Sustainable Schools: Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi

Dr. Fozeya Ibrahim Al Mahmoud
Director - Environmental Outreach, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi

Introduction

If we want to protect, preserve and maintain the sustainability of our planet for the future, then each one of us needs to take immediate positive steps on multiple levels. Undoubtedly, one of those most important steps with greatest return in the final outcome is to educate our children on the importance of becoming good environmental citizens. This is the reason that stands behind the "Sustainable Schools Initiative" launched in 2009 by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).

Established in 1996, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) is committed to protecting and enhancing air quality, groundwater as well as the biodiversity of our desert and marine ecosystem. By partnering with other government entities, the private sector, NGOs and global environmental agencies, we embrace international best practice, innovation and hard work to institute effective policy measures. We seek to raise environmental awareness, facilitate sustainable development and ensure environmental issues remain one of the top priorities of our national agenda.

The Sustainable Schools: From Awareness to Action

The Sustainable Schools Initiative is at the core of our work to raise awareness of the massive impact of real environmental messages on school communities. Therefore, we have focussed our efforts on this initiative, which is a comprehensive action undertaken by the entire school, addressing students, teachers, parents, administrators and all members of the school community. Eventually, this initiative will link up all the participants within the community. The components of this initiative depend on interaction and participation, with teachers undertaking a guiding role by encouraging students to discover solutions on their own.

The initiative comprises four components:

The first component is the "Green Schools Audit", whereby, the students determine and check the extent of their use of natural resources in the school. Through this, they evaluate their efforts in the field of environmental management. This component, which is related with the sustainable schools, is considered one of the most ambitious programmes, since it goes beyond traditional theories and methods in calculating the resources to concrete results.

Schools registered for SSI have jointly reduced their waste by 23 per cent, reduced their water consumption by 54 per cent and have increased the number of students travelling in shared transport by 15%, thereby reducing their carbon emissions.

The second component of this initiative is "Setting up and Running Environment Clubs", which was derived from appreciation of the great impact that can be triggered by schools when they are linked to the community. Environment Clubs in the sustainable schools initiative provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities. They also serve as a forum through which the students share, along with the school staff, parents and the community surrounding the school, the environmental problems faced by the Emirate in order to work on finding them solutions, and promote the positive environmental behaviour among members of the community. In this component the schools implemented 358 internal and external projects that helped in creating concrete changes, such as introducing efficient methods of irrigation, lowering the volume of waste, reducing the consumption of electricity and water and trying to reduce air pollution.

One example of these distinguished projects is the project executed by Miriam bint Sultan School, which helped in changing the behaviours of 88 families, i.e. 878 individuals, as each family was able to cut electricity and water bills. Also, each family addressed by the students of the School's Environment Club replaced some of the household products with other environment- friendly products.

Another example of the excellence and uniqueness of schools in the environmental clubs’ projects was the project undertaken by Qatr Al Nada School on “medical waste”, which was the first of its kind in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi's schools. The goal of this project was to recycle expired and unused pharmaceutical products. The students of this school realised that people keep medicines for long times and beyond the expiration date; they may even share these medications.

Thus many awareness campaigns began for the people of the community that reached 5,200 individuals, who received information on the harms of expired medicines, and damages resulting from the lack of re-recycling them by proper means. Also, they called for pharmacies to make their clients aware of this campaign, so the results were very remarkable. The locals started to collect quantities of medical waste resulted from their homes and delivered them to the school, which undertook the responsibility to be the collection point for such type of waste in the district of Madinat Zayed city. Due to the excellence of this project, Al-Gharbia Hospital ensured the continuation of this project in the district to recycle this waste in the proper and valid ways, so as to not avoid the negative impacts on the environment.

The third component of the Sustainable Schools Initiative is "Training of Trainers", which focuses on the challenges faced by the environment teachers in order to change the behaviour and provide knowledge to a student that goes beyond teaching. Therefore, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) has organised training courses for schools, which amounted to 42 workshops for 1,201 female and male teachers. It also released educational resources in different themes and curricula, such as “The Guide” for teachers of the first, second and third grades and a series of books on biodiversity.

This component helps teachers to teach environmental concepts in innovative ways and through various educational materials. They are also able to adapt the materials to provide students with information about different habitats, biodiversity, climate change and other issues that faced by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi at the local level, and faced by the planet on a global level.

Gradually, with perseverance and continuous monitoring, the students have begun to change irresponsible behaviours and started to have signs of maintaining our environment. Also, it is noted that the way of thinking adopted by the students about their future has witnessed a dramatic change, for example a group of students chose to specialise in environmental disciplines; such as environment science, sustainable energy engineering and sustainable engineering. We hope to see these students as pioneers in the fields of their study to support sustainability.

The final component of this initiative, which is the most preferable among participants, is “Field Trips”. We recognise that schools are best able to connect their students to environment causes and issues, and identify solutions for them through the provision of field trips. Additionally, such trips can be associated with the educational curriculum as they offer direct learning method. This helps in simplify, boosting the understanding of various concepts by the students, and increasing the chance of using multiple senses such as eyesight, hearing, etc., which helps to raise their capacity to understand what they have learned. The success and engagement of schools to take on the environment field trips has been great and extensive, as so far there have been 2,002 trips with more than 91,700 students. Therefore, the traditional method usually used by schools has changed into field trips, full of amazing adventures of exploration and knowledge.

It is worth mentioning that these world-class results in ensuring sustainability are the outcome of joint efforts exerted by government, private institutions (sponsors, strategic and collaborators of the initiative) and the schools that adopted the idea, despite the difficulties and challenges. However, some educational institutions found it impossible to implement the initiative. All of those parties have contributed to reach high levels of interaction within the initiative and its various activities, and access results exceeded all expectations set by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.

The success of this initiative resonated locally and internationally, and the number of schools, willing to participate in this initiative, has increased. Therefore, registration is open for all schools to join us in our endeavour toward sustainability and better future.

To register and get more details on the initiative, you are welcome to visit our website:

www.sustainableschools.ead.ae

or send an email to

sustainableschools@ead.ae

Next Article > < Prev Article
Website Design by Traffic