In 2015, as UNDP, we designed Climate Box, an integrated climate education program that raises awareness of the climate crisis, encourages school students to lead environmentally-friendly lives, and inspires youth to spread the word to their family, friends, and local communities.
The interactive toolkit has since reached over 50,000 students in eight countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia and inspired many students to combat climate change beyond their classrooms by participating in competitions, community engagement activities, workshops, and more.
We spoke to students Jafar Kasimov and Hurshejon Komilov from Tajikistan, teacher Maya Batyrova from Turkmenistan, school principal Elena Moleshkova from rural Kazakhstan, and education experts Danila Sorokin and Elena Malts from Russia, who have all been part of the inspiring journey.
How did you first learn about Climate Box?
Hurshejon Komilov: My school was already active in environmental protection, so our city’s Department of Education gave us the Climate Box toolkit.
Jafar Kasimov: Our school had participated in other international competitions. When my teacher found out about the first International Contest of Students’ Climate Change Projects under the Climate Box program, she immediately told our class about it.
Maya Batyrova: In June 2018, I attended a workshop for teachers in Ashgabat. At the workshop, educational representatives from UNDP presented the toolkit. We received interesting methodological recommendations for new approaches to climate education and it piqued my interest.
Elena Moleshkova: I also learned about Climate Box and its resources at aseminar conducted by UNDP specialists, but in Nur-Sultan.
Elena Malts: I’m very lucky that the program was piloted in my city, Sochi.
Danila Sorokin: Like Elena, I became acquainted with Climate Box when the environmental centre where I work became responsible for piloting the project in Moscow in 2015. The pilot revealed that there is a real need for additional climate education.
What did you learn from Climate Box?
Hurshejon Komilov: I knew about climate change problems before Climate Box, as we had studied and discussed climate change in depth in my environmental science classes. But the toolkit allowed me to delve into the impact of climate change in Tajikistan.
I also learned a lot about how to lead a climate-friendly life by changing my habits. Now I know how to save as much water and energy as possible, and I also completely abandoned the use of plastic bags.
Jafar Kasimov: Frankly, I didn’t know how deeply climate change affects the environment and human beings, and how it is increasing each day. I learned how to reuse and save water by installing various energy efficient devices at my house. I have used this knowledge to develop my own project called “Reuse Fresh Water.”
What was your favorite thing about Climate Box?
Hurshejon Komilov: What I liked most about Climate Box was that it brought together the youth of 8 countries, from Armenia to Uzbekistan, to solve global problems using young minds.
Jafar Kasimov: I liked the card game with questions about climate change. Sometimes climate change doesn’t seem real to people, so a good way to learn a lot of information about climate change is by playing a game.
Elena Malts: I like that the toolkit is clearly structured but also highly professional. I also like that the project is constantly developing, with new participants joining from different countries, which gives us inputs from different national contexts.
Maya Batyrova: The materials are so accessible and easy to use. Juniors love the poster about reducing their carbon footprint, geographical terms, and crossword puzzles. Seniors enjoy the text with scientific hypotheses and facts, as well as the poster on climate change impacts and the game cards with questions about the climate change problem.
Hurshejon and Jafar, after going through the Climate Box curriculum, you designed some initiatives. Can you tell us about those?
Hurshejon Komilov: The purpose of my project was to clean up the Syr Darya River from coarsely dispersed waste using a homemade filter. After I presented my project, I also taught a master class in several schools around the Khujan city about how to design a purification filter. It attracted media attention, which helped publicize my efforts and increased awareness of the problem.
Jafar Kasimov: Today, about 70% of all freshwater used by humans is for irrigating agricultural fields. What we need is to use fresh water more efficiently — due to global warming and the depletion of natural sources of drinking water, water reuse is becoming increasingly important. Modern wastewater treatment plants cannot always effectively address this issue, and at the same time, the energy costs of treating large amounts of waste water are growing more and more. To address this, my team developed a more efficient water treatment process consisting of four compartments including a reservoir and filtration units.
After the Climate Box competition, we showed our project in different regional competitions. We’re hoping in the future to present our project to water treatment facilities in Tajikistan, too.
What changes have you seen as a result of the programme?
Maya Batyrova: In one of the modules, students fill in a table on climate impacts of the environment, which lead them to predict changes in an ecosystem, consequences and pathways of a decision. I noticed increased emotional responsiveness in my students, especially those in the lower grades. I can see after taking the course that they have a stronger desire to actively protect and improve the natural environment.
Elena Moleshkova: In our school, the toolkit is used in science and math lessons and has been integrated into elective English courses from grade 5 to grade 9. Additionally, we have developed an elective course called “My eco-friendly home” based on the toolkit. This course allows students to design an energy-efficient “eco-friendly house of their dreams” from planning to creation. We can see the interest from students and parents very strongly.
Danila Sorokin: Each country I’ve worked with has embarked on amazing climate projects in schools. For instance, in Armenia, Climate Box inspired the development of biogas reactors based on waste from a rabbit farm. In Kazakhstan, students grew herbs and composted food waste directly on school grounds. In Kyrgyzstan, there was a project to reuse battery cells, reducing the demand for batteries and thus reducing the emissions associated with battery waste management. In Moldova, students found similarities between the chemical formula of a specific type of plastic and honeybee wax that can be used as a natural substitute. Tajikistan has focused on waste management, and specifically the greenhouse gas emissions associated with construction materials. Finally, in Uzbekistan, students introduced drip irrigation to complement the country’s desalination projects.
Why is climate change important to you?
Maya Batyrova: Climate change is one of the most important global challenges facing humanity, as climate change is felt in all countries. We are all responsible — our common task is to reduce the pressure on the climate by reducing our carbon footprint. Children are our future, so we need to nurture a culture of environmental and climate responsibility from a young age.
Hurshejon Komilov: Solving climate change is paramount. Environmental problems can harm every living thing.
Jafar Kasimov: The climate is changing, and it is happening right now. The climate fluctuated in the past too, but today’s changes are more severe. We have to acknowledge this.
Elena Malts: Climate change has already begun and is accelerating. We don’t have 20 years to prepare, the way we did with the field of environmental education. People must take responsibility today — otherwise it will be too late tomorrow. And teachers are the ones to teach our future leaders: today’s children.
Editor’s Note: The Climate Box toolkit is an illustrated encyclopedia of climate issues targeting children aged 7-16 who not only get to learn about the science behind climate change but are given practical tips on how to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint. The toolkit is part of a Climate Box education program that includes various activities for students, teachers and educational experts.
To date, 50,000 school children have used the Climate Box in classrooms and for extracurricular activities in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The box is also available online on various app stores.
Jafar Kasimov and Hurshejon Komilov are high school students in Tajikistan whose projects were presented at the first International Contest of Students’ Climate Change Projects among 24 best youth initiatives from eight countries.
Elena Moleshkova is the Principal of a secondary school in rural Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan joined the Climate Box program in 2016 and is now one of eight Climate Box program countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. These countries developed their own versions of the Climate Box toolkit following Russia’s successful experience in 2015. To date, 800 teachers across 75 schools in Kazakhstan have used the Climate Box toolkit.
Maya Batyrova teaches geography to secondary school students in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Her School #27, was one of 50 schools selected to pilot the Climate Box project in Turkmenistan in 2018–2019, and as of August 2019, the toolkit had reached over 400 teachers and 2,500 students across the country.
Elena Malts has been the Director of the Ecological and Biological Center in Sochi, Russia since 2002. She has worked in environmental education for more than 20 years, working both with young people and adults. Elena piloted Climate Box in the Sochi city in 2015, and together with Danila co-facilitated trainings for teachers across eight countries in 2015–2019.
Danila Sorokin is Head of the ‘Young Naturalist’ Centre in Moscow, Russia. He was trained as a biology teacher, and has worked in sustainable development education for several years, focusing on interactive extra-curriculum activities for the youth. Under the Climate Box program, Danila has been leading international youth activities and trainings for teachers.