In ancient times, Egypt was called Kemet (“black land”) in honor of the rich soil that was deposited on its shores by the annual flooding of the Nile River. This reverence for the natural world continues to this day and is at the forefront of an education and community development initiative led by EDC.
More than 80 primary schools and communities in Egypt are taking part in this two-year environmental education initiative. Known as the Egyptian Environmental Education and Outreach Program (E3OP), the initiative engages schools and communities in exploring environmental issues and introduces experiential, active-learning methods into Egyptian classrooms.
“We are facilitating the national agenda and strategy for environmental education,” says EDC’s Rachel Christina. “Our goal is to improve environmental education by training teachers, and evaluating, developing, and disseminating classroom materials.”
By participating in training sessions and engaging in supported practice in their classrooms, educators learn to creatively integrate environmental education into the curriculum and use interactive teaching methods. In turn, they engage students not only in learning about the environment but in taking an active role to preserve it.
As Christina explains, environmental education cuts across multiple academic disciplines. It provides opportunities for active instruction, teaches practical skills, results in environmental improvements through service-learning projects, generates civic pride in those who participate, and inspires students to consider environment-related careers.
EDC provides educators with training and materials to implement the program both in and out of the classroom. Resource libraries of educational materials have been established in schools and school districts, and materials have been shared electronically with schools not directly participating in the project through an agreement with the Alexandria Bibliotheca. “We did an assessment of environmental education materials in Egypt to see what was out there and to find where the materials were not good or missing. We are now working with local and regional scientists, educators, authors, and illustrators to fill the gaps,” says Christina.
The success of the project is already evident. As an Egyptian Ministry of Education official recently observed in a report, “I’ve noticed a clear difference between schools where the project is working and the other schools…I saw the teachers in these schools implementing the environmental education activities they learned in the training workshops. They use games, role play, song, and simple experiments in communicating environmental knowledge, values, and skills, and their students get actively involved in the learning.”
As part of the project, students organize environmental audits of their schools and communities, propose solutions to the problems they find, take part in community cleanup efforts and other local-level change campaigns, visit factories and farms to learn about waste treatment and organic farming, participate in field surveys and learning-focused trips to Egypt’s nature preserves and protected areas, and write songs and poems to advocate for action on such issues as pollution, and water and energy conservation.
The project also launched an Environmental Awards Program to encourage students and members of the community to work together to carry out projects and activities that improve the environment in the schools and in the surrounding communities.
EDC’s partners on E3OP—the Academy for Educational Development, RTI International, and the Wadi Environmental Science Center—supplement the work with teachers and schools with outreach that further engages the Egyptian community in environmental issues. This integrated and holistic approach promotes broader support both for innovative, environmentally sensitive education and for positive environmental change in general.
“Our partners conduct community and media outreach across Egypt,” says EDC’s Abdenour Boukamhi. “They train journalists and conduct meetings focused on sustainability and bringing together all the relevant stakeholders from schools, the community, business, and the various government ministries.”
A project of EDC’s International Education Systems Division, E3OP is awarded under USAID’s Assistance to Basic Education/Basic Education (ABE/BE) Indefinite Quantity Contract. Through this agreement, EDC and its partners are eligible to provide technical assistance and services with a cumulative value of up to $1 billion to USAID country offices worldwide.
Originally published on May 1, 2008