Posted on October 11, 2011

A group of Arabic language students from the US, currently here on an international cultural exchange tour, will go on an excursion to Qatar's Mangroves on Monday to study the local flora and fauna.

In partnership with Qatar University Environmental Studies Centre, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, and Ocean for Life (OFL), the students will test the mangrove, the water quality, evaluate its marine life, collect core samples of sand, and clean up the beach. The collected samples will be taken to Qatar University's Environmental Studies Centre where a researcher will help them identify the marine life and test the water.

Mangroves are a critical habitat for marine life as they serve as a nursery to juvenile fish and crab. With protection from larger predators, baby fish and vertebrates are able to flourish. Conducting the overall health of a mangrove is essential as it ensures the perpetuation of marine life. Hosted by Qatar Foundation International (QFI) the 19 students and their teachers, who are from Lindblom Math and Science Academy (LMSA) in Chicago, are exploring Qatar and participating in educational activities based on the theme of water conservation and preservation.

Mangrove at Al Wakrah

QFI's Executive Director Maggie Mitchell Salem, speaking on the importance of cultural exchange visits, said, "These trips foster partnerships between schools in Qatar and the Americas and establish strong friendships between the students. "We have seen from our past exchange trips the personal growth and lasting impact on the students and teachers in both countries. We are particularly excited this year to support Chicago Public Schools and their commitment to critical language learning."

On the first-leg of the tour at the Doha Film Institute at Katara, the visiting group and Qatari students learnt a lesson on environment and conservation of rivers, estuaries, marshes and other threatened water resources from Alexandra Cousteau, founder of Blue Legacy and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, an elite group of eleven visionary young trailblazers from around the world who push the boundaries of discovery, adventure, and global problem-solving.

"From Chicago to Doha, water is connected to every aspect of our lives; it is something that we all share. In solving critical and universal water issues, we not only invest in our future but we also work together as a global community," said Cousteau. "The students - both Qatari and American - are our future leaders. And what is unique about this generation is that these leaders will truly be global." Granddaughter of Jacques-Yves Cousteau - the French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water - Alexandra spoke about her legacy as part of one of the world's most famous environmental dynasties.

She shared her own water advocacy films with the students, encouraging them as they set out over the next several days making short films about their water-based learning experiences while in Doha. "Alexandra''s inspiring filmmaking engages local communities around the world in water issues that pertain to them individually and that unite them to others globally," said Maggie Salem.

"She gives them the tools to tell their own stories, then edits and makes the short films available immediately, so they can be used to spark interest and action to save rivers, estuaries, marshes and other threatened water resources. QFI students from Chicago, Al Wakra and Doha will now be able to use these same techniques to tell their own stories and connect with the marine life around them."

Mangrove near Mesaieed

QFI and Blue Legacy have a shared interest in developing good global citizenship skills for young people in the 13-18 age group. Environmental awareness ensures the mistakes of one generation are not carried on by another; through filmmaking and social media, students will share what they learn about water problems confronting Chicago in Lake Michigan and Doha, on the Arabian Gulf. Lindblom Math and Science Academy has one of the largest Arabic programmes in the US with more than 180 high school students studying Arabic.

During the trip, Lindblom students and teachers will partner with Qatari students and teachers from two science-focused schools in Qatar - the Al Eman Secondary School for Girls and the Al Wakra Secondary School for Boys. The QFI has partnered with Ocean for Life (OFL) to bring marine conservation programmes to the exchange trip. OFL is an educational field study programme that brings together students from the Middle East and Western countries to enhance cultural understanding through studying ocean conservation and science under the theme of ''One World, One Ocean''.