By Melanie Swan
RAK // Students from the Higher Colleges of Technology were taken on a field trip this week to learn more about the emirate’s growing tourism sector and the rise of eco-tourism.
More than 100 women in the foundation year at RAK Women’s College were taught about the emirate’s local wildlife, flora and fauna during the English language field trip at Banyan Tree Al Wadi resort and reserve.
A surprising number had no idea that the native Arabian oryx is classified as a vulnerable animal, after previously being extinct in the wild.
Aamna Al Nuaimi, 19, said: “For me, it’s the first time I even knew about this. It was a very interesting trip. I want to be able to teach other people around me about this. These trips are important for learning information we don’t necessarily get from the classroom.”
Muzoon Al Malek, 19, agreed. “It’s more interactive and we can ask questions about how the animals live, eat and about the local trees and plants.”
Ms Al Nuaimi added: “These animals, the environment, it’s our culture, our country. We need to be aware of issues like saving the oryx.”
The trip was organised by Shamma Al Naqbi and the Foundations English Level 3 faculty team for the students at the eco-tourism resort.
English teacher Eva Jay said many of the girls had never seen an oryx in real life and educating them was a vital factor of the trip, enabling them to pass on their knowledge in their own communities.
“It’s a really good opportunity for the students to connect with other information available locally about their emirate,” Ms Jay said.
“I believe a large number of the students may not think to go, for example, to somewhere like the Banyan Tree but it’s a place they can really gain access to experts and a lot of information about their local environment.
“Tourism is of growing importance to RAK and it isn’t something they’d necessarily think about going into, so it’s also an opportunity to open their eyes to this.”
Another English teacher, Shane Quinn, accompanied the group on Monday. He said: “We wanted to give the students first-hand knowledge about the things students do when they come here.
“A number of the girls spoke to one of the female tourists at the resort and asked why she was there and what she was doing while she was there, so it gives them first-hand experience about why people come to RAK.”
As the emirate puts a growing emphasis on tourism as a means of diversifying its economy, Mr Quinn said this young generation must be aware of its potential.
“It gives them an idea of the future job opportunities and further developing the RAK economy through tourism, especially eco-tourism,” he said.
Ms Al Malek said she is aware that eco-tourism is important for the emirate. “It will help our economy,” she said.
Fellow English teacher Fiona Hartley said such trips are of great benefit to students when it comes to language skills.
“As an English teacher, it’s nice to see the students engaging in a very natural way and, because of the tourists, it’s a more authentic use of English,” she said.
“Even the less confident students were taking part. In class you can get them to ask questions but what was nice was to see a genuine curiosity about what they were seeing.”
Ms Jay said that, in class, there is less authenticity to the learning process and girls often fall back into Arabic, whereas, on the field trip, interacting with the tourists and environmentalists, did not allow them this opportunity.
“The girls were really using their English in a way they can’t in the classroom. This is really about the ‘learning by doing’ philosophy at HCT,” she said.
“This is why these trips are so good for them, as well as exposing them to things in their community they may not necessarily see otherwise.”
This article was ammended on March 27 to correct that it was Ms Shamma Al Naqbi who organised the trip, and not Eva Jay as previously stated.