Teachers are the conduits of knowledge. They interact with and serve as role models for youth during some of the most formative years of their students’ lives. Teachers have the ability to instill a sense of environmental stewardship and responsibility within their students. This is why it is essential that they be included in efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage.
From 26th – 28th July 2016, the fourth annual EcoPeace Regional Teacher Seminar brought together teachers from Jordan, Israel, and Palestine to learn about current shared water issues in the three countries as well as collaborate and learn from each other. Hosted in the beautiful Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan, the seminar provided teachers with a place to strategize how they would strengthen environmental education in their communities. Over the three day seminar, EcoPeace experts shared their knowledge on hot button issues such as the Red Sea Dead Sea Canal, the water situation in Gaza and the Water-Energy Nexus, biodiversity, and the Jordan River.
Participants were assigned to their initial working groups based on river basins. They began the seminar discussing their personal connections to water, be it playing in the stream during their childhood or experiencing water shortages at home. The more the teachers shared, the more they discovered shared experiences and common concerns around water.
During the study group sessions, participants analyzed complex situations and identified benefits for transboundary water cooperation. This analysis allowed the teachers to identify stages of cooperation between parties as well as how increased cooperation would benefit the economy, human well-being, environmental sustainability, and political stability of the countries involved.
In one session, participants identified key water issues facing Gaza. They discussed how today, 90% of the water from the Coastal Aquifer, which Gaza relies on for most of its supply, is undrinkable without proper treatment. Teachers spoke about the rising levels of salinity in the drinking water, further compounded by pollution and nitrate runoff from sewage and irrigated farmland. The participants divided into two groups and role-played the two sides of the Gaza water debate. The group then collectively agreed upon four main recommendations towards transboundary water cooperation.
This momentum for collective analysis continued throughout the seminar. Teachers from Jordan, Israel, and Palestine enthusiastically collaborated to make strategies for strengthening environmental education. Each participant brought a unique perspective to the table, which when combined with the thoughts of others, helped to develop effective plans and solutions.
Towards the end of the seminar, some participants went out of their way to express what they enjoyed about the event. EcoPeace’s Community Coordinator from the Jordan Valley, Adam Waddell, said that the seminar was, “one of the highlights of the year” and “was especially impressive considering the caliber of educators present and equally rewarding to be part of a dialogue that will impact our youth and the future of our communities.”
EcoPeace’s Community Coordinator in Deir Alla, Jordan, Baker Hasan Barakat, commented that he “liked what was done” and that “the arrangements and the logistics were excellent. He noted that he has talked to other participants and they have “all given back positive comments” about the seminar.
Baker Hasan’s counterpart in Palestine Mahmud Dreat also commented: “ I met so many great people who are really passionate about the environment and committed to solve the environmental challenges our region is currently facing especially in relation to water scarcity and fair distribution of water”
Throughout the three-day seminar, teachers collaborated in order to strengthen environmental education in their home municipalities. They learned not only about current water issues in the three countries from the EcoPeace experts, but also about innovative solutions from each other. In this way, the Teacher Seminar reinforced the message that local communities are themselves a part of the solutions to some of the region’s most challenging environmental problems.
This regional seminar creates dividends for environmental education. Teachers take back what they learned to their students, who will, in turn, share it with their parents and grandparents, who will share the information with their neighbors. In this way, a discussion that began at the EcoPark spreads within and between communities to transform how people think about the environment and their relationship to it.
EcoPeace and the author of this blog Ms. Sarah Dahnke wish all teachers and students a good school year