Education for Biodiversity Conservation –Experiences from Paryavaran Mitra 

Pramod Sharma and Annie Gregory, CEE 

Pramod Kumar Sharma is Programme Coordinator and Annie Gregory is Programme Officer with the Paryavaran Mitra Programme of CEE in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India and ArcelorMittal India. 

Environment Education is most commonly identified by various stakeholders as education about three P’s – Pollution, Plantation and Plastics. When is comes to doing their bit, especially schools, plantation and awareness activities (rallies, debates, quizzes, painting etc.) are the most common educational engagement school communities take up. This is prevalent across the country as these are the ‘easiest ways’ to engage students with high ‘visibility’. This was also a practical approach when environmental education happened as a co-curricular activity and the schools took up environmental education as their responsibility with some influence of stakeholders not directly working with the formal educational systems. 

With environmental education now being compulsory albeit as an infused subject in schools, there is an increasing emphasis on moving beyond the three P’s; and educate children on various aspects/components of the environment with its inter linkages and conducive behaviour. The emphasis is to encourage students to observe, explore, discover, think and act. As per the group on Habitat and Learning for NCF 2005, “the focus of EE should be to expose the students to real life world, natural and social, in which they live, to enable them to analyze, evaluate, and draw inferences about problems and concerns related to the environment. To add, where possible to our understanding of the environmental issues and to promote positive environmental actions in order to facilitate the move towards sustainable development”. 

Paryavaran Mitra (Friend of Environment) an initiative of CEE with ArcelorMittal and Ministry of Environment and Forests, is an effort to improve teaching and learning in schools through activity based transaction of textbook content and action projects aimed at solving environmental problems in local context. To broaden the thinking of environment, the content is organized around 5 themes – Biodiversity and Greening, Water and Sanitation, Waste Management, Energy and Culture & Heritage. Schools across country have taken up various projects in the theme of Biodiversity. The common projects taken up by the schools are as follows:- 

  1. Demonstration in schools
Medicinal garden, butterfly garden, vermi-compost, vegetable garden, green/live fencing, nest making, bird feeders, improved chullah (stove), shelter using creepers.
  1. Campaigns
Gift a plant drive, natural colors for Holi, adopt a tree, socio-cultural practices among communities, eradication of invasive species, community awareness activities.
  1. Improvement action/Conservation with Outreach to community
Conserving local sacred groves, plantation along road side, coastal plantation of mangrove saplings, distributing medicinal plant seeds to communities, vegetable garden in students home, prevent land degradation by plantation, bird feeders, beach cleaning and turtle nest protection, organic farming, and animal rescue.
  1. Setting up of museum/collection
Seed bank, biodiversity signages, herbarium, feather collection.
  1. Research
Biodiversity around mobile phone towers, bio mapping/biodiversity register, survey of marine biodiversity.

The above classification is not mutually exclusive and there are overlaps. The projects taken-up by schools in rural areas are more diverse, relate more towards solving issues and communities around them as compared to urban areas where there are limitations in terms extending actions beyond schools due to time and space constraints. The biodiversity projects taken-up by the schools provide ample scope to link it with the curriculum which is centered around the following as per the analysis done on infusion by NCERT
  1. Knowing the Environment and Interdependence - social and natural and our dependence 
  2. Environment and Natural Resources - essential for life and life activities, a habitat of plants and animals, utilization of resources for developmental and social activities 
  3. Ecosystems, balance in nature and eco-system interaction between living and non-living components, structure and function. 
  4. Effect of human activities and population growth and restoring balance in ecosystem 
  5. Role of individuals, community and government in planning, decision-making, legislation and social action for prevention of pollution and improvement of environment. 
To encourage schools to share their projects, Paryavaran Mitra Puraskar were announced last year. The analysis of the projects reports/submissions by schools/students have shown following outcomes
  1. Skill development for conservation action – observation, documentation, designing tools for survey/audit, data collection and analysis, use of different media, construction of nests, setting up of garden, etc. 
  2. In-situ and Ex-situ conservation of biodiversity – Nest building, gardens, Seed Bank, sacred groves etc. 
  3. Community outreach – Demonstrations, awareness and action from schools to home, dissemination of findings, traditional knowledge documentation of practices related to biodiversity. 
Some of the projects from different parts of India are shared below

With an aim to make people kind to animals, Umesh Sharma from Government Jain Gurukul Hr. Sec. School Beawar, Ajmer, Rajasthan challenged the AIDA - a socio traditional practice In his community where, during Holi people go in the neighbouring forest area and hunt burrowing animals as game. He implemented his action project with help of his teacher and friends at school to contact the village sarpanch, senior citizen, and farmers of the neighbouring villages and explaining to them the flaws in the Aida tradition. He distributed 1500 pamphlets for the purpose and wrote applications to the Police Station, district Collector, and Department of forests to save wild life by stopping the Aida. 

 Dhablat Lakshman Parabesh High (H.S) School, West Bengal has emerged as a
commendable example for working towards holistic development of the students with emphasis on caring for the environment and sustainable development. The school carries out regular cleaning of the pond near the school. People from local community are invited to take part in the cleaning activity and they were made understand the importance of having a clean water body in the locality. The pond was cleaned off weeds which were later dried to make compost used for vegetable garden that contributes to enriching the Mid Day meal. The projects in the school include herbal garden, mixed farming, vermicomposting, medicinal garden, use of solar panels and wind power for electricity production. 

Indulakshmi from Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Lakkidi, Wynad, Kerala observed the impact on the paddy fields in her surroundings due to the cultivation of high yielding varieties of paddy. She documented the traditional paddy varieties with the help of her teachers and the researchers from the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Puthoorvayal, Kalpetta in her action project ‘Germplasm conservation– collection and preservation of paddy seeds of traditional varieties’. She went into the community to gather traditional knowledge on some varieties to make her case for conserving these varieties and for going back to planting traditional varieties of paddy. 

Government Senior Secondary School, Sirmour, Himachal Pradesh has used setup boxes from waste material to help birds build nests. They observed bird behaviours and studied the impact of mobile towers on local birds. 

11 Paryavaran Mitra schools got together to clean the long 3.5 km Purunabandh-Gokharkada beach and the 4 km long
Padampeta-Gokharkada beach which are the locations for the breeding of the rare turtle species the Olive Ridley turtles. Every year, these turtles travel to Odisha coast for mass nesting and breeding. The schools partnered with local organizations and took up the action. A total of 150 students lead by 21 teachers participated in the event which was organized by the Paryavaran Mitra partner NGO: United Artists’ Association in association with Paryavaran Mitra schools and Brahmapur Forest Division of Dept. of Forest & Environment, Odisha.On this occasion, competitions like Quiz, Drawing and Essay Writing were also organized and the winner students were distributed prizes by the dignitary. 

Paryavaran Mitra website shares many more projects being done across the country by schools. Various resource materials are also available to plan classroom activities and projects for environmental education. 

For more information contact: 
Pramod Sharma 
Centre for Environment Education 
Nehru Foundation for Development 
Thaltej Tekra, Ahmedabad 380054 
Ph: 079-26850002 

All photograph courtesy: Paryavaran Mitra Secretariat 

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