Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Zayed Sustainability Prize School Profile: Behind the Scenes




When, a month or so ago, we were informed that ASD was a finalist for the Zayed Sustainability Prize it was a bit of a turning point in our sustainability story. What had begun years ago as a project by a club called Gaia and parental initiatives leading to recycling bins inside classrooms, had slowly grown into the establishment of the Sustainability Action Team, the Sustainability Committee, the creation of an ASD Sustainability Statement, sustainability best practices and, this year, the establishment of a student-facilitated Eco-Schools Advisory Board. Along the same lines we have established partnerships with the Green Schools Alliance and, now, Eco-Schools UAE. 

But as our work garners attention outside our school so too does our connection to external factors and influences. Case in point, a film crew was sent to visit ASD over the past couple days to capture the voice of student leaders (referred to as "sustainability ambassadors") and to highlight all the wonderful things we do here. Three recurring themes kept coming up:
  1. That our work is geared toward empowering our students to make positive change in their community
  2. That our current sustainability-based programs revolve around the idea of cyclical relationships (such as the journey of food-compost-garden-plants-kitchen-consumption-food)
  3. That if we are awarded the Prize it will allow our sustainability impact to be larger than ourselves, our students or even our community. In short, sustainability is a great way to bring the school community together with the wider community. 
The third theme, in particular, is perhaps a nice segway to our proposed use of the Prize money, which is also subdivided into three elements:
  1. An industrial composter to eliminate post-consumer food waste and landscaping waste which, instead of being sent to landfill, can now be reused within our campus,
  2. A beehive to support pollinators in the UAE, and to support the study of biodiversity, life cycles, sustainable business, etc. 
  3. A sustainable data dashboard with real-time data related to school energy, water, paper and waste. 
The film crew roamed the campus interviewing students, filming spaces such as the garden, students preparing food in the kitchen, the Workers Appreciation Dinner (highlighted in the previous post), student meetings focusing on the benefits and placement of an industrial composter and/or a beehive, sustainability education, the Global Goals, etc. It was a great learning experience for us all, to be sure. 

On January 14 will know if we are the fortunate recipients of this award and will, in this way, support the goals of the UAE in reducing waste and becoming more sustainable. But even if we are not, we will have a wonderful short video focusing on our sustainability story to share with the world!  


Monday, December 10, 2018

Appreciating our External Workers (Night Shift)




 

So say you're a student who wants to show appreciation for the working staff at our school. You walk into the Office of Service Learning and announce that you'd like to do something for our external working staff, just like Sakina Asghar did last April. Her interest in being involved in this segment of the community was deeply rooted in her wanting to show her appreciation personally for the work that takes place behind the scenes each day around our campus. In her mind this seemed simple enough. 

But wait... in truth ASD does a number of things to show support and appreciation to our external staff (and to our ASD faculty and staff too!), so how about we identify a segment of the population that might typically not benefit from appreciation events? Subsequent conversation and analysis led to the realization that the night shift is often either overlooked or just difficult to work into the schedule of students. And so it was the idea of an appreciation meal for the night shift was born. 

Sakina waited several months to ensure that the timing of her plan coincided with the annual Workers Appreciation events. On the evening of December 9th, with the support of members of HS Sustain Our World and SEENAH, the group of student volunteers congregated in the ES cafeteria to cook samozas, decorate the space, set up the tables for the first-of-its-kind appreciation dinner for our night staff! It was a wonderful evening of good food and interaction!  Most importantly, it was an opportunity for our students to extend themselves (in terms of both time and experience) in bridging gaps that so naturally exist. Thank you to one and all! The appreciation goes both ways!

Appreciating our External Workers (Day Shift)






For some, the External Workers Appreciation events are the highlights of the year. For a few days in December our working crews are given a chance to truly engage with our students, particularly in the Middle School. The overall program includes a Middle School advisory visit (focusing largely in community building and getting to know each other), a meal for the working staff and activities during the Middle School lunch time. Overall, close to 180 external workers (and some ASD staff members as well!) participate in the events planned. 

From the student side it is a collaborative project ranging in involvement from the Grade 3 students (filling out and decorating the "thank you" cards as part of their 'community' theme for service learning), National Junior Honor Society members, MS Ambassadors and SEENAH (who designed the "thank you" cards this year). If one was to add to that the faculty support, facilitation and planning that goes on to support. 

The true value of this event is the authentic, and fun, interaction between the many members of our community. How wonderful to see the laughter, the friendly competition and the overall positive vibes in the classrooms, the cafeteria and across the fields!

Monday, November 19, 2018

INSPIRE in Dubai... A Student Reflection




INSPIRE is always a time for students such as myself to go on crazy adventures, help a community out, or just get some time to work on school. For my INSPIRE I stayed in Dubai for the Academic Workshop and it has become one of the top trips of my life so far. Just because I didn't travel doesn't mean I didn't have the best time. For three days of the trip, I went to volunteer at a special needs school for UAE students. These three days volunteering there were the best three days out of the whole week. And I went kayaking next to the mangroves one day so it's not the only amazing thing that happened. The volunteering was the best experience to enhance my patience and fast thinking that I could ask for. 

The exercises offered to the students varied from a yoga class with a majority of 3-8 students at once. The yoga consisted of the students trying to follow the instructor and me (in my case of being a volunteer) they would watch us with wide dough eyes waiting for their next instruction. These kids ages varied from 10-18 and a minority were 20-30 years old. I think the exercises during the yoga classes were relatively the same for all age groups because the class was not separated into ages but into levels of how well the students could focus, from what I gathered. Other classes were also offered throughout the day like arts & crafts where the volunteers helped the students focus on each art task separately and do their best, for most out the job was to simply observe and make sure everything stays under control and clean. We had academics class which was more of a time for students to individually work on their journal which would have had prompts (writing numbers, letters, words or practicing handwriting) or it would be a class of 5-6 students with one volunteer and one supervisor. In my experience, I would ask them questions like a teacher doing a review on Asian countries because that's what they were learning at that time. I have to say I have never met a group of kids more determined to do well in school or work hard then them. It really made me think and notice that even if each one had a mental illness of their own, it really didn't change the fact that they were the best group of students I have seen in a while. 

The kids really an amazing group of kids, they were so talented and had the potential to do great things. It never felt like we (the volunteers) were treated any differently than them which was so amazing to see. The teachers and supervisors were also the most amazing adults, they not only made me feel welcomed but gave me a job to do during most of the day. I could tell it was different for them to have someone unknown to intervene in their daily lives and schedules, however, I think after the first ‘icebreaker’ day, the atmosphere was much better. The other volunteers and I worked so hard during the whole process to make sure their learning with us went well, and it did. Since we were three volunteers (including me) I do think we could have been lacking help however it really didn't feel that way. I think that if there were a lot of people at once it would have changed the atmosphere and environment from calm and safe to chaotic and loud. Another volunteer and I are thinking of going again during our winter break because we really developed a friendship and kind of motherly care for them. I really think it is an amazing opportunity for those who are willing to be patient with the kids and learn about themselves and the rest of the world that most of us don't see as often. I also highly advise that it be an available option for really any student in any grade during classes and field trips. Or really if anyone is willing to take time when they are free it would help so much.

Written by 
Jacklin Al Shami
Grade 9 Student 

(Dubai-based INSPIRE participant 2018-19)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Collaborating for the SDGs!



At ASD we're always looking for ways that our students can engage meaningfully with issues of importance, both locally and globally. One of our community partnerships is our membership in the Emirates Environmental Group and, as an extension of that we are invited to participate in the annual EEG Workshop, typically focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year the workshops took place on November 5-6 and ASD participated in the junior and sub-senior workshops. 

We were ably represented by members of ES Roots & Shoots and the MS Global Issues Network. Our student leader representatives participated in a number of activities aimed at addressing the four elements - fire (energy), water, land (food production and consumption) and air (greenhouse gases) - figuratively and literally. 

The workshop is organized in such a way that no two students from one school are placed together in a working group. As such there is ample opportunity for our students to engage with students from around the UAE to discuss, deliberate, brainstorm and identify solutions related to these global issues!  All in all the workshops were a success and our students returned with a deeper understanding of the SDGs and practical ideas on how to best engage other students at ASD in similar conversations. Super!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

ASD a Zayed Sustainability Prize Finalist!


Last week we were delighted to receive news that ASD has been chosen as a finalist (Global High School Category, MENA region) of the highly prestigious, international Zayed Sustainability Prize!  This annual Prize is awarded at the opening ceremony that kicks off Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (January 14, 2019). It is a highly completitive award with over 1,700 applications in a number of categories. We are delighted to be mentioned among the finalists in the categories of Health, Food, Energy, Water and Global High Schools.  

On its website the Zayed Sustainability Prize notes that, "By recognizing solutions and technologies that can change the world, the Zayed Sustainability Prize, managed by Masdar, in Abu Dhabi, has rewarded pioneering innovators and visionaries whose achievements have furthered the proliferation of renewable energy solutions".  ASD is proud and extremely enthusiastic to be recognized among the finalists and looks forward to the opportunity to share its sustainability story with the jury and wider world community!  

A big big thank you to our entire school and wider community!  


(Hint: to get a glimpse into the status of the event, take a look at the Zayed Sustainability Prize newsletter here and scroll down to the bottom to see the members of the jury deciding on the recipients. Cool right?!) 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Communicating FalContribution!


Service learning is all about providing authentic experiences to address community needs. When we present to students/faculty about this we explain that service learning is more about becoming service-minded than simply doing community service. It's also about going through a process of investigation, planning, action, reflection and demonstration. Still, when most people think about "service learning" they automatically assume that it engages in direct community action, say to support the poor or homeless or reinvigorate a green space. In truth, the best kind of service learning marries all of those things. But service learning can also be indirect, advocacy and/or research to support a common good. 

With this in mind, we are happy to announce the arrival of the newest of ASD's online newsletter aimed at providing service-related communication to service organization leaders, advisors as well as faculty/staff involved in service learning experiences in their classrooms. 

One of the recurring "themes" of service learning at ASD is that much is done, yet not many people know about. As we deliberate how to best approach that, we are also engaging our students in those conversations. Though the Service Learning Mentorship program one student, Christina Boufarah, decided to dedicate her work to bridging the informational gap... and so began the story of The Falcontributor

Published monthly, The Falcontributor offers a supports MS and HS service organization interaction, engagement with each other, collaboration and highlights the great things happening at our school with specific focus on the two key ingredients of service learning: Critical Consciousness & Informed Action! 

Take a moment to look at the first issue here and let us know if you'd like to join the mailing list (ASD community members only)