The MEGA - acronym for "Make our Environment Great Again" - project is aimed at raising young people's awareness that sustainability matters as well as making students and staff act to benefit the environment. They live in order to make a noticeable difference.
The original idea for the MEGA project has been born at an international meeting of member schools of the Europroject "Education without frontiers" network in 2018, before Greta Thunberg started her campaign that should later have global impact and certainly inspired our students at the beginning of the project period in 2019. The involved schools had cooperated before in previous Comenius as well as Erasmus projects. All the participating six schools Luxembourg (the coordinating school), Spain, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Slovakia, gathered interested students aged 15-18 on a voluntary basis in youth clubs, the so-called MEGA clubs, which met on a regularly or weekly basis. They came up with projects and carried out multiple local activities in the context of sustainability, such as installing beehives, specific bins to separate waste and taps with potable water, organising clothes swaps, campus clean-ups and many more ideas.
The club members organised community clean-ups and set up "peer-to-peer environmental lessons" where the MEGA club students taught students from year 7 (12-year-olds) how to protect the environment better in every-day life. Second, the clubs practiced debates on current political affairs, mainly connected to European politics and/or environmental topics. The teachers coached the club members about relevant current affairs connected to the topic and supported them in inviting local politicians for Q&A sessions and the exchange of opinions. The teachers also ensured that debates were conducted on an academical level in terms of contents, language and debating strategy. During the project period, the MEGA club members were enabled to organise and run debates among themselves. Third, the students and teachers organised respectively prepared for international conferences: Some of them were MUN (Model United Nations) Conferences, which are institutionalised debating events for young school or university students coming together to simulate both the debating contents as well as culture of the United Nations. At all project meetings and specifically at those in Germany and Spain focused on sustainability projects: The participants were informed about environmental trouble spots and developed ideas how to reduce their eco footprint. For example, at ToMUN (Poland), the participants got, at one point, to visit a pig farm, where the animals are saved from the slaughterhouse and visitors are being educated on the impact on the environment when skipping red meat besides on the moral dimension of killing animals so social, sensitive, and intelligent. During ZaMUN, the MEGA club students and teachers participated in a workshop teaching them where and which plants to pick in their local environment and what to cook from those natural ingredients. In Lübbecke (Germany), the MEGA club members experienced a biodiversity workshop at a local swamp. Furthermore, at the international meetings in Luxembourg and in Belgium, the MEGA club members visited European institutions in Luxembourg-Kirchberg and Brussels.
In Luxembourg, the MEGA club initiated and - after two-years of lobbying - achieved the introduction of a Meatless-Monday" as well as the integration of more daily vegetarian/vegan food options at the campus (about 5000 students). In addition, all schools together created and edited a veggie cookbook.
In the project "coffee culture", the MEGA club members designed, had produced, and sold sustainable coffee mugs and at the same time got in touch with the local company in charge of the coffee vending machines to arrange the possibility that the machines no longer automatically dispense plastic cups. They also arranged with the school secretary officers, that the selection of school material being sold to students is made from more sustainable material.
While the project partner schools in Poland, Slovakia and Luxembourg already were experienced in organising MUNs, the school in Belgium established this conference type at their school for the first time. At the end of the MEGA project period, at all six project schools, profound changes are visible: The "eco footprint" has become a relevant issue and has altered the school community’s way of in decision making in several fields. Students for example buy less beverages in plastic bottles but fill up sustainable bottles with water from the taps. The beehives are cared for.
The MEGA projects raised awareness for the environmental and political challenges of tomorrow. The students managed to make a meaningful impact at their schools by introducing a strictly vegetarian day at school and by reducing meat consumption through the publication of their veggie cookbook.
The international conferences also fostered cultural exchange, mutual appreciation for other European member states and human bonds that persist long after the project has finished.
The students also informed themselves about ecological issues such as global warming, floods caused by human impact, the importance of biotopes and biodiversity.
The participating members were also capable of honing their soft skills like cooperation, working in a group, public speaking, their English skills and debating. For many of them MEGA had a positive impact on their self-confidence and their sense of being able to make a positive difference in the world.
The MEGA clubs are going to stay and all participating member schools have agreed to continue the project under its new name “MEEGA” (Make our Environment/Europe Great Again):
- The MEEGA members will keep realizing environmental projects in order to improve the sustainability of their schools.
- Furthermore the students will participate at MUN conferences across Europe in order to strengthen European solidarity and tackle the political challenges of tomorrow.