A five-member student team from GEMS Our Own English High School, Dubai, is among the finalists in the student category, and Frithi Francis, an educator from Abu Dhabi’s Cambridge High School, is a top contender in the teacher category.

The young people and teachers whose ideas have been shortlisted as part of the Burjeel Holdings-Oxford Said Climate Change Challenge have now been invited to present their solutions to judges in Abu Dhabi and the winner will be declared during a ceremony at COP28 on December 2. The winners will bag a place to study climate change at the University of Oxford.

“We all met by chance outside our supervisors’ office, found out about the challenge and happened to have shared interests,” said team ECO₂ of Gayathri, Trisha, Unnimaya, Elvina and Nischala from GEMS Our Own English School.

From piezoelectric crystals and artificial intelligence to entomopathogenic fungi to heterotrophs, the student finalists have embraced innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges brought about by climate change.

“Some students can’t go to school because of air pollution, and all of us have experienced its impact in our lives. Also, one in eight households experience food insecurity, that’s what inspired us to get involved,” said students of team ECO₂.

The finalists distinguished themselves among submissions, demonstrating the passion felt by students and teachers globally, determined to tackle the world’s most pressing issue. This makes it one of the biggest global competitions to help tackle the climate crisis, specifically targeting this 500-million high school student and teacher community. The entries were reviewed by a judging panel made up of influential thought leaders, founders, CEOs and global entrepreneurs.

The other teams in the finals include Lightning McQueens from the American School of Warsaw, Poland; Ecotelligent from Latakia, Syria; Acquifier Guardians from Ryan International School, New Delhi, India; and Entofarm – students of Phillips Exeter Academy; who are variously based in the US, South Korea and Indonesia.

Teacher entries were received from an equally diverse set of locations. The lesson plans put forward reflect a high quality of teaching about climate change and a strong desire to imbue their students with a sense of purpose, in having a positive impact on the Earth’s future. The teacher finalists are Frithi Francis from Cambridge High School, Abu Dhabi; Lucas Olscamp from Pearson College UWC, Metchosin, Canada; Michael Jones from Northfleet Technology College, Northfleet, UK; Roudaina Kassam from Rashaya Public High School, Rashaya, Lebanon; and Laxmidevi Upadhyay from Udayachal High School, Mumbai, India.

Professor Soumitra Dutta, dean of Said Business School at the University of Oxford, said, “The diverse range of applications from more than 40 countries, including entries from refugee camps, highlights the intense interest among school students and educators in tackling climate change. It also reaffirms the competition’s role as a catalyst for driving innovative solutions and giving young people agency in tackling the greatest challenge of our age. We should all be inspired by the finalists’ entries, and I look forward to the culmination of this challenge on stage at COP28.”

Juliane Reinecke, professor of management studies at Oxford Said, will be a judge at the finals, noted: “What sets this competition apart is how it empowers young people who understand the harsh reality of climate-related challenges. Notably, the competition’s entries emphasise the importance of local community-driven solutions,” said Juliane, the academic lead for the climate change course the winners will be invited to attend at the School in Oxford next year.

The challenge will culminate in a ‘climate change symposium: champions of change’ panel at COP28.

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