Combatting Climate Change

Candice Wright, a teacher at GEMS FirstPoint School — The Villa, became the UAE’s first United Nations-accredited Climate Change Teacher. We talk to her about what this means.

Tell us a little about your background, how you got into teaching, and how you arrived at GEMS FirstPoint School — The Villa (FPS)?

I have been teaching for 13 years, eight of those with GEMS Education in the UAE. After completing my seventh year at GEMS Wellington International School, I transferred to FPS at the start of the 2018-19 academic year to become their Head of Humanities. I have also been the GEMS network leader for Geography for six years now.

What inspired you to complete the Climate Change Teacher Course, and how does it tie in with your current role?

I am extremely passionate about keeping my subject knowledge as up-to-date as possible and then applying this to my teaching. The UNCC course was a perfect way to do this. Climate change education is increasingly important due to the effect it has on all of us. Today’s children are the first generation living their whole lives with climate change. I feel strongly that we must educate our students to be climate change literate so that they are able to innovate, create solutions, and build resilience against this in the future.

Climate change education also provides an important window into individual and societal responsibility as well as environmental consciousness. Students must understand that they can all make behavioural changes to help at both a local and a global level. Furthermore, the course has enabled me to blend and support the curriculum with the UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda relating to sustainable environment and infrastructure.

What is covered in the course and how do you think it has changed or enhanced your understanding of climate change?

The course was comprised of six modules: introduction to climate change science; children and climate change; cities and climate change; human health and climate change; gender and climate change; and international legal regimes. The course focuses on specific groups of people who are most susceptible, as any existing inequalities are easily exacerbated.

Besides providing teachers with information and new theoretical knowledge, the course gave case studies and real examples that we can use with our students to highlight these issues. Both the data and information provided on the course are up-to-date and accessible.

What level of engagement are you seeing from students in terms of acting to combat climate change?

Our students are extremely engaged and motivated towards making a difference. They are increasingly aware of both the causes and mitigation methods as we continue to teach them. I look forward to developing this in the next academic year when we will continue to work with the UNCC and Model United Nations.

What support are you getting from FPS and the UN to teach students about climate change?

I am very fortunate to have an extremely supportive principal in Matthew Tompkins. We are working closely with the UNCC and looking at ways to both adapt the curriculum and integrate climate change education into other areas of the school as an interdisciplinary issue. As well as the subject content, climate change education develops students’ critical thinking, analysis skills, and social consciousness.

What message, above all others, would you want to pass on to others regarding climate change?

Climate change will have an impact on every person on the planet, with the most vulnerable being affected the most severely. We can no longer afford to allow climate change to escalate any further and we must collectively act to curb it. The actions of individuals will add up and make a difference.