With one of the highest per capita waste generation rates globally, Qatar has a huge incentive for re-use and re-cycling of materials besides an efficient waste-management. According to one study, Qatar produced 28,000 tonnes of solid house waste per day in 2012.
The per capita waste generation in Qatar ranges between 1.6kg to 1.8kg each day, one of the highest in the world.
While the government is making efforts to reduce these numbers as much and as soon as possible, the primary responsibility for developing the culture of re-use and re-cycling lies with the residents of the country, the mass consumers of goods that add to waste every day.
And the bulk of this social responsibility stems from behavioural change. The best bet therefore, would be to prepare a whole generation for it. And the best time to inculcate such values in them is when they are young.
At Shams Generation, they are aiming to do exactly this; teach them when they are young. A CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative established by Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec), Shams Generation is a learning programme that combines art and science to teach children the importance of re-using and solar energy.
With its innovative solar technology ideas involving re-used materials, Shams Generation engages school, college and university students besides public at large through different programmes and workshops to teach them conservation. And the efforts have been result-oriented.
With more and more educational institutions coming on board, Shams Generation has triggered broad interest in the field. They recently held a workshop for children at Qatar Foundation, Garangao at Al Shaqab which was attended by more than 400 children.
Encouraged to design and construct miniature TV sets using solar panels and re-used material, the response from children was so overwhelming the organisers ran out of materials (solar panels). The workshop ended well before the estimated closing time, Amru Elfil, Events and Outreach Supervisor at Shams Generation, tells Community.
“We are teaching the basics of solar energy to children. It is about what solar energy is, its different components and how it works. We try and give them simple examples with the aim to motivate children to be more interested in science and at the same time mix it up with arts,” says Elfil.
All their projects are developed in-house within the company. This workshop for children was level I which is a basic introductory level. It introduces children to the idea of solar energy, sustainability and sustainable practices.
It was interesting watching children building miniature TV sets, says Elfil. They would take a box of small size and cut a hole in it. Using a tracing paper, they would then draw whatever favourite characters or symbols they have and paint them.
The solar panels are then inserted at the bottom of the box which power the light and project it on the tracing paper, making it look like a TV set.
At the workshop, there were Shams Generation supervisors who monitored the activity. They were there just to make sure that everything was available for the children but the children would do everything by themselves.
“I think it was the hands-on approach that attracted so many children to the workshop. It was quite interesting for a child to interact with a solar panel. It sounds like something from Star Wars or something out of their reach, but it was actually in their hands,” explains Elfil.
“They see and touch it and they understand how it works. And then, they use it to see how it works. We had long queues here with children waiting to get a turn to participate in the activity. We were racing ourselves to catch up with the children,” he adds.
In this workshop activity, the children were taught the basics of what is solar energy and why re-using is important. They were given examples on how much waste every individual produces in Qatar, why it is important to re-cycle and manage waste.
Elfil says they are aware that children pick up very quickly and that is why children were very interested in this activity.
He says Shams Generation usually follows up with the children who participate in such workshops. They are given a web address from where they can interact with the platform.
“We have one child who participated with us last year. And he was very much into the programme so we gave him the advanced kit and now we are following up with him as well. Now he is a level III child and he is making his videos and getting feedback on the work that he has done,” reveals Elfil.
He says they have a very big pool of such children who are interacting with them. Not just that, they have schools that are constantly approaching them, asking them to come onboard. Today, they have six schools asking them to be part of the programme.
“There are quite a few things that we are trying to achieve through this programme. We are trying to implement this programme in every school in Qatar and the schools along with the Ministry of Education have realised the importance of such programmes and the hands-on approach to education,” says Elfil, adding they have already succeeded in many avenues.
At the workshops, they keep changing the ideas to make them more interesting. The workshops in the public domain are very different from that of school programmes. The school programmes involve teachers, who, then, implement these programmes with their students.
Every school, Elfil says, has a different way of looking at it. For example, they did it with one school on the theme of marine life and on robots with another school. “It is interesting to see that everyone implements it in a different way with different kind of materials. But it is attracting huge interest,” says Elfil.
Working closely with teaching and learning professionals, QSTec aims to develop the Shams Generation initiative into an annual program that will grow to become an established component of the participating schools’ science and learning curriculum.
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