The purpose of this program was to introduce students to some of the main components when speaking about environmental sustainability. We had a focus for every day of the week and we tackled each of them through workshops, hands on activities, discussions and field trips. We even ended the week with projects which the students presented to school administration!
We started off the week with the hot topic of “air”. As this is one of the most obvious problems in a city and one that cuts across all the other topics serving as a great introduction for the week.
The day started with the students arriving at Goumbook’s Ghaf Tree nursery at Al Barari Compound in Dubai. Before even beginning, the students already felt refreshed as they were surrounded by greenery and beautiful weather.
We started off with introductions after which the discussion brushed over air pollution and that tree planting is one of the best ways to purify the air and balance out our carbon emissions. We were to get into details after the first activity which was led by Tatiana, founder of Goumbook. She explained the special status of the Ghaf tree, which not only purifies air and fights desertification but that it also provides a habitat for many species and hence an entire ecosystem actually depends on this drought tolerant tree. That allowed us to brush over the topic of biodiversity and caring for indigenous flora and fauna. This discussion was followed by the planting of 2 Ghaf tree seeds per student. The planted seeds then remain in the nursery for care and once they are ready, Goumbook plants them in allotted areas around the UAE.
After the students were done with planting their seeds and a short break, we returned to the main topic of the day- this time to get into deeper debates.
We started off with a True and False game with 2 teams which involved lots of shocking facts about the state of the environment. This game sparked an emotional reaction and a conversation on what we could do as individuals such as reduce our consumption of disposable plastic. We followed this by a carbon footprint test to learn more about individual impact which once again gave shocking results especially in the transportation and food sections which led the students to agree to using less energy by changing our modes of transportation, living in smaller houses and to reduce their meat consumption which has a very high water footprint and releases a lot of greenhouse gases into the environment. Greenhouse gases, where they come from and their effect were explained through a colorful image after which another activity took place, creating take home “vertical gardens”. These vertical gardens reuse plastic bottles and turn them into pots for plants that are attached vertically to one another to allow for a drip irrigation system to the plants. The students selected the seeds they planted based on the vegetables and herbs they liked and took their gardens home with them.
We wanted to get into permaculture and companion planting, but the conversations were very rich, so we left those out for a future workshop.