Lahore Biennale Foundation’s Launches Green School Certification Program (GSCP)

Lahore Biennale Foundation’s Launches Green School Certification Program (GSCP)
Climate change and its impact is the biggest issue that we face today. It is essential to equip future generations with the knowledge and skills to understand and address the challenges posed by this global crisis.

Recognising the power of education and art as catalysts for change, the Lahore Biennale Foundation’s Green School Certification Program (GSCP) has emerged as a pioneering initiative.

This pilot project aims to integrate climate education and sustainability into our learning fabric to empower students as eco-citizens. By advocating for long-term sustainable practices, the program aspires to create a greener and more sustainable future.

I got to speak to the Executive Director of Lahore Biennale Foundation (LBF), Qudsia Rahim, about the Green School Certification Program.

Q: Can you share how you came about the idea of the Green School Certification Program and how does it connect with the objectives of the Lahore Biennale Foundation?

A: LBF is a contemporary Arts Foundation that believes the climate crisis and sustainable development are immediate concerns for Pakistan, especially Lahore. It operates with a deep understanding of sustainable practices and eco-conscious living. Both Biennales have actively focused on these issues. In 2018, the foundation established the Afforestation Lahore Group program to engage in collective participation through government and private partnerships. They have planted over 2.5 million trees in the last three years and contributed to several climate-friendly actions, including Hands-on engagement with local communities and land-care groups, and contributing to a reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions.

GSCP was developed in response to six years of investment in the city's health. Understanding this, we invited LUMS and WWF to partner with us in bringing this program to public schools with the help of the DEA office initially. With the expanded interest, we, along with our partners, look forward to bringing the program to both public and private schools in Lahore, envisioning a scaled-up program. The program harnesses the power of art and education to promote climate education and foster an eco-conscious community. This lies at the core of the Foundation and its mission to serve through this discipline.

Q: How did the pilot project of the Green School Certification Program contribute to addressing the challenges of climate change and promoting sustainable practices?

A: The project provides educational resources and workshops through the ToT (Training of Trainers) model to teachers, students, and staff, aimed at using Visual Training Routine (VTR), an innovative pedagogical tool developed as Project Zero at Harvard University.

The project recognised the critical role students play as change makers, providing opportunities for student-led Eco-Clubs and involvement in sustainability projects within their schools and communities. Empowering students to take agency, the program cultivated a sense of responsibility and leadership, ensuring the continuation of sustainable practices beyond the pilot phase.

Q: What are the key activities and initiatives included in the Green School Certification Program? How do they empower teachers, schools, and students to become eco-citizens? In what ways does the program plan to expand beyond the pilot project? Are there any specific targets or goals for reaching other schools, colleges, offices, and restaurants?

A: The Green School Certification Program empowers teachers, schools, and students to become eco-citizens through various planned activities. Jointly worked by LBF, SOE LUMS & WWF, these include research-based climate change workshops, continuous professional development for teachers and students using innovative pedagogical methods, distribution of nature workbooks, the establishment of student-led Eco-Clubs, compiling policy recommendations for the government, and implementation of waste segregation.

The program has the potential, therefore we are in various conversations with the government to expand its role thus scope to government offices and restaurants, as well as colleges and universities in the future after further diversifying its framework.

Q: Could you elaborate on the achievements of the pilot project, particularly in terms of reducing waste and upscaling PET bottle recycling? How did art and education contribute to these achievements?

A: In the pilot project, through the program's initiatives and educational campaigns, participating schools successfully raised awareness among students, teachers, and staff about the importance of waste reduction. The involvement of Lucky Core Industries (LCI) Pakistan Polyester Limited as a program sponsor further enhanced waste reduction efforts by providing waste segregation bins, making it easier for schools to segregate different types of waste, including PET bottles.

Art workshops, creative projects, and installations were organized to engage students creatively in transforming PET bottles into artistic and functional items. Through these activities, students learned about the environmental impact of plastic waste and the potential for recycling and upcycling. This collaboration not only demonstrated the practicality of recycling PET bottles but also showcased the value of creative solutions in addressing environmental challenges.

Q: How did the collaboration with partner organizations, such as the Secretary of the Environment Protection Department, District Education Authority Lahore, School of Education at LUMS, WWF-Pakistan, and Lucky Core Industries, enhance the implementation and impact of the Green School Certification Program?

A: One of LBF’s strengths is to work with both the public and private sectors. This project brings together government agencies, environmental organizations, industry leaders, and academic institutions, allowing for a collaborative and multidimensional approach to address the ecological challenges faced by schools. By leveraging the expertise and resources of these partners, the Green School Certification Program envisions itself as a comprehensive and impactful initiative that fosters environmental awareness, sustainable practices, and transformative learning experiences for students and teachers.

Q: What are the next steps for schools to receive the Green School Certification? What are the criteria and requirements that participating schools need to fulfill?

 A: Our intent at present is in developing a robust pedagogical framework that can effectively disseminate climate knowledge, as a curriculum for environmental education simply does not exist in Pakistan to this date. As such, there aren’t specific criteria for certification as it ends up acting as a deterrent to the receptiveness of the project. The goal is to seamlessly nurture green practices in these institutions, allowing them the agency to develop these practices independently and ensuring continuous growth and improvement.