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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Teachers become messengers for change on UAE Environment Day

More environmental awareness is needed across the board, experts said

Peter Milne, founder and director of Target4Green, hosts a teacher’s workshop on Education for Sustainable Development at Jumeirah Baccalaureate School Dubai. Navin Khianey for The National
Peter Milne, founder and director of Target4Green, hosts a teacher’s workshop on Education for Sustainable Development at Jumeirah Baccalaureate School Dubai. Navin Khianey for The National

From recycling plastic bottles to growing food sustainably, teachers from across the country became the students on Sunday – UAE Environment Day - to learn about sustainable development.

The workshop, held by Target4Green Educational Consultancy and Training at Jumeirah Baccalaureate School, taught participants about environmental stressors, their impact on humanity and the school environment and United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The programme has been really useful,” said Gemma Sykes, a science teacher from Repton School in Dubai. “What’s really important about these events is the networking opportunities that you get, the discussion generated from them and the ideas you get from them.”

Ms Sykes, who heads her school’s recently established eco-committee, said children were the driving force behind change.

“We’ve just launched our recycling initiative,” she said. “But there is still a lot that needs to be done, like changing everyone’s mind-set because then it becomes a habit for people.

“Children are now teaching their parents and the message is coming from them - they asked for the eco-committee so it’s an eye-opener.”

Brijeethamma Joseph, who teaches physics and chemistry to years 8 to 10 at New Indian Model school in Dubai, said the school aims to foster a sense of environmental responsibility by engaging pupils in projects as much as possible.

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“We have a garden in the school where we grow organic food and different projects,” she said. “They make their own manure and we’re trying to start a recycling facility for plastic bottles. We need to start giving awareness among children from KG upwards.”

The workshop was also a platform for teachers to learn from one and other.

“It’s been very interesting,” said Jincy Poulose, a physics teacher from the Elite English School. “Some of the teachers here are incorporating the SDGs in their lessons so I will start doing that too from now on. I will concentrate more on clean energy because so much can be generated from it.”

She said passion was a vital aspect of teaching.

“The teachers should be aware of the SDGs and be passionate about it to be able to pass it on for the children,” she said.

“I am passionate about the environment, I know I can’t change the entire world but I can start by changing what I can here by giving some morals to my students and even my colleagues and friends.

“It’s important to get children involved because giving nutrients to a big tree doesn’t help that much but if you give nutrients to a sapling, it will grow.”

One of the greater challenges is to increase participation from teachers. Only four of the thirteen teachers registered for the course actually attended on Sunday.

“What does this say?” said Peter Milne, founder and director of Target4Green.

“I worked here for 10 years on this and I’ve seen a lot of progress. The education aspect is critical and maybe that’s not quite being prioritised as much. Some schools don’t even know what the SDGs are.”

He said while many are passionate about the topic, they feel a lot of frustration.

“There’s so much pressure on them and it’s about prioritising,” he said. “The idea was to bring teachers together to share ideas, from them and my own experiences as a teacher, environmental co-ordinator and environmental education consultant, to share good practice and give them lots of ideas that they can engage within their own schools.”

The workshop discussed teachers’ challenges and gave advice on how to engage more with pupils. “We look at ways to link the curriculum more so that more teachers are involved within the school,” Mr Milne said. “And we’re also looking at organisations out there that can support them further by coming into schools and engage with pupils more so it’s a chance to connect.”

He said children needed to be educated about the environment from as young as three years old in a way that best appealed to them.

“We talk to them about the impact of waste on camels and turtles, plastic bags and children that age get it and they want a solution. That message has to come from the them and they have to feel empowered while teachers themselves have to feel motivated and that comes from understanding the support.”