DUBAI // What happens to rubbish after it is thrown in the bin? What is sustainability? And why do some people kill endangered animals such as sharks and rhinos?
These were a few of the questions pupils at the American Academy in Al Mizhar put to green-living expert Peter Milne at an eco-awareness day.
The event on Tuesday was part of a year-long initiative to highlight sustainability, conservation and recycling issues for youngsters and their parents, and improve the school’s environmental performance.
“We have always been interested in the environment and how to save energy in some way,” principal Delice Scotto said. “I wanted there to be a school-wide focus.”
The academy, which teaches almost 700 children from kindergarten to Grade 12, already had impressive green credentials.
A recycling programme has been running for the past five years, while measures to save energy and water have also been adopted.
But when the school was awarded Dh10,000 last year in a competition by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Ms Scotto used some of it to enlist Mr Milne, who taught at Raffles International School before setting up an environment education consultancy.
He advocates an approach to green issues in which ideas are integrated into the entire curriculum, going beyond traditional subjects such as science and geography.
“Maths, social studies and even language classes can be designed so as to touch on green subjects,” Mr Milne said.
He told younger pupils about the issue of environmental wants compared with environmental needs, while older students were asked to write a poem about endangered species.
Students in a Grade 5 science class were given a brief presentation on sustainability and asked to come up with their own ideas about the best ways to handle waste.
“It was fun getting lots of ideas about recycling,” said Nour El Basyouny, 10.
Her classmate Farah Sunnoqrot had several ideas, including a suggestion for more recycling bins at school.
Last month Mr Milne organised a workshop for 70 members of staff to explain his approach.
He said one important way to get teachers onboard was to raise their awareness of green issues and show that fitting them into the curriculum would not mean adding work to their busy schedules.
“There is a way for teachers to teach the necessary concepts, but using environmental issues as a way to do that,” said Mr Milne.
He also toured the school and met students who were active in environmental programmes to help them come up with a list of suggestions on how the school could do even more.
“Generally, the school is very forward-thinking and open minded about the challenges ahead,” Mr Milne said.
He is working with several other schools in the emirate and Sharjah.