MARGAHOVIT, Armenia—The quality of irrigation water in Aghtsk, the condition of the public park in Margahovit, and the cleanup of the grounds of Isahakyan Park in Gyumri were some of the topics presented by students at a workshop hosted by Armenia Tree Project (ATP).
High school students from Aghtsk, Margahovit, and Gyumri participated in a poster presentation on June 10 at ATP’s Michael and Virginia Center for Environmental Studies. The event was part of a collaborative program between ATP and Armenia’s National Institute of Education (NIE) on the integration of environmental education in the social sciences curriculum.
“The goal of the program was to introduce environmental education to these students and to create a generation that is not only aware of current environmental issues, but is concerned enough to learn specific skills to solve the issues,” explained Karine Harutyunyan, social sciences specialist from the NIE. “We hope such projects will contribute to the formation of socially active and responsible citizens.”
Student groups in grades 8-10 were instructed to identify a local environmental problem and conduct independent research on the issue including a study of relevant legislation and regulations. The students recommended solutions and addressed their findings to responsible officials and organizations for implementation.
The exercise was based on articles in Armenia’s Constitution that address the right to live in a healthy environment and the Aarhus Convention which guarantees public access to information about the environment.
Environmental education has been one of ATP’s core programs since the 2005 publication of the “Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree” teacher’s manual. A second edition of the manual was published in cooperation with the NIE in 2010 and already more than 1,200 teachers from all regions of Armenia have been trained on its use in the classroom.
ATP operates education centers near its tree nurseries in Margahovit and Karin villages, where local and diasporan students visit for lessons and outdoor field-based learning. Nearly 1,400 students including young schoolchildren and university students visited the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Educational Center in Karin Village last year.
The Michael and Virginia Ohanian Center for Environmental Studies was inaugurated in Margahovit in 2012 and has already hosted more than 200 visitors. The center is run by biology teacher Gayane Margaryan, who supervises several student eco clubs that meet there regularly.
Elementary and high school students are members of the eco clubs, where they discuss environmental challenges, do hands-on work at the ATP center, and learn environmentally friendly methods of gardening.
Earlier this year, ATP partnered with the Italian CISP charitable organization (International Committee for the Development of People) on teacher training focused on the Lori region. ATP trained teachers on the use of the “Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree” manual and “Participatory and Innovative Pedagogical Tools for Education on Environmental Health” prepared by the French Histoires Recyclables NGO.
A total of 125 teachers have already been trained, and the program will continue this fall. “It is of major importance for ATP to conduct environmental trainings in these regions as there has been widespread deforestation caused by logging and other environmental challenges,” explained program manager Alla Sahakyan.
“Teachers seem to appreciate this opportunity as it demonstrates innovative methods and introduces new insights for environmental education. International organizations are interested in our trainings, and we’re excited about our first training with CISP,” continued Sahakyan. “We express our gratitude to CISP for their charitable mission throughout the world. When organizations having similar interests cooperate in their activities, it leads to even greater impact and encouraging results.”
ATP’s mission is to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the environment, guided by the desire to promote self-sufficiency, aid those with the fewest resources first, and conserve the indigenous ecosystem. ATP’s three major programs are tree planting, environmental education, and sustainable development initiatives.