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Esol Education Partners With Stephen Ritz to Further Sustainability Endeavors
By Jaya Java 02-May-17
Highlighting an urgent need to integrate sustainable values in K–12 education, Esol Education, the world’s largest operator of American international schools, is collaborating with world-renowned progressive educator and green innovator Stephen Ritz to jumpstart sustainability projects within existing and future schools. The collaboration will also explore developing a fully sustainable future school concept for Dubai, in line with U.A.E. Vision 2021, a national initiative that aims to promote sustainable economic and social development by implementing green growth plans. An award-winning educator, a familiar face at the White House, and affectionately recognized as “America’s Favorite Teacher,” Stephen Ritz is most widely known as the founder of the Green Bronx Machine, an initiative that has been recognized globally for its impact on advocating health and wellbeing through hands-on sustainability education. Mr. Ritz visited Esol Education school facilities in Dubai and Cairo in October 2016, with an action-packed meet-and-greet program and inspiring keynote events addressing full-house school assemblies in both cities. From early years to high school students, green clubs to faculty members, everyone was touched by Mr. Ritz’s rousing messages of “people power” and his infectious “can’t stop, won’t stop” attitude towards sustainability and urban farming. Mr. Ritz also collaborated with the organization’s education team on curricular integration, working with current students on initiating sustainable projects within classrooms, as well as on planning and developing a K–12 whole-school framework dedicated to fostering sustainability, teaching students the benefits of building self-supporting communities, producing their own food, pursuing clean energy initiatives, and raising environmental awareness. His visit in Dubai also included a stop at The Sustainable City, the first net-zero energy development in the region. True to its mission to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and character necessary for success in the 21st century, Esol Education is moving to integrate sustainability values into its schools as a key to future generations discovering crucial solutions to the mounting issues humanity is facing as a result of climate change. “Given the reality of climate change and its far-reaching consequences, the principles of sustainability are an essential component of international mindedness and global citizenship,” said Mr. Tammam Abushakra, Esol Education’s Advisor to Chairman. Most Esol schools offer the IB Diploma track in the senior years, delivering a rigorous inquiry-based program. “By incorporating real-world applications of sustainable concepts with experiential learning opportunities, we aim to develop an environmental and social responsibility within students right from the early years, which they will carry forward in their future careers,” Mr. Abushakra added. As a key mover in the U.S. educational system, Stephen Ritz believes that students should not need to leave their home communities just so they can live, learn, and earn in a better one. Mr. Ritz’s work on sustainability directly complements Esol Education’s aim to instill in their students a drive to become healthier, and to engage in various endeavors that will help them learn, understand, and implement the ideas of sustainability in their everyday lives. Mr. Ritz’s Green Bronx Machine initiative, now a K–12+ model integrated into the core curriculum of several schools in the United States, has taught students how to grow, eat, and enjoy their vegetables and other nutritious produce, which results in healthier bodies and sound minds, essential tools that young people need in order to perform optimally. His newly opened National Health, Wellness, and Learning Center in New York has been established as an educational model for tactile and experiential learning, embedding the concepts of sustainability, food, energy, and environmental justice—causes that Esol Education actively supports in its bid to instill a green consciousness that graduates will cascade forward in the world as they take their places as leaders of industry. Mr. Ritz has electrified and inspired audiences of all types with his “Si, Se Puede” or “Yes, I can” message of hope, urgency, resilience and Amer-I-Can innovation. “I am very excited with my collaboration with Esol Education. Our objectives match perfectly, and we both want to teach the coming generations about how to improve their way of living by taking the initiative to build healthier communities,” relayed Mr. Ritz.
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