Al Mashariq B.E. School Workshops: Introduction to Sustainability Workshops

Author: Rowa Elzain 

The collaboration with Al Mashariq B.E. School and MCTspaceLab was oriented towards the provision of workshops focused on upcycling and adding value to waste material. This collaboration also marked the first interaction of MCTspaceLab with a public school in Muscat. 

In March 2019, MCTspaceLab collaborated with Al Mashariq Basic Education School for their application to Sultan Qaboos Award for Sustainable Development within the Schools Environment by the Ministry of Education (Oman). As one of the collaborators, MCTspaceLab's role was to bring in hands-on workshops focusing on economic and environmental sustainability to school pupils from grade one to five. Al Mashariq Basic Education School has been working on this theme for the past years through various school activities, internal competitions and spreading the awareness on economic and environmental sustainability. The school’s initiatives were not limited to the students, and the involvement of their parents was taken into consideration too.

The initial stages of the collaboration covered topics on recycling and wood construction. These workshops reflected the need for further shaded areas within the school along with sitting and gathering zones for students. The existing facilities of the school included paper recycling bins located near the main entrance. Further collection of material such as wood, plastic and fabric were gathered with the contributions of the parents. During the initial visit, the school exhibited a high level of organization on the operational competence with thorough review and focus of details in regards to education, such as providing classes to assist students that need further support in language, math and sciences.

Al Mashariq B.E. School sports yard (Photo credit: Rowa Elzain)

Stairwell leading to parents collection zone within the school (Photo credit: Rowa Elzain)

Introduction to Economic Sustainability 
As a step towards initiating interaction with the students, MCTspaceLab held an introductory interactive presentation at Al Mashariq B.E. School hall in April 2019. Students, both female and male, from various grades attended the presentation. The general aim of the presentation was to cover the basic principles of sustainability and explore the opportunities in how one could take these principles further. The branches of sustainability that were discussed during the presentation were environment, economy and society. Culture as the fourth branch, was not considered in this presentation. As a prerequisite from the school administration and part of their application to the award, more focus was paid to discussing economic sustainability.

Thus, the presentation looked at the potential of optimizing material or objects through reducing cost yet maintaining versatility. Meaning, moving away from single-use to multiple-use. However, keeping in mind the low negative environmental impact with high positive social impact. Examples of such a discourse in the cityscape were outlined through colourful pedestrian paths and planter-bench in the midst of the city. In a micro-scale, we took the example of Al Mashriq B.E. School and the lack of shaded sitting areas within the school’s premises. The participating student brainstormed on possible solutions, one of which was planting a tree, rather than installing a shade structure.

Participants of introductory presentation. (Photo credit: Maysa Al Manthari)

Game: New School Administrative Committee 
To further the discussion on economic sustainability further, a game called “New School Administrative Committee” was brought forward.The game was facilitated by Rowa Elzain and Maysa Al Manthari with the assistance of a school administrator. The game was set to take place in 2040 and the challenge was to formulate strategies under given conditions.  Participating students were distributed in groups of 4-5 and each represented a member of the New Administrative Committee.The aim of this committee was to provide a sustainable and safe education environment through a list of preset solutions.The solutions listed reflect the five issues posed to the committee which were lack of shaded waiting zones, sitting areas in the playground field, need for school lunch bags, waste material management, and lack of fresh vegetables and fruits.

The game structure was set as such, every group was given a hundred Omani Rial (in the form of numbers written in paper slips) along with the five slips concerning the issues to be tackled. Each slip consisted of two options/solutions and each of these options had a financial cost. Payment of the selected option was to be paid to the municipality, in this case the two facilitators. Some of the given options provided return cash value, thus, a team could earn money, if selected accordingly. The duration allocated for the teams to discuss and come up with a strategy was 15-20 minutes. 

The content of the five paper slips provided two narratives, one that is of an environmental approach, the other is economical. In the case of the waste material management, the two options were collection of the garbage by the municipality (with a monthly fee of 30 Omani Rials) or construction of a material bank (with a single fee of 50 Omani Rial for construction and a return of 20 Omani Rial per following month). Some of the other slips relayed on selection of solutions for waste management as other material could be reclaimed from the school material bank rather than purchased. This was the case for the slip concerning sitting and lunch bags. Thus, the challenge was which option to select and the reasoning that argues for it.

Female 'School administrative Committee' discussing strategies (Photo credit: Al Mashariq B.E. School)

Male 'School administrative Committee' discussing strategies (Photo credit: Al Mashariq B.E. School)

Presentation: New School Administrative Committee 
Following the 20 minutes of internal team discussions, each team presented their strategies for  tackling the given issues. Some teams managed to gain up to 160 Omani Rials, while others managed to maintain their initial budget of 100 Omani Rials. The justification of each strategy by the teams outlined the various aspects valued by the team. Some prioritized their time and energy, while others have focused solely on financial returns. What was crucial to discuss with the large group following the presentations was how to create the balance, and what were the consequences of their strategy in the long run. Hence, the discussion provided a transitional format on which the students could take some of these strategies forward by participating in the workshops that were provided by MCTspaceLab.

Female team presenting their strategy for tackling waste management (Photo credit: Maysa Al Manthari)

Male team presenting their strategy for tackling lack of sitting areas (Photo credit: Al Mashariq B.E. School)

… following steps 
By the end of the introductory presentation with Al Mashariq B.E. School student, a list with the suggested workshop was given to the student. Each student was given the option to select up to two workshops if they do not collide in schedule. These workshops were in: paper recycling, outdoor furniture, fabric and design, flora and fauna, and plastic bottle shade. In the Following months, some of these workshops were carried out. Further information on the workshops will be posted here.


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