he first month’s program, ‘The universe to India’ took students on a journey through our universe, our solar system, and finally the earth, and culminated in a look at India’s amazing biodiversity. ‘Nagarahole: Tales from an Indian Jungle’, a documentary film by Shekar Dattatri was screened to give students a glimpse into life in a thriving jungle through its various seasons. The screening was followed by a Q&A.
Students were given wildlife and conservation related activity tasks to take home, reflect on, and bring their work during the next session. They were also asked to write about and illustrate their current understanding of nature and environmental issues. A pre-program survey was conducted to analyse the level of nature and conservation awareness among the participating students.
In India, where more than 50% of the population is below the age of 25, there is an urgent need to inculcate a strong sense of the importance of conservation. Only this will ensure better decision makers in the future, who will understand the critical importance of protecting India’s forests and wildlife.
In 2011 and 2012, Youth For Conservation (YFC) conducted a series of outreach programs in Tamil Nadu with the support of Wildlife Conservation Society - India Program and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mumbai. These outreach programs ‘The Truth About Tigers Outreach Marathon’ and ‘Save Our Sholas Outreach Marathon’ reached around 50,000 students in eighteen districts across Tamil Nadu.
This enthusiastically received program reinforced the need for conducting outreach programs in smaller towns and villages, as we observed that these students had little or no exposure to nature and wildlife conservation, despite living closer to nature reserves. Additionally, we felt the need to deepen students’ understanding of critical environmental issues to inspire them to become ecologically conscious citizens.
This led to ‘The Planet and You’ program, which was conceived by Shekar Dattatri, an award-winning wildlife and conservation filmmaker, and designed and developed by K. Ramnath Chandrasekhar, a nature photographer and conservation educator. The program was structured to span a six month period in three districts In Tamil Nadu.
The sessions were carefully structured to take students on a journey of discovery. The first three sessions were designed to increase their knowledge about forests and wildlife, and the intricate connections between humans and nature; we also dealt with global ecological issues and India’s major conservation threats. Subsequent sessions highlighted the importance of tiger conservation, and helped students establish a personal connect with nature by getting them to explore their surrounding environment. The final session was structured towards enabling action, and emphasised the critical importance of people’s participation. Students were encouraged to incorporate conservation practices into their daily life for a start.
The pilot program will be initiated in September 2013 and we are excited to reach out to the students enrolled in the program.
It has been two years since YFC was initiated! The last two years was an exciting experience interacting with hundreds of students and deepening our understanding about conservation education.
Here is our program report.
There was more meaning to interact with students who live a few hundred meters close to the Western Ghats. In collaboration with the Wildlife Association of Rajapalayam (WAR), around 3000 students were addressed in around 14 schools located at the foothills of the Western Ghats. The food web game was conducted with around 150 students.
The schools were really excited about our program and requested us to conduct such programs specific to the Western Ghats. Most of the students in this area didn’t know about the forests which were close to them, and that these forests provided them the water for survival. We are now motivated to create specific programs which will allow them to appreciate the mountains they live close to and also help them conserve our country’s rich natural heritage.
Few months back YFC had conducted a 3-day naturalists camp at Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala. One of the modules during the camp was 'Backyard wildlife'.
It was a cherishing moment to receive photographs by Chriset, a class 10th student who had set up a backyard garden. She photographed these species that came to her garden! This is an inspiring story and we hope many more young people practise backyard wildlife that will facilitate them to retain them connect with the natural world.