The relationship between humankind and Mother Nature is much more fragile than most of us realise, fuelled by the intersection of two modern phenomena: the exploitation and destruction of nature, along with the continuing growth and development of technology.
This is particularly worrying because nature is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing. Interacting with nature teaches us to exist in co-operation with the natural world, not to try and dominate it. We do not have power over the birds soaring overhead, or the sun setting, or the Arabian oryx wandering where it pleases. That is why when Graeme Scott, director at Fairgreen International School (FIS), says “We want to promote a culture where we are connected with nature, not devices,” it comes as a breath of fresh mountain air in a world subjugated by gadgets.
This pioneering approach to education in Dubai has been warmly welcomed by parents, with Sireen Khalifeh, a mother with a young child at FIS, explaining: “Fairgreen is all about sustainability, and for me, that mirrors my own values. They often take the kids for a walk around the community, to the animal sanctuary to feed the donkeys and ducks, and to Beitfann, a sustainable art centre. That’s the relationship that I love, the education is not just inside the school walls. The other reason why I love Fairgreen is the proximity. We ride our bike to school. Who does that in this day and age? We’re a tight knit community, and all of us choose to live here because the conversation about sustainability is on everyone’s minds, so it’s like-minded people who live here.
“For example, when I pick up my kid from school, I always find him in the back watering the plants. The school makes it an everyday thing. Their discussion about sustainability is not just in textbooks, it’s very hand-on. Another thing we did was have a pet day, where we talked about animal rights and how they feed into the ecosystem, that they are as important as human beings.”
Teaching the younger generation about sustainability has never been more crucial. It develops the knowledge, values, and world views necessary to ensure there’s enough for everyone, forever. Middle school science teacher Adam Hall supports this view when he says: “Sustainability is our mission; therefore we want all our classes starting from pre-K to embody sustainability in environmental terms, economic terms, and in community terms.”
Offering an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, Fairgreen International School which opened in September 2018 and moved into a new purpose-built school in Sustainable City in January 2019, takes students from ages three to 15 (8th grade), with a new grade being added every year.
“We’ve got a chance here to help our children save the planet. Anyone who’s my age or older, we haven’t done such a good job. So it’s now instilled in our children that sustainability is the future. And if our children, through our curriculum and through looking at sustainability, are able to achieve that, then I think we’re going to be in a good place as we go forward,” concludes Chris Perry, head of primary.