Abu Dhabi students will nurture another world in school’s biodome

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The biodome at the Philippine Global School includes mangroves, plants, fish and birds. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // As well as making sure they keep up their grades and get to class on time, students at a school in the capital will soon have the added responsibility of feeding the fish and watering the plants in their new tropical biodome.

The biodome, which won the Philippines Global School a Dh25,000 prize in the Sustainable Schools Initiative last year, is used to teach youngsters how plants and animals survive in a given temperature.

Originally, the idea behind the biodome was to create mangroves in order to study flora and fauna native to the country, but it was quickly decided to add fruits, vegetables, fishes and even birds.

“We wanted to make a mini environment inside the biodome, unlike the one we see around us,” Lizabeth Manalo-Comia, the school’s principal said.

“We are studying how plants and animals survive in an environment inside the biodome. Through it students will be exposed to a wider scope of knowledge and information on how to take care of plants and animals.” Students of all ages will have access to the biodome through scheduled trips with their teachers as a part of research, study and class discussions.

“Books are only a support to learning, but if children see what the environment is here and compare it to what they learn inside the biodome then we are developing them to protect the Earth, regardless of their age,” Ms Manalo-Comia added.

Although the school received Dh25,000 for the project, the actual biodome cost around Dh60,000. It was commissioned by local company Indkarta with support from the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

Complete with a temperature-controlled air conditioner and a permanent water source, the biodome is self-sufficient.

It currently has three mangrove trees, fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, oranges, eggplants, honey plants, 30 kinds of fish including koi, oscar, knife and janitor fish along with a few love birds.

“Right now I feed the fish and birds but soon we will teach the students how to take responsibility of the biodome and they will then have a schedule to feed the animals and plants, because we want them to be as involved as possible in it,” said George Aglos, science teacher and Environment Coordinator at the school.

“Most of the plants inside the biodome have been brought in by the students so they are very excited to take care of them,” he added.

The temperature in the biodome is always set to be below 37C for the plants and animals to survive.

“In our scheduled visits, we take children inside, tell them what temperature is required for the different species. What excites them the most is studying about the mangroves, because they know it is the natural flora in the country they live in,” Mr Aglos said.

“We explain how the plants inside remain fresh as compared to plants outside and that is one of the core reason for building this biodome, to teach sustainability in flora and fauna.”

This alternative method of learning is already benefiting the children, as they interactive and are inquisitive when they visit the biodome as compared to the classroom, Mr Aglos said.

“They students definitely pick up faster on what we teach them in the biodome visits, these things stay with them longer as opposed to reading it from a book.

“The children have been more engaging during the trips which shows their enthusiasm about learning in a different environment,” Mr Aglos added.