Qatar Foundation is keen to raise awareness of sustainability across its schools by instilling a sustainable mindset for its students starting from the young change-makers to help them grow up to be environmentally responsible citizens of tomorrow.
In this context, Pre-University Education at Qatar Foundation has launched a couple of initiatives to help students understand sustainability and change their habits in order to raise their responsibility towards their environment.
Qatar Academy Doha (QAD) is one of the Middle East’s premier educational institutions of 1,860 students whose vision is empowering students to achieve high levels of academic growth and personal wellbeing, be responsible citizens who are locally rooted and globally connected and demonstrate their environmental consciousness. As a premier education institution, QAD leads through understanding sustainability responsibilities deeply for a better change while committing to active engagements that will have the most impact to lead a sustainable life.
QAD has adopted many creative sustainability initiatives for its students, such as “Green Tower Garden initiative” which is an aeroponic garden system that allows students to grow their own products without the learning curve or time commitment of traditional gardening with less hassle and cleanup.
It’s the same technology that Nasa uses. Tower Garden grows plants with only water and nutrients rather than dirt. Research has found that aeroponic systems grow plants three times faster and produce 30% greater yields on average.
“At school, we work together to protect the environment. It’s what we do,” says Jude, Grade 5 QAD student.
“We are rethinking how we teach our students; we model and share our challenges and choices that help foster a sustainable mindset,” says Lori, Grade 4 teacher.
Elizabeth Kennedy, Wellbeing Facilitator at QAD spoke about the academy’s sustainability strategy. She said: “Stemming from our strategy “SHIFTING MINDSETS for a SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE”, we are committed to empower change-makers, cultivate, and foster a sustainable mindset. At QAD, we explicitly teach sustainability during the early years programme up till year 5 thus building knowledge and fostering the development of healthy, sustainable habits.
“Our approach has been simple; we model, inquire, foster knowledge, and support our students to find their passion and lead by example. Through fostering students’ passion outside the classroom, it is our hope that through our dynamic approach to sustainability our students will find multiple pathways to develop their awareness and confidence to be the change-makers our world needs.
Activists in Action
“We chose to allow every area of our school community, every age, every stakeholder and every grade level to work together to develop a culture and awareness around sustainability and make it their own. Our initiatives, students’ passions have been invested in, not only in their academic programmes but through adopting an innovative “outside of the box” thinking mindset to rethink their habits to be more sustainable. This has enabled students to think critically as problem-solvers and lead the way forward with their ideas. Each adventure is monitored and reviewed with the aim of making long-term changes and a difference to the environment and therefore people’s lives.”
Commenting on the “Green Tower Garden initiative”, she said: “One of the ways where we have successfully woven sustainability into both English and Arabic curriculum is through using aspects of the Green Bronx Machine Classroom Curriculum. The Green Tower is a vertical garden which uses modern growing technology to support vertical gardening.
QAD plastic bags campaign
“Such initiative is part of the Virtual Sustainability Exchange collaboration fostered by Qatar Foundation International (QFI) where a group of students in QAD attend virtual exchanges with schools in the US, to understand more about healthy growing and eating practices. As we share the same space on our planet, and we all have to live together, it is important for the students to understand the universal connection through food, as well as use the exchanges to nurture empathy.”
She added: “Last year was our first year launching this curriculum with a group of Grade 5 student leaders. Our Arabic team were impressed with the Green Bronx Machine curriculum and wove this into our current sustainability teaching and learning practices. We are excited to continue working on extending this programme and provide unique hands-on experience for our students to flourish.
“Currently QAD has six Tower Gardens that we are ready to seed with our students shortly. The garden towers cultivate a sustainable mindset which empowers our students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers creating continuum of impactful sustainable change across our environment.”
Speaking about the impact of such projects into students, Elizabeth said: “Learning outcomes have sparked more students’ interest and passion to learn and explore about gardening and sustainable growing as it is connected to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students are thrilled to start the next virtual exchange this year and connect with our fellow global citizens in New York to discuss and learn with and from each other. In line with our community to foster a ‘learning community beyond classroom’, students learn, share and grow allowing them to develop behavioral habits and be empowered to engage in environmental leadership roles and advocate for change.”
She added: “QAD is an IB PYP/MYP/DP World School whose mission encourages academic excellence and responsible local and global citizens. As an inquiry-based school, we learn and lead through active engagement of our passions, our questions, and our principles. Initiatives like the Tower Gardens have a great impact in supporting our commitment to fostering a sustainable mindset for an authentic sustainable life. As our students engage in such initiative, they experiment, explore their own environment hence embracing sustainable behavioural changes”.
Grade 5 student leaders at QAD, called Activists in Action, have launched a campaign to ban plastic bags in Qatar, which is aimed to raise awareness about the dangers of single-use plastics, particularly plastic bags to the environment. The students covered the school’s walls and floors using plastic bags and plastic bottles collected by students, parents, and teachers, to illustrate the amount of plastic waste that society creates.
The students also hope to collect 10,000 names on a petition to be presented to Qatar’s leadership, calling for the country to join in the global effort to reduce single-use plastic waste.
“I am so excited to be a part of Activist in Action, we have been working for months and plan to ban plastic bags in Qatar. We are going to do it,” says Khalid, Grade 5 QAD student.
QAD also participated in “Echo Schools – Beach Clean-up” campaign which was aimed at creating greater community awareness about the need to protect and preserve the natural environment and keep the marine habitat safe and trash-free.
Explaining the sustainability integration to PUE Schools curriculum, Cynthia Bolton, Manager of Learning 365 at QF’s PUE, said: “At PUE we believe behavioural changes happen when students are given opportunities to explore their passion areas and express themselves. Through the new PUE department, Learning 365, students are provided with niche, high impact opportunities that develop talents and fosters passions. Learning 365 provides out of school opportunities through local programs, workshops and international opportunities that are not confined to the school day.”
In her opinion about the urgency towards Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Cynthia said: “Qatar has always been a strong believer that education for sustainable development is education for a bright future for everyone in every time and place, hence Qatar have undertaken several initiatives to achieve such goals. At PUE we actively promote sustainability by including initiatives in our annual plan that encourage schools to think sustainability in everything they do and cultivate a sustainable mindset among students.
“Qatar Academy Doha Primary and Qatar Leadership Academy have been awarded the Eco-Schools Green Flag by Qatar Green Building Council – making them the first Qatar Foundation schools to be recognised by such initiative. By achieving the Green Flag, schools need to demonstrate a commitment to an environmental action plan that is infused in the curriculum of the school. PUE has provided schools with 50 hydroponic tower gardens as part of our ongoing partnership with Qatar Foundation International. QFI generously supports our schools by providing curriculum in English and Arabic and the mechanism for the global virtual exchange programme.”
In the framework of PUE’s motivation to educators to integrate sustainable development into their teaching methodologies Cynthia said: “QF Schools are inspiring students to explore sustainability and facets of the environment, and extend their ideas beyond the classroom. PUE encourages schools and educators to become more environmentally conscious through many methods. Our PUE sustainability goals encourage schools to be recognised as Green Flag schools through the Qatar Green Building Council, utilise locally- grown products at the school canteen and participate in programmes such as the Tower Garden project through Qatar Foundation International. Our schools include sustainability projects and initiatives from pre-school through high school. Teachers are encouraged to participate in QFI’s programmes that support teacher’s development with sustainability in the classroom.
“Through the IB Primary Years Programme used in most of our elementary schools, the curriculum framework promotes concepts that easily link to sustainability efforts, for example, the concepts of sharing the planet, how we express ourselves and who we are can be easily adapted to infuse environmental awareness concepts throughout the primary school grades. At the end of Grade 5 and again in Grade 10, students participate in a yearlong action research project that has personal significance.
“Over the past few years, and due to the great efforts of our teachers, students are frequently focusing their research on environmental awareness topics. These topics have included primary school students calling for a ban of plastic bags in Qatar to older students formalising a solution to the asphalt waste found on the side of the roads.
“QAD Primary students launched the Activists in Action campaign to raise awareness about the environmental impact of single-use plastic bags, and aims to collect 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for such bags to be banned in Qatar, which will then be presented to Qatar’s leadership. It has already been signed by more than 7,300 people.”
She added: “All of the programmes within the Gifted Enrichment Programme under Learning 365 are delivered with sustainable efforts in mind. Teachers are encouraged to discuss sustainability as a key part of projects and utilise recycled materials whenever possible. Over the summer in the science course students used recycled materials to create a toy that demonstrated principles of simple machines. We hope to partner with local organidations to activate sustainable education through action in the near future. We are currently considering various action projects that will support our students’ passions and provide a platform for continued action research”.
Qatar Academy Doha was the first school to be founded by Qatar Foundation in 1996 and this year it’s celebrating the first quarter century. QAD is an International Baccalaureate World School accredited by the New England Association of Schools and colleges and the council of international schools. The school offers academic excellence through Primary, Middle Year and IB Diploma programmes based on the principle that education involves the development of a student’s cognitive, physical, social, moral and affective capabilities.
Source: Gulf Times