Talk of Expo 2020 Dubai is heating up, so Teach Middle East Magazinetook the opportunity to take a sneak peek and find out what is in store for teachers and students.
“It’s going to be one of the greatest learning experiences in the world,” says Alya Al-Ali, Director of Youth Connect at Expo 2020 Dubai, as she points to the vast construction site where the quirky facades of buildings that will become home to stories from 180 countries are already visible.
“Many people think World Expos are business events; but that is only a part of a bigger story. World Expos are a global platform where we can solve problems through collaboration and the sharing of ideas. It is a destination to learn, innovate and together, build a better future.”
Alya, herself only 25 years old, exudes a natural enthusiasm for the project expected to shape her nation. Her eyes gleam as she describes how Expo 2020 is going to be a celebration of cultures, music and tastes. A global destination where sparks of innovation meet the edge of imagination.
She explains how important topics such as UAE culture and heritage, global citizenship, innovation, careers of the future, and many more will be explored through immersive learning experiences at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“Visitors will learn as much about themselves as they will about the world. It’s going to be a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience full of learning and fun,” she says.
“It’s for six months, from 20 October, 2020 to 10 April, 2021 and there is so much to discover, so many opportunities and possibilities to explore.”
That is why Expo 2020 created a dedicated team called Youth Connect to make sure students of all ages and the school community can take full advantage of the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.
Youth Connect engages with schools through platforms such as school roadshows, field trips at the Expo 2020 site and teachers’ workshops. The team is also creating resources to help bring to life the Expo 2020 theme and subthemes in the classroom – and a new surprise experience exclusively for schools, set to be launched in September.
“We are developing tailor-made journeys exclusively for schools, so that Expo becomes a natural extension of classroom-learning with real-life examples and amazing ideas,” Al-Alisays.
Taking Expo 2020 Dubai to classrooms across the UAE
Maryam Al Safranhas recently returned from a Youth Connect school roadshow in Abu Dhabi. A senior associate in the Youth Connect team, she tells TMEMwhy the school roadshows are so impactful.
“We call it the ‘magic show’. We travel to schools around the UAE to raise awareness about the Expo, inspire students and encourage them to take a leading role in our shared journey to 2020 and beyond,” she says.
Jessica Boyne from Safa Community School recently hosted a Youth Connect school roadshow.“This term our school is looking at the concept of sustainability. Year 2 wanted to explore Expo 2020 within the theme of sustainability to give the students purpose and a real-life context to help them make more connections in their learning.
“Youth Connect was the perfect ‘wow’ starter for our topic and their session was extremely well organised, pitched at the right level and very engaging. Both Youth Connect teachers helped the children to make connections to their prior learning and gave students a solid foundation to build on over the term.
“The students also loved their pins and were able to identify them as the Expo 2020 logo after the session.”
The Youth Connect school roadshows have already reached more than 40,000 students from 140 schools in all seven emirates, with many more visits planned.
Exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of history in the making
Youth Connect is also welcoming schools to the Expo 2020 site even before the doors open in 2020.
Nearly 1,000 students from 31 schools and universities from all over the UAE so far have been treated to exclusive, behind-the-scenes bus tours of the Expo 2020 site, followed by thought-provoking, hands-on workshops on innovation and themes of Expo 2020
Sarah Rafiullah, a senior associate in the Youth Connect team, says she relishes seeing the increased excitement of students after their tour of the 4.38 sqkm site.
“It is really intriguing to hear such thoughtful questions from young students regarding the legacy of the Expo, or the stages of construction, or even the logistics across the massive site. It just goes to show they are really thinking beyond the physical site,” Sarahsays. “They are taking the learning to the next level.”
Jack McGuiness from Abu Sa’eed Al Koudery Schoolin Hatta, Dubai shared how the Expo field trip helped take the student-led project to the next level.
“Our school is a long way from the Expo 2020 site, and up here in the mountains, it sometimes feels like we’re in a completely different country. So things like Expo 2020, where our students can relate to the rest of the UAE, are really important in giving them a sense of belonging,”McGuinnesssays.
“The Expo field trip gave our students an inspiring platform to appreciate the UAE heritage and the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed, and how this ties in with the future through Expo 2020.
“Ever since the trip, our students have not stopped talking about Expo and it became a natural real-life extension to our class. For example, during the subject life skills, when students had to learn to write CVs, they researched jobs at Expo 2020 and that got them very excited and engaged.”
Practical, hands-on lesson ideas, resources and workshops for the leader of leaders
Amin Tejparis one of three educators who have joined Youth Connect to support in developing programmes that empower teachers with the knowledge to bring learning to life through Expo 2020.
“Teachers and educators will play a critical role in ensuring that Expo 2020 leaves a lasting social legacy,” Tejpartells TMEM.
“We are striving to help students and youth take full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Youth Connect host teacher workshops to provide educators with an opportunity to make subject-specific connections to the Expo 2020 theme and subthemes and offer resources that are differentiated to cater for students of all ages – from primary all the way to high school.
Youth Connect has reached more than 2,700 teachers and principals so far, through workshops at Ministry of Education, KHDA and ADEK events. But there are bigger ambitions.
“We are working with teachers, who each have unique skills and expertise and are volunteering their time, to create hands-on, easy-to-use teaching resources that focus on the Expo 2020 theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ (i.e. collaboration) and subthemes: Opportunity, Mobilityand Sustainability,”Tejpar says.
Theresources enable students to become familiar with the multiple topics within each theme.
“When they come to Expo 2020 for one of our tailor-made school journeys, the students will be ready to take in much more knowledge and learning,” Tejpar says.
Cecelia Rustoff, a teacher at Al Hosoon School in Al Ain, recently participated in an Expo 2020 teachers’ workshop.
“The session has put everything into perspective: I now understand why the Expo 2020 is taking place,” she says. “I’m also able to make a link between Expo 2020 and what I can do in the classroom. I am excited about it and am really looking forward to inspiring my students to be part of this amazing initiative.”
Sneak peek into the future at Expo 2020
Before TMEM leaves the Expo 2020 site, Al-Alilets us in on a secret: “We have been working very hard on a special project just for schools. A new building next to where we are standing now is currently being transformed into a unique, experiential learning space that will welcome school groups from the new academic year in September.
“It will be the first official step inside this exciting place and we can’t wait to tell teachers and educators all about it – not to mention seeing the students’ smiles come September!”