nibras international school students
Not only is Expo 2020 offering schools free trips to the site but teachers also get to bring Expo-inspired lessons to their classrooms. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Expo 2020 Dubai's dedicated educational arm ensures that every student in the Emirates has fair exposure to the limitless wonders of a World Expo. There is no better playground for learning than a platform built to welcome 191 countries and their ground-breaking innovations, ranging from children-friendly robots to edutainment journeys that challenge and reform harmful habits.

As part of the mega event’s educational outreach, UAE schools and universities are invited to take advantage of its specially curated learning resources, educational tours of the site and fun student-centred initiatives.

UAE schools and students eager for Expo trips

Earlier this month, Expo announced free educational journeys for UAE schools and their students. These specially curated trips are designed to complement the subjects of six different curricula taught across the country: UAE Ministry of Education, American, British, French, International Baccalaureate and Indian.

Gulf News spoke to early-bird schools that have already calendared their students in for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Jay Teston, principal of Nibras International School in Dubai, put it succinctly: “It is not every day that students get an opportunity as unique as this, and we plan to take advantage of this real-life learning occasion.”

nibras international school
Nibras International School is all geared for its upcoming Expo 2020 visit Image Credit: Supplied

The excitement for the fair is so palpable among students that The Aquila School in Dubai is hosting its own Expo, according to Principal Wayne Howsen, who also doubles as a proud Expo volunteer on the side. At ‘Aquexpo’, the plan is for each class to put up an exhibition inspired by their visit to the site.

Sebastian, a Grade 7 pupil at Nibras International School, is curious about the latest hyperloop: “I have heard about the train that levitates using magnetic forces and goes at almost 600mph. So, I'm kind of interested to see if that is true. I also heard about self-driving cars but that's not much of a surprise in 2021.”

It is not every day that students get an opportunity as unique as this, and we plan to take advantage of this real-life learning occasion.

- Jay Teston, principal of Nibras International School in Dubai

Tala, Sebastian’s schoolmate, is looking forward to experiencing indoor rainfall at the Netherlands Pavilion; whereas Mira in Grade 8 is most interested in spotting robots. But it is not just the students buzzing with anticipation – teachers are suddenly looking at a packed academic year ahead.

“This week our teachers are excited as they have all been choosing which of the four Expo journeys they want their class to take when they visit Expo 2020,” said Howsen, whose school plans to incorporate the three themes of Expo – Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity – into much of its learning for the year.

What are the four school journeys?

A typical Expo school journey begins with a dedicated tour guide. Once the journey is complete, students are allowed a lunchbreak close to departure. Each of the four itineraries is further tailored to suit the students’ level of education, taking into account the duration and walking distance:

  • Kindergarten students will tour a major pavilion for two and a half hours;
  • Primary students, with the addition of a country pavilion, will tour for three hours;
  • Middle school students will tour all of the above for three and a half hours;
  • Secondary students will tour all of the above for four hours.

UAE schools can choose from the following four trips:

1. The Legacy of the UAE: Students will learn in depth of the UAE’s past, present and future by visiting either the UAE Pavilion or Sameem, a cultural plot. Some of the other pavilions they have the option of touring are The Good Place Pavilion, Women’s Pavilion, Dubai Cares Pavilion, the Emirates Pavilion and the ENOC Pavilion.

2. The World of Opportunities: Students will be inspired to become positive agents of change through one of the two major pavilions in the Opportunity District: Mission Possible – The Opportunity Pavilion or the DP World Pavilion. Older students will additionally tour a country pavilion based in this district.

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Nibras International School is opting for The World of Opportunities journey. Image Credit: Supplied

Since Nibras International School is focused on bringing its students closer to community and social issues, the school has naturally opted for the World of Opportunities.

“As a school, our students understand that they have an important role to play in their local community and the larger global one. While exploring Mission Possible – The Opportunity Pavilion we know our students will gain a better understanding of how their actions can impact the world in meaningful ways,” said Teston.

3. The Universe in Motion: Students will discover mobility from ancient exploration to space travel at Alif – The Mobility Pavilion. Older students will additionally tour a country pavilion within the Mobility District.

aquila school dubai
The Aquila School in Dubai has signed up for The Universe in Motion journey for its students. Image Credit: Supplied

Meanwhile, the Aquila School will embark on The Universe in Motion journey to show young minds “how we move resources, share information electronically and share ideas”.

“We know our children will also love learning about transport of the future,” added Howsen.

4. The Sustainable Planet: Students will learn of the humanity’s impact on the environment and sustainable solutions that can help preserve it at Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion. Older students will additionally tour a country pavilion within the Sustainability District.

To help them choose their journey, teachers can access journey packs on the website that outline potential learning objectives and all that they can expect from each trip.

How to book tickets for Expo school journeys

To begin the process, schools must nominate at least two coordinators as their main point of contact with Expo 2020. Expo coordinators then have to register on the website by filling out a form, entering their school name, emirate, address and other details.

Once the Expo School Programme team has verified the information, the coordinators will receive their log in details along with a step-by-step guide on how to plan and book their journeys.

Some pointers to keep in mind:

  • Journeys can only take place on school weekdays (Sunday to Thursday), from 8.30am to 12.15pm.
  • Accompanying adults (teachers, teaching assistants and school staff) get free tickets.
  • Capacity of each student group must be 15 to 25 pupils and will be subject to social distancing.
  • Only one journey per day is permitted to each group.
  • Lunch is not provided by Expo; students must bring their own food.
  • Transport must be arranged by the school.

Learn with Expo class material

Experienced teachers on the Expo School Programme team have drawn up lessons that readily complement schools’ existing curricula. Teachers can download classroom resources for free on the programme’s dedicated website (

Based on the world fair and its three subthemes (Sustainability, Opportunity and Mobility), a typical resource pack includes a lesson plan, supplementary handouts and guides. Expo’s curated teaching material is sorted into three different student cycles or levels that teachers can choose from: primary school (ages six to 10), middle school (ages 11 to 15) and secondary or high school (ages 16 to 18).

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Expo class material caters to students from ages six to 18. Above: Students at The Aquila School Image Credit: Supplied

Teachers also have the option of filtering all 60 lessons offered by subjects: Art and Design, Humanities, Moral Education, Entrepreneurship, Social studies, Science, Technology, Geography, and History. Each 45-minute class material, inclusive of a lesson plan, handout and sometimes a presentation, is based on one of the four overarching topics related to Expo and its subthemes:

  • What is Expo? – Under this introductory topic, six lessons focus on the importance of coming together to ponder and innovate. Through some of these classes, students get to learn geography facts about the participating country pavilions and how they can organise a Majlis agenda from scratch.
  • Mobility – Under this subtheme, teachers have access to 18 lessons that explore all aspects of mobility – from artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Everything (IoE) and blockchain technology to globalisation, migration and space travel.
  • Opportunity – Eighteen lessons under the Opportunity theme teach students about the necessity for an accessible and inclusive future for humanity. Students will discover vertical pink farming, host their own podcast, predict the job opportunities of tomorrow and create digital art with computer data.
  • Sustainability – Lessons under the theme of Sustainability highlight pressing global issues that have been harming our home planet. This set of 18 classes looks at the safety net of renewable energy, endangered coral reefs and alternatives to food waste and fresh water scarcity.

Other engaging initiatives for students

In the months leading up to the event, schools tapped into various initiatives on the Expo School Programme website to build anticipation around the exposition in their classrooms. Check out what your school can do to keep up with the excitement for the upcoming 182 days.

1. Expo Quests: Previously, students could become ‘Expo Champions’ by clearing monthly challenges on the ‘Road to Expo’. Come October, the challenges will transition into a treasure hunt where students will put on their investigative hats and discover hidden gems along their physical and virtual journeys. Quests can be solved in classrooms as well.

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Expo Young Innovators exhibition will be open for viewing on the ground floor of the Sustainability Pavilion Image Credit: Supplied

2. Expo Young Innovators: Engineers of the future were invited to sketch their prototypes on a piece of napkin. The Expo School Programme team took 298 of these submissions and manufactured them to life with the help of 3D printers and animators. Participants will be able to see their genius on display at the ground floor of Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion in a permanent exhibition.

Meanwhile, schools can download a toolkit to help their students along, from inception to execution of their napkin-born inventions. The free starter package includes activity sheets for primary and middle school students, a guide for their teachers and a presentation.

3. Children’s Tales from around the World: This is the title of an anthology of more than 70 short stories written and illustrated by countries all over the world. Folk tales unique to each culture have been reinterpreted by children from these countries, inviting readers aged five to 12 to develop their comprehension skills as well as imagination. To keep young readers engaged, the short stories are interspersed with did-you-know facts and problem-solving activities. The entire digital volume is available for download on the website for free.

expo 2020 story book
Diversity and inclusion make up the core message of the anthology with schoolchildren, professional artists and storytellers narrating traditional tales that impart cultural knowledge and enhance reading skills. | Above: A featured illustration from Timor-Leste Image Credit: Supplied/Illustration credits Fatima Gloriosa and Fatima Milagrosa

4. Next Gen World Majlis: Expo’s World Majlis programme, a roundtable for discussing pressing issues of the 21st century in the Arab tradition of the majlis or ‘council’, offers UAE students their own version of the forum. Topics and ideas brought to the table at the Next Gen World Majlis series will feed into the parent programme before, during and after Expo 2020 Dubai.

Each Next Gen World Majlis gathering will feature eight to 10 high school and university students, lasting up to 75 minutes. The talks will be live streamed and open to both virtual and physical audiences at Expo. To date, five gatherings of the Next Gen World Majlis have been held and further eight will take place during Expo on the themes of people, planet and technology.

Seven educational tours for universities

The Expo University Programme offers UAE university students seven curated tours to connect with industry experts and plan for their careers during Expo 2020 Dubai.

In the form of three-day tours, the programme stages real-life case studies from seven fields of research to enrich existing curricula. Upon completion, students will be awarded a certificate of participation from Expo.

The seven guided educational tours are based on the following topics:

1. Arts, Architecture and Design: Expo 2020 will allow students to get up close and personal with flagship buildings designed by Grimshaw Architects, Foster + Partners and Santiago Calatrava.

  • Day 1: Explore digital technology in architecture
  • Day 2: Learn about historical construction techniques and materials
  • Day 3: Discover architecture inspired by nature

2. Business and Entrepreneurship: Students will learn of social entrepreneurship and how businesses are strategising to tackle global challenges. The tour also comes with an opportunity to network with industry leaders and business experts visiting Expo.

  • Day 1: Learn about the world’s most impactful start-up firms
  • Day 2: Explore the concept of intrapreneurship and how it's transforming organisations around the globe
  • Day 3: Read into policies created by governments and international governing bodies to introduce positive economic impact

3. Engineering and Construction: Students will gain insight into the way environmental awareness and new technologies are transforming engineering and construction with real-life examples at Expo.

  • Day 1: Discover sustainable engineering that combats climate change
  • Day 2: Learn about smart technologies in the field of engineering and construction
  • Day 3: Explore smart cities and circular economies

4. Hospitality, Tourism and Mega Events: Stepping behind the scenes, students will delve into all the aspects of event planning gone into readying the site for the prospective 25 million visitors.

  • Day 1: Learn of the day-to-day details taken into account for the visitor experience
  • Day 2: Discover how hospitality is part of Expo 2020’s legacy plan for District 2020
  • Day 3: Study the global trends in tourism, travel and hospitality

5. Innovation and Technology: Students will interact with cutting-edge technologies that present solutions in energy, transportation and life sciences. On this tour, they will also experience virtual reality and artificial intelligence demonstrations.

  • Day 1: Learn how social innovators are meeting the world’s growing demand for water and energy
  • Day 2: Discover the latest innovations in transportation and mobility
  • Day 3: Explore innovations in city planning and economics for future urban living

6. International Media and Relations: Students will immerse themselves in the global gathering of 191 countries to study the impact of world expos in the diplomatic, economic and political realms. With the help of this tour, they will come away with better cross-cultural understanding and challenge stereotypes.

  • Day 1: Learn the impact world expos have on business relationships and economies
  • Day 2: Study how nations advocate for their interests at Expo
  • Day 3: Explore the diverse cultures of countries coming together at the world fair

7. Sustainability: Students will connect with thought leaders and environmentalists on site to learn about the importance of collective action against climate change.

  • Day 1: Keep up with key sustainability and environmental issues
  • Day 2: Discover how innovative countries are organising their economies for a better future
  • Day 3: Be inspired by individual actions transforming into collective action

How to sign up for educational tours

Educational institutions can register their interest in the Expo University Programme by filling out a form on the official website (

The form must be filled out by an education professional affiliated with the interested university such as a faculty head. Details requested include full name, name and location of institution, role within institution, designation and contact number.

Following submission, a team member of the programme will revert with a response.