My name is Asha Alexander, and I’m the Principal at The Kindergarten Starters, a Primary School with over 5,000 students in Dubai, UAE, and Executive Leader for Climate Change at GEMS Education.
As a primary school tucked away in the heart of an oil-rich emirate country, we were perhaps the most unlikely of contenders to lead the charge against climate change. However, one morning I came across a newspaper article that talked of a local schoolteacher becoming climate change certified. That roused my curiosity, and I pursued the link to the UN CC:Learn platform. A week later, I had received a UN CC:Learn certification – and possessed more knowledge than I had ever imagined possible about climate change. I knew then that the time had come to change our school and every school in the world.
Within a month the school had 327 UN certified climate change teachers, with each of its 162 classrooms now prepared to deliver climate literacy as part of the curriculum – connecting these objectives to the real-life problems that existed around us in the desert, from water conversation, to ridding the school of plastic. The children were similarly enthused and began the fall season with a pledge to plant 15,000 trees each year as part of the “Plant a Legacy” project. They travelled to the desert to plant the local Ghaf tree, and engaged with more than 40 local organizations to plant trees on their premises. These efforts caught the attention of other schools and media, with The Guardian newspaper developing a visual feature on the school’s climate literacy template.
Less than a month later, I travelled to Madrid to attend COP 25. Disappointed at the lack of attention being given towards climate literacy, we decided to create a new platform to amplify student voices – and it was here that the world’s first School Conference of Parties Expo was born. What began as a venture to amplify our own students voices has now expanded, with 50 schools from Costa Rica to Australia registering at SCOPE 2020 to participate in climate debates and discussions.
The purpose of SCOPE 2020 is to empower students with high levels of climate change awareness, deep climate change research and collaborative, global problem-solving skills. It hopes to bring faculty, students and staff together in an ongoing dialogue, inquiry and discovery of more sustainable practices through embedding climate literacy in schools. It is also a platform for young student climate activists to share their journeys, and to hopefully inspire thousands of others.
Through an opportunity to be heard, we hope that governments and policymakers will ensure that climate literacy is embedded in every school in the world, and that students will never lose sight of the urgency needed to cut emissions, restore our habitats, and secure our planet for the future. This is therefore a story without an end. Its conclusion will be shaped by the teachers that were upskilled, and the students who have forever been changed by what they have learned.
Is your school addressing climate change in curricula? Tell us about how you learn about climate change at your school or university on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tag UN CCLearn. We are looking forward to hearing your say!
If you are a teacher and would like to learn more about climate change and gain confidence to include this topic in the classroom, access our programme dedicated to teachers here.
Start your learning journey:
Get the chance to learning about climate change free of charge at www.unccelearn.org. Our comprehensive course catalogue offers short and long courses for you to accommodate your learning hours into your schedule. After reading Asha’s story, you may be interested in checking out the following courses: