Fourteen Schools of the government and private schools, which participated in the Sustainable Schools Initiative (SSI) for this academic year, have been recognised with 24 awards by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) for achieving a holistic and a sustainable outcome this academic year.
The winners were honored at the Sustainable Schools Awards Ceremony 2011-2012 organised last Wednesday by EAD at the Rocco Forte Hotel in the presence of Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Director General of Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC); Dr Jaber Al Jaberi, Deputy Secretary General of EAD and Mr. Abdulkarim Al Mazmi, General Manager and Chief Representative for BP UAE.
EAD has been implementing the Sustainable Schools Initiative (SSI) for the third consecutive year in collaboration with ADEC and with sponsorship from BP. The initiative aims to assess and address their school's environmental impacts, empower students through establishing and running eco clubs, develop teachers' capacity through training, and expose students to experiential learning through hands-on educating field trips.
Since it was launched, SSI has gained positive feedback from government and private schools in Abu Dhabi. After the pilot phase was successfully completed, the number of participating schools increased from 26 schools in 2009 to 103 schools in this academic year.
As part of the initiative, 627 teachers were targeted by EAD through 14 trainings and 2 workshops organised during this academic year to educate teachers on how to use innovative techniques while teaching environmental concepts. The training covered topics like biodiversity, water and climate change.
Through SSI, 70 schools organised 768 environmental field trips at various locations in the Emirate, in which 22,336 students were given the opportunity to experience the environment and thus understand why they need to care for nature.
Schools and students were judged on the effectiveness of their Eco Club, which provides them with a platform to reach out to their parents and the neighborhood community about environmental issues. Schools and students were also judged on how accurately they conducted green audits in their schools and much energy and water they conserved.
Teachers were judged on their implementation of innovative teaching methods, how best they applied the training methods delivered to them by EAD and how much experience students have had with nature through the outdoor field trips. A panel consisting of experts from EAD and ADEC visited each school to shortlist the finalists.
Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Director General of Abu Dhabi Education Council, said that "ADEC seeks to promote the concept of sustainable environment in Abu Dhabi schools by launching and implementing a number of environmental initiatives and programmes. This comes in line with ADEC strategy to provide students with attractive school environment that enhances their abilities and improves the educational outcomes. We are keen to ensure our schools meet the highest sustainable environmental standards in accordance with the best international and contemporary practices." "The sustainable Schools Initiative is one of the projects that support the Education Sector Environment, Health and Safety Management System requirements implemented across Abu Dhabi schools, where its activities help instill the concepts of preserving environment and rationalizing consumption. This will enable us to achieve a sustainable learning environment that would best enhance student health and safety. It will also allow students to be more responsible, aware and capable of dealing with their environmental resource challenges", added Dr. Al-Khaili.
He emphasised that this initiative helps promote team work principles and enhance community involvement among students, parents and school community to include teaching and administrative staff through the awareness campaigns, activities and projects initiated by students to achieve the goals of the Sustainable Schools Initiative.
Talking on behalf of Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of EAD, Dr Jaber Al Jaberi, said: "Through the Sustainable Schools Initiative we are seeking to reach out to students, parents, teachers, administrative staff and maintenance staff eventually linking them to the larger community. This programme not only helps reduce the school's ecological footprint but actually helps increase its ecological handprint,' which are actions towards achieving sustainability." He added: "While schools strive to encourage environmental ethics and behavior amongst the students, participating in this programme helps schools across Abu Dhabi Emirate to assess their environmental performance." He noted that "This year, the SSI awards ceremony coincides with World Environment Day, which is the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. The synergy between the World Environment Day theme, Green Economy - Does it include you? And the Sustainable Schools Initiative is unmistakable. Pursuing a path of Green Economy is expected to result in improved human well-being and social equity and at the same time significantly reduce the environmental risks and ecological scarcities that is currently being faced by our planet." Abdulkarim Al Mazmi, General Manager and Chief Representative for BP UAE, said: "Today's children are tomorrow's leaders. BP is delighted in its partnership with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi and is proud to be supporting the Sustainable Schools Initiative. SSI has succeeded in creating awareness and changing students' behavior in relation to the environment. It's an important initiative for today's generation and an inspiring contribution to Abu Dhabi's sustainable future".
About SSI in 2011-2012: 75 schools measured their ecological footprint via the Green School Audit, 88 schools set up an active Eco Club to generate awareness within their school and their community, 627 teachers were trained by EAD through 14 trainings and 2 workshops, 70 schools took over 22,336 students on 770 field trips, 4 students from 4 different SSI schools participated in the Asia- Pacific UNEP - TUNZA Children and Youth Conference 2012, where they worked with other students to help form a charter of recommendations for Rio +20 - the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) to be held in Brazil in June 2012.
EAD has taken several steps to ensure the awards ceremony was as sustainable as possible: sustainable Menu - All ingredients are locally sourced. The fish included in the menu has been carefully selected to ensure that it is a local species which is not endangered. All the waste from the event will be segregated and sent to recycling. The food waste will be sent to an organic waste landfill. There will be no water served in plastic bottles. No tissue paper will be placed at the event. Reusable table cloths, napkins and towels will be used for the ceremony. Trophies made out of lead free crystal and produced in UAE hence reducing the carbon footprint from imports. Only 10 per cent of electricity has been used to light up the ballroom where the event was held by using LED technology. The high resolution ( HD) visuals used on stage had been achieved by reducing 50% of the total energy consumption using special technology. Reusable structures and environmentally friendly ink have been used for the branding. Advanced high definition DLP video projection technology used for panoramic video backdrop results in reduced video power consumption '&' eliminates the use of conventional use and throw printed backdrops. The events team has ensured that communication is mostly via email and telephone. Meetings were restricted to a bare minimum to reduce the carbon emissions as far as possible. Guest will be encouraged to take the stairs to the ballroom instead of the elevator. And the Agency has initiated a process to offset the carbon emission incurred during the process of evaluation and event management.