Green School in the Botanic Garden recognized by UNESCO as "Official German Project for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development"

Model example of innovative and effective implementation of education for sustainable development

07.03.2011

At this year's didacta – The trade fair for education and training in Stuttgart, the "Fair Tour" (German: "Fairführung") education scheme developed by the Green School of the Botanic Garden of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in collaboration with the Mainz fair trade organization "Weltladen Unterwegs" was recognized by the German Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as one of the official UN World Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) projects for 2011/2012. The goal of this UN Decade is to embed the principles of sustainable development in education throughout the world. The award-winning projects are model examples of innovative and effective implementation of education for sustainable development. "The various elements of the Fair Tour scheme impressively demonstrate what forms future-oriented education can take," explained Professor Gerhard de Haan, Chairman of the German National Committee for the UN ESD Decade and member of the Sciences Committee of the German Commission for UNESCO. He praised the underlying concept of the scheme, which is designed to provide practical education oriented towards the idea of sustainable development for school children in Mainz University's Botanic Garden.

The Fair Tour scheme comprises three projects aimed at different age groups centering on the crop plants cocoa, coffee, and cotton. In each project, the young participants learn about how the original produce gets from the tropical region where it is grown into the products we find in our shops. After an introductory session in the Green School, the children are given a tour of the tropical hothouses in the Botanic Garden of Mainz University. Here they learn about the crop, its cultivation and its harvesting. On action-oriented and interactive learning trails, the visitors are directly confronted with various global processing stages and consequences of their own consumption habits of the products under discussion. Finally, they are encouraged to discuss what they themselves can do in terms of sustainability such as buying fair trade products, for example. The interdisciplinary 'Fair Tour' projects can be seen as extensions of school lessons in particular in the subjects of biology, geography, economics, and social studies. "The jury decided to honor this scheme because it demonstrates, in a readily understandable form, how we all can live sustainably," emphasized Professor Gerhard de Haan.

A total of 70 projects in Germany have received the coveted UNESCO approval for the period of 2011/2012. The "UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014," for which UNESCO is the lead agency, has provided enormous boost to educational projects. The Education for Sustainable Development scheme sets out to pose and answer questions such as: 'How and where do I buy clothing without encouraging exploitation in the countries where the raw materials are grown and processed?' and 'What is the most ecologically compatible way in which I can feed myself?' Recognition is awarded to projects throughout the world in which children learn how to make economically rational decisions, to appreciate what is environmentally sustainable, and to be aware of social justice. The projects must conform to the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) guidelines, i.e., the projects must impart information and skills relating to at least two of the three classical UN ethical dimensions of sustainability – environment, economics, and social issues. Moreover, the children are encouraged to acquire such abilities as the capacity to work as part of a team and develop interdisciplinary concepts as it is clear that sustainable development is realistically achievable only if everyone actively contributes to a more just and fairer world. To be accredited, the projects must also have an innovative character, a broad-based approach, and the potential and will for interaction with other projects.