Regional SPARE seminar in Georgia 25th -29th of September 2008

Participants from all over the Caucasus region.
SPARE coordinators, teachers and pupils from the three Caucasian countries Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have in the end of September gathered for regional SPARE seminar in the mountain village Gudauri, Georgia. The participants have been discussing the development of SPARE in the region, the consequences of climate change and methods to teach pupils what climate change is and how it will affect the Caucasus.

The village Gudauri has long and cold winters because it is located almost 1300 meters over sea level, near the northern border with Russia. Most of the public buildings here were built under the Soviet Union, so the quality of the windows in these buildings is in bad shape. Windows are among the greatest sources for heat losses in buildings. Improved energy efficiency through windows restoration will reduce energy consumption and thus emission of greenhouse gases, so instead of changing to modern plastic windows, which are of bad quality and expensive, we are teaching people how to restore old windows and to insulate them.

A popular part of the seminar was to insulate a window in the hotel were the seminar was held. The Armenian SPARE coordinator Hrant Sargsyan held a workshop on how to insulate windows for the teachers and pupils that participated at the seminar. The pupils got to try to insulate a window them self with great success. Boys and girls from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia were cooperating effectively and some of them wanted to continue to insulate the whole hotel, since it was great fun, but also because the hotel was very cold since the problems with import of gas from Russia.

During the seminar the SPARE coordinators talked about the development of SPARE in their countries. Nailia Ismailova from Azerbaijan told that 150 schools are now working officially with SPARE and there are five official SPARE schools. She also said that when she first came to the northern and eastern parts of Azerbaijan and were talking to teachers about saving energy, the teachers were shocked. They could not understand how it would be possible to save energy, when they almost have non energy. The Azerbaijani coordinators then understood that it was necessary to do practical work and show the villages’ ways to use the energy more effective.

Nailia Ismailova continued to tell that in the start it was difficult to work with the teachers of these regions, but after trainings and distributions of information the teacher got interested and are now contacting the SPARE coordinators in search for more information and asking for new publications to broaden their work. Nailia Ismailova also talked about the Azerbaijani participation at the TUNZA International Environmental Conference held in Stavanger, Norway on June 17-21. During the regional seminar coordinators discussed the TUNZA conference and all agreed to recommend participation on such kind of conferences. She added that after this event the students became advocates of environment and for example Rufat Dargahli, one participant at the TUNZA conference said: “I enjoyed this conference, made new friends, learn a lot more about environment and I'm now even more motivated to save our planet!”

Armenia Anush Gevorgyan from Armenia told that they were the first in Caucasus to start SPARE. They had heard about it through SEU and got very interested. They started with five pilot schools and now the project has developed a lot with many schools, but the last year they figured that it was better to focus on quality then on how many schools, so the last year they held approximately 10 seminars for teachers. Today schools from 9 regions of Armenia are involved in SPARE. School teachers and directors are finding SPARE coordinators and suggesting their participation in SPARE.

SPARE patrol in Armenian schools. In some SPARE schools in Armenia children are energy detectives and have the right to enter all rooms in the schools, even the teacher’s lunch room at anytime and check if the light is on or if windows are open when it’s cold and so on. This is very popular and all the children want to become a SPARE officer. This is one of the ways how SPARE pupils can stay in project after 1 year study.

There are many examples of SPARE pupils educating their parents. One example is a mother that put on the water cooker to do the dishes, but at the same time a soap opera started and the mother went to the living room to watch. Then the daughter said that she had to do the dishes now while the water was warm, because it would be a waste of energy to heat the water two times because of a soap opera.

This summer SPARE Armenia had summer camp with the Armenian scouts and learned the other children about energy saving and organized a competition on collecting garbage. At the end of the camp the scout leader said happily that they had saved a lot of money from energy saving during the stay, because of the SPARE children. Anush Gevorgyan ended her presentation to tell about how they have been working with the government and other state officials in Armenia, but that it was very difficult and stated: “Our problem is that every six months they change ministers or relevant state authorities, and we have to start all over again.”

Georgia Gia Sopadze the SPARE coordinator from Georgia told that about 150 schools are working officially with SPARE and that the SPARE materials/publications are very popular in Georgia. Organizations, companies and private persons are using the materials in different projects and the spread of information on energy saving is immense.

Because of the bad relations with Russia the country is having problems with energy. Gas is now very expensive and will not have a future in Georgia; people are starting to use wood for heating and cooking, so his organization will therefore focus on energy effective stoves in the future. The interest of saving energy is growing with the price of energy, so to show alternative and good ways to save energy is important.

At the seminar participated teachers and pupils from a SPARE school in Gori that got bombed during the war with Russia. For them it was very healthy to get out of the war zone and visit the beautiful mountain regions of Georgia. In Georgia today there are only 3-4 active NGOs focusing on energy saving and climate change. The Norwegian Embassy in Baku For two days we were joined with a representative from the Norwegian embassy in Baku. Jonas Cock Heli was very happy to stay with us and talked about how important it was that Armenians and Azerbaijani meet with each other. He also said that the Norwegian government is focusing on development projects that are working with environmental and climate issues. He was impressed of the SPARE project and on the work that is being done through SPARE in the Caucasus region.

Working groups Participants worked in working –groups. Groups were multinational; each group had its leader and they hat to answer these questions:

1. How to involve SPARE pupils in program after 1 year of study? Here are some of teachers’ suggestions: • EcoCamp (SPARE CAMP). • Information centers. • Build up student associations. • Create international network between SPARE pupils. (SPARE Facebook, Climate Club?) • SPARE Collage – educate professionals in energy saving and alternative energy. Help students with micro credit so that they can start an energy saving business on their own.

2. Integration of SPARE in natural, humanitarian and technical subjects at schools.

Here are some of the results of teachers’ suggestions: • SPARE is divided into parts and integrated in physics, chemistry, biology, geography, etc • SPARE parts are integrated in Literature, foreign languages, historical subjects, etc. • SPARE can be easily integrated in mathematics.

3. Methodology of integration of SPARE in natural, humanitarian and technical subjects at schools. Azerbaijani and Armenian teachers made presentations on SPARE methodology.

Here are some of the results of teachers’ suggestions: • Interactive teaching • Competitions • Compositions • Singing • Performances • Computer games, etc.

Working groups for pupils:

1. Energy saving and SPARE 2. Climate Changes and SPARE Pupils presented their ideas with paintings and posters for each group. During the presentation they explained their ideas.

On the last evening pupils made a competition for teachers and asked them questions. Everybody had great fun and learned a lot from the pupils. Congratulations to the winners – the Azerbaijani delegation.

Participants visiting a local hydro electrical plant.

Jonas Cock, representative from the Norwegian embassy in Baku.

Armenia and Azerbaijan helping each other over a small river.

Grant Sargsyan, SPARE coordinator from Armenia leading a discussion.

Armenian girl insulating a window in Gudauri.

Pupils at the seminar enjoying a better meal.

The incredible nature where the seminar was held.

All the participants in Kasbeki.

Teachers from Gori, Georgia