In 1998, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi initiated structured, school-based environmental educational programming in Abu Dhabi Emirate, the largest Emirate in the United Arab Emirates. While these environmental educational programs helped raise awareness amongst students and teachers, they did not appear to foster measurable changes in environmental action. Despite increased awareness shown by the Environment Agency’s annual awareness survey, the nation’s per capita ecological footprint remained high.
During the same time, teachers and schools expressed a desire for a new environmental education strategy. They needed programs that were interactive and hands-on, that promoted problemsolving and critical thinking skills, and that could be integrated easily into the curriculum. The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi was also interested in changing its educational strategy by creating capacity-building programs aligned with the national sustainable development vision. Through collaboration with other government departmental strategies, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi also believed that its efforts could be cascaded down to the community level.
In 2009, the new Sustainable Schools Initiative engaged 26 schools in its programming. Through collaboration with government departments (water, electricity, waste, transportation), educational authorities, public and provide schools, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international environmental education organizations, and the private sector, the program grew to serve nearly 150 schools by its sixth year of implementation.