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AUS team collaborates with UNESCO and ALDESD on Education for Sustainable Development Boot Camp 2022
American University of Sharjah (AUS) has recently collaborated with the Association for Learning Design and Education for Sustainable Development (ALDESD) to organize a boot camp to support universities worldwide in designing and implementing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in their curriculum.
Held over a period of 12 weeks, the online boot camp saw the participation of 10 English-speaking and 12 Spanish-speaking teams from around the world. It kicked off with a six-week course covering micro-lectures, readings, discussions, quizzes, reflections and webinars, followed by the design and development of ESD projects with the support of boot camp mentors. Participants used the CoDesignS ESD Tool Kit, which is based on UNESCO's key competencies for sustainability.
The teams presented their designs to a panel of experts and received a certificate from ALDESD and the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC).
AUS’ collaboration with ALDESD began in 2021 following the university’s efforts to integrate ESD in its curriculum. An AUS team took part in the Learning Design Boot Camp hosted by The Open University in the United Kingdom in collaboration with UNESCO. The AUS team consisted of Dr. Mohammed Ibahrine, Professor in Mass Communication, and Dr. Zinka Bejtic, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Art and Design, led by Dr. Norita Ahmad, Professor in Marketing and Information Systems and Director of Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL).
The AUS team, including Head of AUS Sustainability Rose Armour, was later invited to join the boot camp committee. Dr. Ahmad also became one of three board directors of ALDESD.
“Integrating sustainable development in education ensures that our students, our future leaders, will make environmentally friendly decisions. This is especially powerful when universities don't just teach sustainability but integrate it into daily university life, like we are doing at AUS. By collaborating on this boot camp, we are working with universities to integrate sustainability in education to give students real world skills they can use to improve the planet,” said Dr. Ahmad.
Two teams from AUS participated in the boot camp this year and competed for the Outstanding Project Award.
Coming in third was an AUS team led by Dr. May Zaki, Associate Professor in Arabic and Translation Studies at AUS, and team members Jessica March, Director of Achievement Academy, Raja Mallek Bahloul, Instructor in the Achievement Academy, and International Studies Student Haya Al-Mansoori.
The team’s project focused on redesigning a general requirement course titled “Introduction to Arabic Heritage II.” The goal was to integrate transformative teaching methodologies in the course and turn it into a more interactive student-centered course in line with ESD goals.
“As educators, we need to be willing to develop our methodologies all the time and to adopt a sustainable approach in designing and teaching classes fit for future generations. The ESD Boot Camp was an important step. There were several important takeaways from it. Learning about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their practical applications is not just beneficial in designing a specific course, but also in considering how this can impact the whole educational experience of my students. Also, with our participation in the Boot Camp we wanted to highlight the role of sustainability in the humanities in all aspects of course design, including the distribution of various activities, learning domains and competencies we are targeting,” said Dr. Zaki.
The second AUS team was led by Dr. Rachel Buck, Assistant Professor in English, and included Jenifah Abu-Hassan, Instructor at the Achievement Academy, Michelle Jimenez, Instructional Design Assistant for the Center of Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL), and Computer Science Student Saif AlDarwish.
The project was built on Abu-Hassan’s work. She was already integrating the SDGs into the Achievement Academy’s Bridge Program curriculum, which helps new AUS students improve their English language skills and prepares them for university success.
Speaking about his involvement in the boot camp and the project, student AlDarwish said: “As a Bridge Program student, I know how important it is to acquire new vocabulary and learn language concepts. By incorporating the SDGs into the program, we became more aware of the language used about some of the most pressing world issues. From concepts of equity and equality to green-washing, climate action, and circular economy; I became more aware of these issues. This takes our classrooms beyond English language teaching."
The boot camp also saw the selection of Dr. Igor Peraza, Professor of Practice in Architecture from the College of Architecture, Art and Design at AUS, as a one of the 15 mentors in the boot camp. Mentors had to undergo a certification program on ESD and learning design by ALDESD prior to their participation.
AUS is widely recognized for its sustainability initiatives. The university is currently developing its first comprehensive Climate Action Plan with the goal to reduce carbon emissions. The plan further aligns the university’s sustainability efforts with the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative announced in October 2021. AUS is also a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and has earned a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) Silver award for sustainability in higher education from AASHE. In 2020, AUS became the Gulf region’s first university to begin to ban single-use plastics across its campus. Additionally, the university’s Engineering and Sciences Building received a highly sought-after 2 Pearl rating by Estidama, a sustainable development initiative of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. AUS was also the recipient of the Green Audit Award as part of the Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency’s Sustainable Campus Initiative for university students.
For more information about AUS sustainability work, please visit www.aus.edu/sustainability.