Mowgli Bal Utsav
Kapil Sahasrabuddhe, Centre for Environment Education

Helping children learn by experiencing and exploring nature is one of the most effective methodologies for conservation education. Government of Madhya Pradesh (MP) has been organizing Mowgli Bal Utsav, a unique students programme since 2004.

The main objective of the Utsav is to create love and enthusiasm for nature and generate awareness, primarily among students towards biodiversity and conservation.

The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) has diverse eco-regions from west to east. The region also has diversified tribal cultures in different parts. With 25 Wildlife Sanctuaries and 9 National Park along with 5 Tiger Reserves is known as ‘India’s Tiger State‘.

Mowgli, the famous character created by Rudyard Kipling in the Jungle book, grew up in the jungles of Seoni in MP. The Mowgli Bal Utsav was initiated with the idea of organizing an experience for children that would give them a glimpse of Mowgli’s life, to learn about and relate with nature. The hope has been that many of these Mowgli’s friends would grow up championing the cause of conservation in a world that has so far paid scant regard to environmental concerns.

The programme
Selection of ‘Mowgli ke Dost’
The preparations for Mowgli Bal Utsav start about four months before the actual event. The selection process itself is fun. Two girls and two boys are selected from each district through a three-level selection process. The first level is called Mowgli ke doston ki khoj (the search for the friends of Mowgli), where students from 5th to 12th Std in two categories participate in an essay competition at school level, which has topics like ‘Animal school’, ‘The elephant makes a film’, ‘A rat going to city’ – are given. About 65,000 schools participate at this level.

The selected students of category 5-8 and 9-12 participate in the second level selection that takes place at the block level. They undergo a quiz competition on the natural and cultural resources of Madhya Pradesh.

At the third level, a district-level quiz competition is arranged to finally select the four students who would participate in the final camp. The quiz has different rounds like Picture round, Rapid Fire Round and Question answer round. The question bank and rules for quiz are developed in advance with help of master trainers and improved in last three years.

The State-level Camp
A three-day camp is organized at a selected National Park in close coordination with district administration. Total 204 students (4 students each from 48 districts of the state—the winners of the district level competition and the host district has the privilege of sending 12 more students), 50 teachers (1 per district and 3 from host district) and 20 facilitators participate in the camp. All students and teachers are divided in to 3 large groups and 12 small groups. About 4 teacher facilitators and 4 forest department facilitators are associated with each large group.

Camp Structure
The total duration of the camp is five days, including the three main days of activities. Students arrive on the evening of the first day, participate in all the activities for three days and leave early in the morning of the fifth day.

All participants stay in tents and use sleeping bags to experience forest life up close. In 2005, about 50 such tents were erected in the forest area of Panna tiger reserve. A special catering cell caters to food requirements. Their task is to prepare a variety of local food using available wild edible plants engaging local people. This gives a very special touch to camp where students can learn while eating.

Apart from structured programmes, students are also encouraged to write their creations. Students come out with various poems, nature descriptions, questions, pictures, cartoons etc. A daily bulletin is published in the camp where these creations are showcased. Also they are encouraged to send their thoughts, questions, poems to ‘Mowgli ‘after they reach home. Selected creations are published in ‘Mowgli ki Pati’ (Mowgli’s letter to his friends), a wall paper magazine.

A special camp kit is developed each year. It consists of designed rucksack, T-shirt, ID badges and cap. A water bottle, writing material and educational material by different organization for camp or other wise specially developed for Utsav are also part of kit. A locale specific observation booklet is one of the specialized components of kit. This booklet has questions, pictures, drawing, related various camp activities. They can use the booklet and the activities in them during the camp. But it is not mandatory and it is upto them how much they will like to use it. This booklet is developed with help of facilitators in training camps.

Educational Activities
CEE develops a detailed plan for educational activities each year for different forest reserves in consultation with the camp educators. A three-day camp is specifically designed to have a number of activities to let children learn while having fun. Nature trails or treks, wild life safari, visit to interpretation centre and nature games are some of them.

In order to creatively tap the learning potential in the camp situation, it was necessary to orient all the stakeholders to the purpose of the camp, and especially the educational methodologies that might be best suited to the camp situation. CEE with the support of MP Biodiversity Board, Environment Planning and Coordination Organization, Bhopal and local forest officials is responsible for this task.

The process is managed at two levels. At the state level selection process, Master Trainers are trained to coordinate the activities. Rules as well as other details of quiz like marking system, how many people are required, how to use question bank, what to do in case of tie, etc. are discussed at this workshop.

For the facilitators who undertake various activities with students during the camp, workshops are organized in the district where the Mowgli Bal Utsav Camp is supposed to happen that year. Fifteen teachers and ten Forest Dept persons from the district are selected in this first workshop. Site and places of outdoor activities are selected during this workshop. Next, a four-day workshop is organized about a month in advance of the actual camp to identify the different activities to be done during the camp. All these activities are undertaken by the facilitators and details of each activity are worked out. For example, treks are an important outdoor activity during the camp. All the trails are walked down by the facilitators to get a feel of the trek, to estimate the time required to walk, to identify spots where specific nature observation activity like observe dead tree could be performed etc. Based on this four-day camp, a detailed facilitator’s manual is developed. A three-day camp schedule is also developed in this workshop.

Prior to the Mowgli camp, a three-day refresher camp for facilitators is organized to conduct all the activities as per the schedule and to fine-tune the schedule. This camp is also helpful for facilitators to adjust with local situations. Facilitators also work out the personal schedule and rotation of facilitators for different activities.

Mowgli Bal Utsav is a multi-partner programme. The partners involved in the programme are mainly different government department and agencies ranging from school education, biodiversity, the local administration and tribal development departments. An additional advantage of this programme is sensitization on issues related to environment education and its methodologies among the different department and officials of the state who get involved in the planning and implementation.

The Mowgli Bal Utsav helps creates a positive environment towards environment education in general and biodiversity education in specific. The children and the teachers are often highly motivated during the Utsav. A few follow-up activities have been designed to continue the enthusiasm generated during the Utsav.

‘Mowgli Ki Pati’ (Letter from Mowgli to friends), a wall paper newsletter in Hindi was initiated in 2005 as part of the programme. This letter covers information on rich biodiversity of Madhya Pradesh and its utilization, environmental games, activities for eco-clubs and thoughts of students and teachers. Presently it reaches about one thousand schools.
The Mowgli ke Dost (Fiends of Mowgli) – students who participate in the Utsav - are the main crusaders to take message of Mowgli to lager audience. They themselves are taking various activities related environment. Hundreds of letters that are received by the organizers after the Utsav assure us that Mowgli’s messages are being heard.

After participating in Mowgli Utsav, my view towards nature has completely changed. Before the visit I was scared and disliked animals and insects. My instantaneous reaction on seeing them was to harm or kill. (Now) I am more compassionate about animals and insects, I cannot harm them and try to convince others too. Recently I had two mongooses visiting home. My family's immediate reaction was to hurt them. However I stopped them and explained wildlife's importance in our lives, thankfully my family understood my point of view and did not kill the mongoose. Rajesh Kumar Bakode, Seoni, MP

Mowgli is my guru. He presented to us the unique relation we share with the jungles, animals, birds and human beings. Our life is not possible without the interconnectedness with all of these elements. With him at MU, I learnt to love and have compassion towards nature and wildlife.
Archana Shrivstav, Shri Arvindo English School, Panna

Rajesh and Archana were part of the first batch of students who participated in Mowgli Utsav.

First Mowgli Bal Utsav @ Pench National Park – Mowgli’s Home
November 2004

During the Utsav, students took a safari through Pench National park, a boat ride in the Totladoh dam backwaters, environmental games, activities to explore a bamboo forest and a river bed, a nature trail, etc. Students saw a variety of habitats within the forest; saw some of the large wildlife species during the safari, as well as small ones such as spiders and insects during the nature trails, learned about different types of plants, ecological indicators, etc. Time at the base camp helped students unwind and provided an opportunity to express through art and poetry, what they felt and learned through the day. A reading corner provided a variety of reference and fun books on nature and environment.

For more information contact:
Kapil Sahasrabuddhe
Centre for Environment Education
Central Regional Cell
A10 Garden Estate, New D.P. Road, Aundh, Pune 411007
Ph: 020 25898447/ 25887009

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