Teachers and educators can play an amazing role when it comes to the transmission of values and environmental awareness to the youth: they plant the seeds to create the leaders of tomorrow. As expressed in FoEME’s education position paper for youth, who are in a critical stage of forming their identities and finding their place within their communities, experiential learning of social-environmental issues is a way to approach the greatest challenges. FoEME approaches challenges not as an irreversible and discouraging reality, but as an opportunity for improvement and change; an opening for constructive dialogue and cooperation with the neighboring community on the other side of the border that is dealing with the same problem.
From 15-17 July 2012, FoEME hosted a teacher’s seminar in Amman to launch a new curriculum designed to raise cross-border environmental and water awareness. Teachers and school principals from municipalities participating in FoEME’s Good Water Neighbors (GWN) community program in Jordan, Palestine, and Israel attended the three days meeting, along with FoEME field staff from these communities. The seminar focused on the new environmental education curriculum, which aims to advance awareness through critical thinking. The curriculum, initially developed by FoEME’s GWN Education Coordinators from the three offices (Amman, Tel Aviv and Bethlehem), offers specially designed activities for students, on themes such as transboundary water basins, water as a human right, water in culture, water footprints and pollution. Through the activities, the goal is to provide students with hands on field research opportunities and advocacy tools, and to develop a cross border understanding of water issues.
Participants gathered on Sunday afternoon for an opening ceremony held by the three regional directors of FoEME, Munqeth Mehyar (Jordan), Nader Al Khateeb (Palestine) and Gidon Bromberg (Israel). Presentation of the workshop topics and ice-breaking activities followed, and the whole group left to Madaba for a lively and entertaining dinner: a warm opening to get to more serious on the topics the following days.
The workshop covered some of the key cross-border water issues, discussing questions such as: What is water justice? What is a need, what is a “right”? What place does water have in our history, in our culture? How important is water in our ecosystems? Teachers and principals worked in small, mixed groups that changed throughout the workshop, to facilitate the exchange of ideas, with a FoEME staff member functioning as facilitator. Participants greatly enjoyed this opportunity to get to know each other a bit more, through the exchange of their personal stories, culture and knowledge. They highlighted how important this joint experience was: “I want to have many more joint [opportunities] to teach, educate, and make an impact. This is an incredibly impressive model for good neighborly relations and for such important environmental awareness”. They described it as a powerful experience, and emphasized that there was a great atmosphere at the conference.
Not only was the meeting a successful opportunity to advance environmental awareness, but as one teacher said, it also carried “huge hope – the understanding that we are moving forward and succeeding, and the understanding of the true power of optimism that is derived from joint work”. It has planted the seeds of a regional network of environmental educators, and the attendants left the seminar calling for more meetings of this kind, with work in small mixed groups that “deepen the social acquaintance between the different groups”. A Jordanian Member of Parliament, closing the workshop session, expressed how impressed he was by the project and strongly affirmed FoEME’s message about the necessity of transboundary cooperation in resolving shared water challenges.
All in all, the event was fruitful and very well received by the teachers and school principals who seemed eager and optimistic to return to their schools and start using the new curriculum material in the upcoming pilot year! FoEME thanks everyone who made this event possible, and looks forward to hosting many more water events to raise awareness, and spread good practices.
This blog was written by FoEME interns Lidwien Wijchers and Amélie Joseph. Lidwien is based in the Amman office and Amélie is in the Tel Aviv office.