Environmental Education Center in Beit Jala
The history of the Environmental Education Center (EEC) of the ELCJHL began with a broad educational project initiated by the ELCJHL Schools and Bir Zeit University, a large Palestinian university near Ramallah, in 1986. Education for Awareness and Involvement (EAI) was a cooperative project to integrate themes of civic responsibility and environmental issues into the existing school curriculum. The program emphasized political and social norms; it encouraged students to become involved in various activities that would improve their communities.
The EAI program’s activities formed the basis for founding Children for the Protection of Nature in Palestine (CPNP) in 1992. This organization formalized and strengthened the ELCJHL’s commitment to environmental education. Without office facilities or grounds of its own, the CPNP program worked within the ELCJHL Schools and other local public, private, and UN-administered schools. It introduced young people to their Palestinian natural heritage and biodiversity, and, seeing them as the future stewards and caretakers of the Palestinian environment, taught them about conservation measures and environmentally-conscious lifestyles. In 1998, the CPNP moved into office facilities and grounds on the spacious campus of the Talitha Kumi School in Beit Jala and became a formal educational program of the ELCJHL.
With permanent office space and a large area of natural land at its disposal, the CPNP immediately began to broaden the range of its educational offerings. A botanical garden featured local plants from both Biblical and modern times; a Palestine natural history museum, an interactive environmental exhibition, and a ringing and monitoring station for studying bird migration trends were soon also established. At the same time the program added teachers, women, and local graduate students and decision-makers to the list of groups served.
In keeping with the program’s growing vision and offerings, the CPNP was renamed the Environmental Education Center (EEC) in 2002. Educating the next generation of Palestinian citizens and leaders is still central to the EEC’s mission: Children for the Protection of Nature in Palestine today remains one of the primary educational initiatives of the EEC.