From September 7-9, teachers and environmental activists from Israel, Jordan, and Palestine came together at EcoPeace’s SHE Park for the 5th Regional Teachers Conference. This regional conference was designed to create a platform for teachers to connect across borders, to celebrate the work they are doing, and to learn best practices for incorporating environmental education into the curriculum. By bringing together education professionals interested in learning more from their peers and colleagues, the conference supports leaders for the next generation.
The seminars throughout the weekend helped construct a framework for regional water education and classroom strategies for approaching the topic of food and water security. Underlying all of the seminars was the assertion that there is a need for water diplomacy between Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. The Education Manager of the Tel Aviv Office commenced the seminars with a discussion of the “Four Principles for Regional Water Education,” which aim to prove that water goes beyond borders by characterizing the seminar participants by the nearest water basin (such as Yarkon, Jordan River, etc.) rather than by their nationality. This concept is called “regional thinking,” and is used to remove the political borders that are automatically set up when someone says they are from Jordan, Palestine or Israel, and to prove that water really does move “along, across, and under political borders.” These seminars provided teachers the opportunity to learn how to use environmental education as a tool towards cooperative stewardship.
In a discussion with a geography teacher from Arava, she highlighted the challenging nature of undertaking these discussions but emphasized that her students illustrated willingness to embrace studying environmentalism through a regional lens. She also described her intention to take an interdisciplinary approach when she returned to the classroom, and had plans to enlist fellow teachers in the chemistry, physics, and history departments to develop a lesson plan around the irrigation system of Masada in order to show the many ways to approach environmental education. Another teacher, from the Alexander/Zomer basin, said during the conference, “As a leader and as a teacher, you can identify the strength of each student, and when everyone or each of us will find our strengths, we can promote the goal of sustainability.” These teachers, and the others in attendance, illustrate the ability educators have to promote environmentalism in the context of the classroom.
From Tamara’s personal perspective as a recent graduate from EMIS, a school with a mission to “make peace and sustainability in the Middle East,” it was particularly impactful to see teachers sitting and listening as if they were students, willing to change a student’s life as well as change their surroundings. On the other hand, Sarah, coming from the perspective of a young professional, felt it was powerful to see the opportunities provided for professional development by EcoPeace, and to see teachers’ willingness to participate in challenging discussions and develop strategies for successful implementation at home. Attending this conference highlighted the importance of EcoPeace’s work towards developing a network of grassroots activists who are dedicated not only to becoming leaders in their field, but also to educating the next generation of environmental stewards.
written by: Tamara Kanner (Tel-Aviv Office Intern) and Sarah Huckins (Amman Office Intern).