Culture for kids in Dubai

Environment and adventure for kids in the UAE

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Spotlight on …

Camels, Desert & Dates
Desert Ranch
Cuddling isn’t the first thought that springs to mind when you come across a camel. For most expats, a close encounter with these allegedly aggressive (biting, spitting, stamping) mammals is approached with wariness or fear. It is misconceptions such as these that a new outdoor education centre, Desert Ranch, is aiming to dispel with its ‘camel cuddling’ programme. ‘Camels aren’t aggressive and they don’t bite or spit,’ says Mark Barsby, the trainer at Desert Ranch. ‘They’re incredibly friendly and loving.’

‘It’s amazing how many people live in the Gulf, yet so few have ever come close to a camel,’ says Caroline Green, community relations coordinator for Desert Ranch. Yet these desert-dwelling mammals have played such an important role in Arab culture – so much so that there are more than 160 words for camel in the Arabic language.

A 2.4sq km space hosting 11 camels, 17 goats, two donkeys and seven ducks, this desert classroom provides a platform for learning all things ‘local’ and is targeting educational institutions with its programme of local and ecological activities.

‘Our aim is to use our desert site, its inhabitants and environment to provide educational activities, which fit into the school’s particular curriculum and learning,’ says Caroline. There are opportunities for art and mapping activities, as well as educating kids about the economical and practical issues of keeping animals and about the desert

ecosystems, while Desert Ranch’s date plantation is a further teaching tool, helping little ones understand not just where dates come from, but how long it takes for a tree to mature and the uses of different parts of the tree.

With plans to eventually become a venue and resource for clubs like Brownies, Scouts and The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, this outdoor classroom is loaded with the real luxuries of local life.
Interested? For more info or to arrange a site meeting, contact Caroline at caroline.green@desert-ranch.com; 04 832 7171.


Spotlight on …

Formal Field Studies
Al Awadi Field Studies Centre

Recently-opened near Al Dhaid, the Al Awadi Field Studies Centre (part of the Ecoventure company) is bringing local lessons to life outside the confines of the classroom.

‘The KHDA booklet specifically says students must learn about the culture and environment of the UAE, and until now, there’s been limited opportunity for practical study,’ says Ecoventure’s general manager, Matthew Cocks, a former IB Environmental Sciences teacher in Dubai. ‘For example, students studying IB Environmental Sciences need 30 hours practical work including data collection, sampling and statistical analysis in the field, and the nearest centre to do that, until now, was in Cyprus.’ Filling a much-needed gap, the centre offers schools all-inclusive, tailor-made programmes with a wide range of activities and expert tuition.

Students gain an expansive education in the entire ecology of the area with access to the five main habitats of the UAE – the desert, the Hajar mountains, the mangroves, the wadis and the coast – all possible from base camp.

The 500sq km desert site – where kids stay in air-conditioned dorms or safari tents and the teachers have their own quarters – offers a vast and pristine desert, ripe for exploration and bursting with ghaf trees, lizards, snakes and beetles, as well as a camel farm and date farm.

The centre accesses the Umm Al Quwain mangroves via The Marine Club’s houseboat, letting kids embrace the environment, rich in indigenous wildlife (from green turtles to Cormorant nests) and local trees, while the full scientific laboratory on the desert site provides all the necessary field studies equipment.

‘Even at primary level, it’s essential that children learn about local ecology,’ says Matthew. ‘It’s incredible how many people live in Dubai and don’t know we have mangroves or mountains in the region. We want to give an up- close and personal experience of local life, helping students experience scientific concepts and further ignite their curiosity.’
Academic programmes can be topped up with optional fun activities, from teambuilding to educational games. Interested? Discuss your curricular requirements with Matthew at mcocks@ecoventureme.com; 04 372 1222


Spotlight on …

Environment & Adventure
Libra Adventure Centre

With extensive experience in developing and managing outdoor programmes in the UAE and Oman, Libra has branched out with a new student-based centre, Libra Adventure Centre in Umm Al Quwain.

Offering expeditions and activities with a local learning focus, combined with adventure pursuits like climbing, kayaking, orienteering, navigation and map-reading skills, the centre utilises all local environments, from arid deserts and wild seas to flooding rivers and gigantic rock faces.

‘Umm Al Quwain is a jewel, where both desert and the ocean meet, and it’s ideal for wilderness and environmental educational experiences,’ says Libra’s business development manager, Kim Ashworth. Set in the pristine wilderness on a body of water (the Khor) peppered by hundreds of islands, and just 40 minutes from Dubai, it’s an ideal location to host a multi-activity programme.

‘Students get to observe the difference in marine ecology between polluted and unpolluted mangroves, understand what mangroves provide and the major threats to them. They’ll also have the chance to help clean up a small area,’ says Kim.

Either on a boat trip or with kayaks (with opportunities for snorkeling and fishing), expert instructors are on hand to provide facts and information. In the desert, kids get to grips with environmental studies, camel riding and camping, while the Hajar mountains provide an educational backdrop for hiking and navigation.

Teambuilding is core for Libra, and, says Kim, the programmes ‘test students physically and mentally, demanding they work together to overcome a variety of challenges.’

Like the others, Libra develops its activities in line with a school’s curriculum. ‘We tailor programmes to suit the students’ and schools’ needs. Teachers can visit, discuss ideas and create a relevant programme, with access to full use of facilities and equipment at our centre to aid learning,’ says Kim. In addition, they offer expedition training/practice days for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

The centre comprises a purpose-built dormitory with shower/loo facilities for up to 80 students. It boasts three chefs and a restaurant, and provides one experienced instructor to every 10 students .
Interested? Contact Kim at adventure@libra-uae.com; 050 325 5492.

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