Environmental Education in Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS)

Emirates Wildlife Society in Association with
World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF)

Unlike the traditional approach to environmental educational, integrating the principle of sustainability into the core of all applied and theoretical sciences is key. Following a more holistic educational approach can give all children the chance to gain necessary values, knowledge and skills, which enable them to contribute in building a sustainable future.

We are used to looking at development in general as a natural and required process. However, separating it from the principle of sustainability costs our natural resources a lot, which negatively affects the availability of these resources in the future and threatens their sustainability and ours. Therefore, it is inevitable to change our way of thinking and the approach we follow in order to rebalance the ecosystems we depend on, especially in a time where the severity of environmental challenges resulting from excessive consumption are increasing.

Promoting the concept of sustainable living to our youngsters through education is an ideal way to tackle this issue. This will be achieved by encouraging our young ones to adopt behaviors and consumption patterns that adhere to a more sustainable way of life. This will also allow us to focus on the importance of finding proper solutions to promote a sustainable life style.

Education with the aim of achieving sustainable development involves integrating the main environmental challenges, such as the climate change, in the process of education.. This allows students to link what they have learned in classrooms with their behaviors outside school, which will give them better potential to be a role model in changing their behaviors positively and to contribute in developing sciences and applications that direct our future towards sustainable development.

Be'ati Watani and Eco-schools are two such programs that follow the approach of education towards sustainability. These programs offer practical ways and tools to raise environmentally responsible citizens. We found various examples proving the1 benefits of following this holistic approach in education that helps students think practically and encourages their creativity.

Eco-Schools

Othman Bin Abi Al Aas School in Ras Al Khaimah is one of the Eco-schools that has been recently awarded the Green Flag for environmental excellence. A group of students there came up with the idea of creating a huge multi-layer moving wall out of used cardboard to cover their need of additional wall space to post messages of environmental awareness in their school. Besides reducing the amount of their schools' waste and saving its money, those students managed to deliver their message within their school community and outside it as well. They managed to do so with creative thinking in order to use the available and reusable resources in the best way. What motivated these students to do so is their belief in the necessity of protecting our planet in order to sustain our resources and prosperity.

The Eco-schools program is an international initiative of the Foundation for the Environmental Education (FEE), and it is executed in 51 countries. With the coordination of the EWS and the support of the Ministry of Education and HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, 60 schools in the UAE participated in the program. The Eco-schools program was designed to educate students and enable them to adopt sustainable life styles within their school community and beyond. It also helps in grooming them to be the environmental leaders of the next generation.

In order to form well-structured environmental communities, students worked with their teachers and families on leading the change towards a much greener school. Through practical activities, which involve simple technical and behavioral changes, these schools managed to reduce their electricity and water consumption significantly and manage their wastes effectively. The savings achieved have been impressive this year. Al Najah Girls School in Ras Al Khaimah managed to reduce its water consumption by 68.9%. In addition to the technical changes, Al Najah School made behavioral changes as well, such as reducing water consumption through using irrigation timer to irrigate plants, which was the micro-project the school received its funding for over the last year, and organizing a competition for reducing electricity and water consumption among students' families, and honoring the winning family. Bint Al Shatee School in Umm Al Quwain managed to reduce its electricity consumption by 18.8%. It also managed to make various behavioral changes. They collected the left over drinking water from students' bottles and used them to water the plants, they also collected plastic bottles to be recycled and placed separate containers (made by students) to sort out waste in classrooms and corridors. Through the micro-project, the school got rid of 90% of the accumulated waste of used furniture through recycling the used wooden furniture in the school backyard. Also, the waste from the iron furniture was disposed through selling it to the iron and aluminum recycling companies. They were then able to raise money to invest in different school projects.

As a part of the micro-projects, schools are provided with funding from HSBC bank to execute time-based projects as a part of Eco-schools program in the UAE. After 4 months of executing the micro-projects, the participating schools submit the results of their achievements in the form of reports. In accordance with defined evaluation criteria to both the reports and the project, the judging committee of Emirates Wildlife Society chooses the best 3 micro-projects. The project of Al Ittihad School, Al Mamzar, was one of the excellent projects, as they successfully educated 60% of the primary division about using electricity and they became aware of the routine of switching off lights when they leave the room. The school reduced its consumption by 16.06%, compared to its consumption in the same month last year.

In order to reduce electricity consumption and link the environmental activities in the school with the curriculum, Al Shola Private School linked the project to the Chemistry subject. The school succeeded in achieving the desired results after it made its own solar panels to save 75% of the lighting consumption in the Chemistry laboratory.

Be'ati Watani

Be’ati Watani Program, an E-environmental educational program available in Arabic and English, addresses students from ages 6 to 14 year, as it explains the UAE's various natural environments, such as the desert environment, marine environment, mountains, towns and others. It provides students with important information about living organisms of animals and plants that live in these habitats and how they can help to conserve them.

The program offers all this information in the form of dialogues among an Emirati family consisting of the story’s two main characters; young Hamad and his sister Ayesha and their family.

Be'ati Watani Program is divided into two focus areas. The first focus is the educational content, which is divided into 8 levels. Each of these levels addresses a certain age category and deals with one environmental subject, and it is available on the program’s website (www.beatiwatani.com) in both Arabic and English. Information is given to the students throughout the eight levels until they are introduced to the main issue the planet faces; the Greenhouse Effect. Moreover, it explains to them in a simplified way how this issue occurred and how humans played a role in intensifying such a crisis and what their role is as students in fighting this issue and what are the other available solutions.

In order to avoid the traditional format of curriculums, each level of the program includes various interesting sections; such as featured activities and games’ section and a self-assessment section for children to complete after each level to test their knowledge.

The second focus is the competition; which is a short test available on the program website. It aims to make sure that the students read the educational content and benefit from it. The questions of the competition are relevant to the educational content found in the program. The competition has a specified time limit, and it is also available in Arabic and English. The competition was carried out for six months this year, and about 59000 students from various emirates, 501 governmental schools, 350 private schools and 485 coordinators participated in it.

In coordination with the respected education zones, prizes for participating in the program were distributed to all participating students across the country and all participating students were granted online participation certificates. 1437 students were honored with distinguished awards for scoring full marks in the test.

In order to expand the program reach, we designed portable kiosk designed especially for the Be’ati Watani program. After visiting various schools and different locations, the kiosks ended up in a number of public libraries in Dubai and Kidzania in Dubai Mall.

A satisfaction survey was conducted at the end of the completion for participating students. This was done to gauge the overall quality of the program and relevance of the content. The feedback gathered from the students was encouragingly positive and they expressed their deep admiration of the program and the competition’s questions.

Schools are no longer working in isolation; they are an important link connecting the students to the outside world. This offers us an amazing chance to educate our students about the importance of the resources we depend on and share with all creatures living on this planet, and to know the impact of our daily consumption decisions and behaviors on these resources, and recognize the importance of using them effectively and responsibly.

This type of education goes beyond the walls of the school, as it does not stop at what the child learns in the classroom. Part of this type of education’s success is the families and communities' responsibility. The wise use of water and energy, making responsible consumption decisions and adopting positive environmental behaviors should be a part of our normal behavior as parents and teachers. All this is important in order for our communities to mirror the values children learn in schools and an ideal platform to practice what they learn in classrooms.

Environmental education can help in changing the future. Through constant support from the responsible groups and entities and through developing the appropriate policies and laws, we all hold a responsibility towards our environment. More importantly, through our deep compassion towards our planet, we can address the global environmental crises we encounter today.

For more information on our programs, visit our websites:

Eco-Schools: www.ecoschoolsuea.org

Be'ati Watani: www.beatiwatani.com

EWS-WWF: uae.panda.org

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