“Vardenis Environmental Education Initiative” is launched

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On October 21-22, AEN, in cooperation with “Graduate Association of Yerevan State Linguistic University” NGO and “Ayrudzy” NGO launched the “Vardenis Environmental Education Initiative” (VEEI) that would help to educate people in communities of Vardenis sub-region, Gegharkuniq Marz, about the health effects and environmental damage resulting from unsanitary waste management practices through environmental and waste management education. The target group of the initiative is teachers of the region who will receive educational training in waste management, composting, re-use and recycling of the waste stream and new teaching methodologies for them to use in their classrooms.  The idea being that pupils will share the newly acquired knowledge with their families and communities, thereby contributing to the raising awareness about proper waste management in their region.

Within the framework of VEEI we conducted the first Training of Teachers (ToT) in Tsakhkadzor. From the different communities in Vardenis sub-region, 16 teachers participated in the ToT.  The participating teachers were selected based on their readiness to raise environmental awareness and promote environmental education in their communities.

On the first day of the ToT the teachers were introduced to the first part of the Teacher’s Guide prepared by AEN: “Introduction to Environment and Waste Management”. The following topics were covered: Connectivity in ecosystems, Food chains and food webs, Protecting your environment. The teachers were also introduced to the Socratic Method that is one of the milestones of the Teacher’s Guide. We encouraged teachers to apply the Socratic Method as it establishes a student-centered classroom and promotes critical thinking, which is currently lacking in most schools in Armenia.  We practiced the Socratic Method with the whole group of teachers, then they split up into smaller groups to practice.  Teachers found it particularly challenging to follow the rules of the Method, therefore it will take considerable time for them to get adapted to not merely the method, but most importantly its rules.

The other observation drawn from the ToT is that most of the teachers were also unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘green community’.  Many people in Armenia, including the participating teachers, think that to have a green community one merely has to plant some trees but in reality it involves a lot more, such as reducing the use of cars, recycling and reusing, turning electronics off when not in use, etc.  Thus in this respect the Teacher’s Guide can be of great importance in understanding the essence and principals of a green community in the Vardenis sub-region.

One of the goals of the VEEI is to monitor the teaching process and measure the effectiveness of AEN’s educational materials. Therefore for this purpose we have chosen 10 students from Gavar State University, Gegharkuniq region, to help us in conducting the monitoring. The students were also present at the ToT to become familiar with the educational materials and methodology. The students will be trained on how to conduct the monitoring in an unbiased manner.  As a benefit for their participation, the students will be offered assistance with professional development such as help writing a CV and cover letter.

In general the ToT was successful as the teachers were very enthusiastic about the Teacher’s Guide and found it very effective for the community. They also provided some valuable feedback on the guide that we will incorporate for the future application of the guide. The students also found the experience to be valuable, as it was the first time they had been working with teachers and discussing important issues with them. We were pleased that the teachers and students managed to establish good relationships.

The teachers and students stated that they were looking forward to our next ToT in January, where they will be introduced the second part of the guide focused on waste management.

Photos by Armine Sargsyan