In honor of World Water Day 2010 FoEME coordinated a field trip for Palestinian kids to find out about water issues and their environment on location. Arriving in Auja from different corners of the West Bank, eight Palestinian youth groups and their teachers joined to learn about their respective communities, water conservation strategies, environmental hazard identification and take a nature walk down Wadi Qelt.
After various traffic and checkpoint delays, students and teachers from Bethlehem- Wadi Fukin, Yatta, Tulkarem, Jalameh-Jenin, Baqa Sharqia (East), Jericho, Auja, and Ein Al Beida piled out of buses at the Friends of the Earth – Middle East Jordan Rift Valley Centre for Environmental Education and Ecotourism Development. Following greetings, snacks and introductions, we got down to work. First, each group introduced their community and regional environmental issues. Older students, who will act as community environmental representatives in the future, were introduced to GIS software, environmental hazard identification and how to use hand-held GPS units. For the final presentation, kids from Wadi Fukin donned traditional Palestinian clothes and performed a small play about domestic water conservation, highlighting strategies to reduce household water consumption.
Bright and early Friday morning everyone rose, ate breakfast and hopped on buses for the Wadi Qelt trailhead. After we descended the steep switch-backs to Saint Georges Monastery, Iyad Aburdeneieh and Banan Sheikh (a well-known regional botanist from Nablus) described the valley’s formation, ecology and current hydrological status. We then trekked three hours along the side of the rock face to Jericho, enjoying the warm weather and fantastic scenery along the way.
Just outside of Jericho, we stopped by a solid waste site to put into practice what was learned the night before. The students identified, classified, and rated the severity of the waste dump; infrastructural waste, due to construction, medium severity. Then they reviewed how to take the position using a hand-held GPS device. The students proved to be quick learners and were eager to test their GPS skills.
As we continued into the city proper, ominous grey clouds begin to fill the sky and a few minutes later everyone took cover from the downpour. When the sky cleared we all sat down to lunch at Jericho’s Spanish Park, with cotton candy and bumper cars for desert. Unfortunately, the day was cut short due to continued (and impressive!) showers. Bad for us but good for the Jordan Valley’s ground water supplies, local agriculture, and, of course, the Jordan River itself.
Soaked but smiling, everyone said goodbye and got back onto the buses for our different towns. It was inspiring to see the kids out and enjoying themselves in Auja. Hopefully events like this one will help foster a connection with and enjoyment of their natural surroundings – a foundation for the next generation of environmentally conscious citizens in Palestine.
Related posts on FoEME’s youth activities:
Jordan Valley Youth Leaderships Learn about Jordan River Woes
FoEME’s CGIS Teenagers Take Responsibility for their Shared Environment
This post was written by FoEME intern Julian Baker. Julian is based in FoEME’s Bethlehem office.