Many radical changes have taken place on the planet during the past three decades, which led to damage of the ozone layer and the phenomenon of acid rain, and also heightened the greenhouse effect and global warming. These occurrences have caused severe damage to biological diversity and have led, among other problems, to extinction of various types of flora and fauna. Demographic growth and technological development, together with the rise of more consumer-oriented societies, have also had a widespread effect on all of the global systems on a planetary level.
As a result of these phenomena, understanding began to dawn that continuation of traditional economic development would not be possible in the long term since the natural resources currently at our disposal would not be available to the next generation. Understanding was additionally reached regarding the reality that environmental, economic and social issues are dependent upon each other, and that in order to thoroughly address any one of these matters, the others also have to be taken into consideration. Experts believe that the fact that reciprocal relations between man and the environment have undergone extreme changes should be the first priority on the agenda of the 21st-century. In light of these changes, many international declarations and agreements have been reached which define the need for sustainability and call upon all of the nations of the world to develop programs for education and implementation of processes to achieve sustainability. One of the last such decisions was made by the United Nations in 2003, which determined that the decade from 2005-2014 would be a decade of education to promote development of sustainability (UNESCO, 2004).
In May 2003 the government of Israel decided to promote development of sustainability in all of its government ministries. The Ministry of Education established a team which examined the issue from all aspects of and developed a program to assimilate the subject in the education system, since the education system has plays a central role in the formulation of attitudes and positions, change of behavioral norms and in the instillation of the need for civic responsibility in everything connected to preservation of the quality of the environment. One of the ways in which man interacts with nature is influenced by his level of knowledge on environmental subjects, his positions and attitudes in general, his positions in particular on environmental problems and subjects, and his perception of his degree of personal control in preserving the quality of the environment. Teachers bear the responsibility for providing students with the knowledge and skills required in order to prepare a generation which will behave responsibly towards the environment – a generation which will be aware of environmental problems and will take an environmental approach in addressing them, a generation which will be environmentally literate.
From among the diverse issues making up the field of sustainability, we at the Renewable Energy Initiative in Hevel Eilot decided to focus upon advancement of knowledge and literacy in the field of clean energy, the field in which the region had chosen to become national leaders.
In Israel the subject of energy is included in the educational curriculum from the fourth grade through the ninth grade. The subjects of the renewable energy and energy efficiency are new to the field of teaching, and therefore do not have separate syllabuses; they are, however including in existing science programs.
The Eilat - Hevel Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative was established in 2008 in order to promote the field of renewable energy as a way to leverage regional development in the southern Arava and Eilat. Education and awareness to renewable energy were singled out from among the various development goals for particular focus, from kindergarten through high school, in order to create a common language on all aspects of the field of sustainability which will hopefully create significant changes in the regional landscape and economic situation.
a. Eilat - Hevel Eilot students will assimilate concepts and attitudes in the field of development of sustainability, renewable energy and energy conservation, will formulate positions and behaviors of involvement and initiative, and will take personal responsibility, the result of which will be a change in the way of life of the students, who will also serve as representatives of the field in Israel.
b. The education system will lead in the gradual assimilation of awareness, knowledge and lifestyles which promote sustainability, mainly in the field of renewable energy, which will be implemented in the entire regional community.
c. The Eilat - Hevel Eilot education system will serve as a leading source of educational programs, educational trials, research studies, projects and competitions related to the field of renewable energy and energy conservation, all of which will also enhance the branding of the region in the field of renewable energy.
d. As representatives of the field of renewable energy, both the students and the community will work towards raising awareness to renewable energy and its needs among tourists and visitors to the region, so that with time, the program will have a national impact - with Eilat - Eilot positioned as leaders of the changing attitudes.
Main areas in the education field in which the Initiative operates:
Writing and assimilation of high-quality educational programs
Writing and publishing of study kits
International youth competition and conference
Operation of a professional training center
Education programs for teachers
Operation of a data bank of activities for parents and teachers who are interested in supplementing the education of their children in the field of renewable energy
Coordination of a knowledge bank suitable for children (of all school ages) on the subject of renewable energy