For the past ten years, the EGU’s Geosciences Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshops – spreading first hand scientific research to teachers of primary and secondary schools – have been hugely successful in shortening the time that research takes to disseminate from scientist to textbook to teacher and offering usable practical activities for the classroom. GIFT workshops are usually held at the EGU General Assembly in Vienna, adding to the experience of the teachers by immersing them in a world of geoscientific research and discussion. In recent years, workshops have also been held in association with Alexander von Humboldt conferences in Mexico, Malaysia and Peru and are now on the way to Africa.
UNESCO’s Earth Science Education Initiative in Africa was set up to support the development of the next generation of African Earth scientists. The initiative aims to provide the necessary tools, networks and perspectives to apply sound science to solving the challenges of sustainable development and in turn gathering opportunities from them. Challenges and opportunities range from evolution in mineral extraction techniques to environmental management including mitigation of climate change, prevention of natural hazards, and ensuring access to clean drinking water.
Education is key to forging the next generation of ‘Earth stewards’ and give Earth sciences a status that reflects the importance that this discipline plays in the everyday life of African people. One of the three initial activities of the initiative was a focus on Earth science education at primary and secondary level in schools. To achieve this, it was recognised that first providing teachers with the necessary information, conveyed in an engaging way by scientists was essential for inspiring and educating future generations.
Bringing together the expertise of the EGU with UNESCO’s Earth Science Education Initiative in Africa, the EGU are proud to announce a new series of annual GIFT workshops to be held around the African continent over the next four years. As international events, the workshops will be held in four different regions of Africa, starting with Southern Africa. They will cover various topics of societal relevance such as climate change, groundwater, geohazards, mineral resources and environmental sustainability. The UNESCO-EGU-ESA African GIFT workshops will take place over the course of 3 days with 40 teachers from across the region and 8-10 speakers, half of whom will be non-African experts. Secondary-school science teachers can apply to participate in the South African GIFT workshop by filling in an online form or sending their application materials to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 24. The application information is available for download in PDF format, a document which also includes further details about the UNESCO-EGU-ESA GIFT workshops.
At the EGU, the Committee on Education will be responsible for developing the programme with the help of the new EGU Educational Fellow. Programme specialists from the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences at UNESCO headquarters, Paris and UNESCO African field offices will be jointly organising the workshops. For the first UNESCO-EGU-ESA GIFT workshop, to be held from the 26th-28th February 2014 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the European Space Agency and African Earth Observatory Network will be offering support and expertise and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University will be hosting the workshop. To reflect on one of the most pressing societal issues and the release of the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC, the first workshop will be on ‘Climate Change and Human Adaptation’.
With preparations already underway for this first African workshop, all those involved are looking forward to a successful event that will become a sustainable part of teacher education in Africa.
By Carlo Laj (Chair of the EGU Committee on Education), Sarah Gaines (Assistant Program Specialist, UNESCO) and Jane Robb (EGU Educational Fellow)
Update (11/12/13): The closing date for applications has been extended to 24 January 2014.