Posted on October 15, 2011

A group of nineteen American high school students enrolled in Arabic language programmes are concluding a trip to Qatar, preparing to return home with a greater understanding of issues around water conservation and preservation.

The 11-day trip saw the students from Lindblom Math and Science Academy (LMSA), an all minority high school in Chicago USA, partnered with Al Eman Secondary School for Girls and Al Wakrah Secondary School for boys in Qatar. The Chicago students participated in colloquiums before the trip, acquiring skills to measure purity and usage of water and learning about the history of water use and extraction in Chicago.

The students found that learning about the desalination process here was of particular interest, raising their awareness of different types of water issues and various means of processing water. “We need a new sewage system, storms we haven’t seen in the last 100 years we’ve seen in the last few months...its starting to over flood, the sewage system is becoming a problem, with dirty water going into our fresh water that we use everyday,” said LMSA student Marshawn Shelton.

The second part of the trip focused on exposure to Qatari culture, introducing the American students to local history, allowing the Qatari students to showcase their country to their new American friends. Highlights of cultural activities include a behind-the-scenes tour of Al Jazeera headquarters, a 3-D Calligraphy workshop at the Museum of Islamic Art, and a night camping in the desert.

The last part of the trip featured interactive learning programmes on marine life and ecosystems, revealing shared concerns and importance of oceans and its ecosystems, regardless of geographical location or culture. During the programme, students snorkeled, explored the mangroves of Qatar, and conducted experiments illuminating the dangers of ocean acidification. The programme was conducted by experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, partners from the Ocean for Life programme, and in partnership with Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) and Environmental Studies Centre at Qatar University.

Qatar Airways Network

Andy Long, a teacher at LMSA, said: “They were really excited to get out and do some real science. One of the students said: ‘It’s so cool to go out there and do it, and then come back and learn about it.”

LMSA has the largest Arabic programme in Chicago, and one of the largest in a public school in the USA, with over 200 students studying Arabic. As the school has a science and math focus, Qatar Foundation International, organisers of the programme, also arranged for activities at Texas A&M’s water laboratory, and had students try to develop a water preservation action plan for the US and Doha.

This is the fourth exchange with American high school students coming to Qatar since 2010, which is part of a QFI programme which has also brought Qatari students to the United States on a few occasions. In 2010, Qatari students visited Washington DC, and participated in a space camp at NASA, and brought students to Seattle, Washington.

Commenting on the programme, Kent Lewis, Director of Programmes at QFI, said: “In some cases we’re helping schools start new Arabic programmes, in other cases, like with LMSA we’re trying to support successful existing programmes. What we hope to do is use the Arabic language classes as a basis for other kinds of partnerships.”

Marshawn Shelton and fellow student Doneisha Hawkins would like to show students from Qatar around Chicago and the Great Lakes, as well as introduce them to the food, as their Qatari hosts have been eager to have them try local specialties.

After the trip, students will use QFI’s expert-moderated online youth platform, YALLAH (Youth Allied to Learn Lead and Help), to continue working together on water-related action plans, comparing results via videoconference, and collaborate on video and photo projects.

source: Gulf Times