Bringing together youth from all corners of Egypt for four days of English-language training and environmental education, the School of Continuing Education and the Desert Development Center (DDC) at The American University in Cairo (AUC) offered an interactive program for 160 students, aged 15, from government schools in Cairo and Upper Egypt. The program included a range of indoor and outdoor activities combining English-language teaching with environmental learning, scientific experiments and hands-on activities at AUC’s New Cairo campus and the DDC research station in South Tahrir, in addition to workshops, games, art, drama, songs, a star gazing event and excursions to the Wadi Degla protectorate. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, in collaboration with the English-language facilitator, Access Egypt.
“In order to foster in children an appreciation of the environment, they have to feel, touch and smell nature -- really experience it,” said Tina Jaskolski, senior manager at the DDC. “AUC’s advanced campus facilities and the DDC research station in South Tahrir are ideal settings for that. Adding the element of English-language training made the program even more appealing.” Environmental conservation and sustainable development are among Egypt’s biggest challenges. In a country suffering hazardous pollution, water and waste-management issues, programs that encourage conservation and environmental stewardship are paramount in moving toward a more sustainable future. Learning English language with an environmental focus enabled the students to practice their English skills through interactive components of the program, while also understanding issues related to water, soil, plants, irrigation, sustainability, desert development and waste management. For the instructors, the students’ keenness to participate and learn is what made the program successful. “I was impressed by the children’s level of English and their enthusiasm,” said Mohamed El Batran, DDC instructor. “It was a practical, outdoor form of education. We had a lot of input from the students, and this generated a friendly, family-like atmosphere. At the conclusion of the camp, all teachers felt the students’ knowledge of the environment and sustainability was greatly enhanced, while many of them managed to break down communication barriers in the international environment the program was able to create.” Sharing the same viewpoint, Achama Isaac, a teacher at Access Egypt, noted, “This program is so great because it gives the children a chance to put everything they have studied in class into practice with a variety of games and activities that really reinforce the content.” Hanaa Soudan, Access program manager at the School of Continuing Education, explained how the event is a source of gratification and fulfillment for both instructors and young learners. “Our team enjoys having students from all over Egypt in the yearly camp,” she said. “It gives us great pleasure to see them learn new things and have fun at the same time. Egyptian youth are very special.”