Glass bottles, aluminum cans, tires, cardboard… In San Jerónimo, a Colombian town 35 kilometers from Medellín, it took just 24 days to build a school with these recycled materials that has become the first sustainable school in Colombia.

The establishment has solar energy, an autonomous water system, its own gardens, an experimental classroom and a geodesic dome for the production of food and biodiversity.

The children who are educated there are connected with nature and speak appropriately about conservation. Many of them participated in the process of manufacturing insect hotels, bird houses, a seed bank for native plants and a compost bin.

"They have taught me that if one does not take care of nature we cannot live"Emanuel Agudelo, one of the 52 students at the El Rincón campus of the Rural Agricultural Educational Institution (IERA), told Efe.

This campus was transformed into the first sustainable public school in Colombia by the Uruguayan organization Tagma, dedicated to developing innovative projects in Latin America with education and sustainability as the axes.

At 10 years old, Emanuel, a fifth grade student, asks not to pollute the rivers anymore and not to burn the forests. He rejects the felling of trees to "do not leave the little birds without a nest"and recognizes that other children "they do not have schools with the capacity to carry out experiments or to take care of nature".

ECOSCHOOLS BUILT WITH WASTE

About 2,000 aluminum cans, as many glass bottles, 500 tires and 50 square meters of cardboard were reused for the construction of this ecological school, a project that had the support of DirecTV, Disney and National Geographic, in addition to involving teachers, students, volunteers, organizations, local authorities and the community so that they feel the school as their own.

"It seems important to us to work with public education. Being able to accompany rural teachers so that they can have more pedagogical tools to enhance their environmental education activities"the coordinator of the Tagma school network, Carolina Goijman, tells Efe.

He says that this organization’s goal is to build a sustainable school in each Latin American country, a project that began in 2016 when the first institution of its kind was inaugurated in Uruguay. Later it set up offices in Argentina and Chile to later build the fourth school of this network in Colombia with the collaboration of more than 100 technicians and volunteers from seven countries.

An experimental classroom is perhaps, along with the geodesic dome, the most striking part of the new school, embellished with gardens and edible, medicinal and aromatic plants.

The building was designed to "acclimatize naturally" with the use of materials such as palm, a kind of thermal insulation. They also used local techniques and materials such as traditional guadua (a variety of bamboo) to make furniture, enclosures, doors, windows, and pots, among others.

TRANSFORM COMMUNITIES AND EDUCATE

The experience in San Jerónimo facilitated the transmission of knowledge to the educational community and its inhabitants with theoretical-practical classes during the construction cycle of a self-sufficient space that has a rainwater recovery system to store in 2,250-liter tanks.

In addition, the six photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the classroom, with a capacity of 2,670 watts, generate enough energy to supply all areas of the school, inaugurated a few days ago with the presence of members of Tagma and representatives of DirecTV.

María Paula García, 16, believes that knowledge is one of the "most important agents" and wants to take advantage of it. He acknowledges that, despite studying at an agricultural college, "it had never been seen in an area like this to be able to acquire that knowledge" about nature and learn, as he did in the sustainable construction workshop, about types of wood, waste collection and its use to make walls with beer cans and glass bottles.

To the teacher Juan Diego Parra, teaching in a sustainable school, "from the pedagogical point of view"do you think "very important" because children learn "interacting directly with the environment".

"They will not only study the theory in the books, but also the practical part"highlights the teacher.

Now, the institution has as a rule to reduce, recycle and reuse, and avoid the production of waste. Vegetable gardens with lettuce and tomato, in addition to producing food "healthy, fair and agroecological"They promote food safety.

And among posters with ecological slogans and children’s drawings, the headquarters of El Rincón, where they make guided tours, promote the rational use of resources and the mitigation of climate change to promote cultural transformation and spread a message of conservation.

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