Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has launched a youth “eco-rangers” programme in order to inspire sustainability among schoolchildren.
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s (EAD) Murshed Youth Eco-Rangers aims to familiarise students aged 14 to 17 with the role of eco-rangers in protecting and preserving the environment. In addition, it aims to equip students to become future environmental experts.
Murshed, which will be implemented in coordination with the Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) and the Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek), is therefore an EAD educational programme. The programme also provides adequate opportunities for the young rangers develop their leadership skills in the field of environmental education.
Eco-rangers will participate in environmental conservation activities, and interact with experts from EAD to learn about the public and private responsibilities of eco-rangers in line with UN Decade.
Training in sanctuaries
Interested students can now register to join the first cohort, which starts on December 12, and is sponsored by TotalEnergies. During this 2022-2023 cohort, around 20 students will be trained in Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, while the 2023-2024 edition will see 20 students trained at the Mangroves National Park.
“Connecting youth with the natural heritage of the UAE, educating them about the most prominent environmental issues and efforts exerted in Abu Dhabi, and providing them with opportunities for academic and professional development will enable young people to participate in the protection of nature through their endeavours,” said Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD secretary-general.
Dr Al Dhaheri added that the programme aims in the long term to introduce young people to career opportunities in the field of environmental education and wildlife conservation. It also raises students’ environmental awareness, and introduces them to the natural history of the UAE through field visits to the nature reserves in Abu Dhabi.
“The programme seeks to improve youth programmes and opportunities for schools participating in EAD’s Sustainable Schools Initiative by introducing a new generation to professional, academic and career opportunities in the field of environmental protection, preservation and sustainability. Students will be introduced to the multi-faceted roles and responsibilities of eco-rangers, including spells acting as tour guide, visitor assistant, inspector, patroller, researcher, and reporter,” said Khansa Al Blouki, director of outreach, environmental information, science and outreach management at EAD.
“They will be trained in the skills and knowledge required to inspire others and safely guide groups of younger school children through Al Wathba Nature Reserve, as well as other protected areas in future years, including Mangrove National Park. Students will also undergo training sessions with a focus on team building, communication, active listening, critical thinking, planning and development, decision making, monitoring, and assessing, problem solving, negotiation, operations, and service.”
Earning their badge
Following the training, participants will go through a full field assessment prior to earning their badge and appointment as a Junior Ranger. Assessment protocols will include shadow sessions, practice with peers, leader feedback sessions, and confirmation from the trainer and EAD staff that the participant has met all requirements and criteria.
The graduate rangers will commit to a dedicated number of volunteer hours, guiding younger students around Al Wathba. These guided tours will be scheduled in line with EAD’s visiting school group calendar and help cement Abu Dhabi Government’s stated aim of providing more volunteering opportunities.
Participants’ volunteer hours will be recorded and after successfully completing all training sessions, participants will receive a certificate of achievement. Once participants are assessed as successfully completing their practice tours, they will receive a uniform vest and eco-ranger badge.
Additional opportunities for recognition include school credits for participating in Murshed eco-ranger training, invitations to networking events, and adventure activities organised by stakeholders. Moreover, this programme identifies key professional and academic opportunities to help students grow, as well as to continue with the programme in a mentor and/or participant capacity year on year.