to use water testing kits, about water purification, and water safety and conservation.
This project is supporting locally-led existing efforts that were expanded to fill critical gaps in providing USVI children with healthy learning environments while also building capacity to address health risks related to water and plastics in schools.