In Pangasinan, robots made of trash guard school

A robot, made of scrap materials, welcomes pupils at Malued Elementary School in Dagupan.—WILLIE LOMIBAO

DAGUPAN CITY—For the more than 1,000 students of Malued Elementary School here, going to school is like going to a theme park of things and characters made of recycled trash.

Two giant robots fashioned from discarded vehicle parts greet pupils every morning at the gate.

A 10-foot yellow butterfly sports wings that used to be car doors. Its torso used to be a car bumper, while its eyes were former headlights.

These are products of the school’s advocacy to turn trash into works of art and to promote an ecofriendly environment.

The school commissioned artists to convert trash into things children would appreciate, said school principal, Jane Cahayon.

Anyone stepping into the campus passes through a garden where flowers bloom. Where the ground space is limited, plants are grown in discarded water and ice cream containers, old vehicle tires, tin cans and even old blue jeans.

The vehicle parts and tires were sourced from Japanese companies Toyota and Yokohama. The children’s parents contributed most of the plants.

For its fertilizer needs, the school also engages in vermiculture, and to conserve electricity, it uses solar energy for a water well and one of the classrooms. Barangay Malued chair, Filipina delos Reyes, donated the solar power system for the schoolroom.

Around the buildings are rainwater-harvesting tanks so the school does not need a pump to get water for the plants.

The tires and other materials are painted with bright colors so they blend with the plants and flowers that are growing profusely on  campus.

In front of two buildings are rows of “rosal” plants in pots placed on top of three tires.

Cahayon said papaya trees used to line the place now featuring rosal plants, after the city government declared the fragrant white flower as the city flower.

Being an environment-friendly school does not mean planting only ornamental plants. The 1,600-square-meter campus also maintains gardens for vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants. It also has an aquaphonics tank and a pond for raising “tilapia” and “hito” (catfish).

“We maintain the gardens even during summer vacations and even when there are no contests,” Cahayon said. The school was a finalist in a national contest for ecofriendly schools sponsored by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“We do not impose on the students to have vegetable gardens but they are encouraged by what they experience here,” Cahayon said.


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