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10 Tips To Teach Students The Right Lessons On Environment And Conservation

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Interaction and facilitation are two of the most important skills to conduct education and outreach sessions on environment and conservation. An interactive session, when facilitated after a well-made documentary, will lead to a deep understanding among the students on the importance of protecting our ecosystems.

However, doing it only once is not enough. Repeated engagement through hands-on learning is needed if the students are to remember, imbibe and actively take part as citizens enabling conservation actions.

In the recent years, I have tried to ensure that every session I design, co-create and facilitate aligns with Bloom’s Taxonomy. It is a widely-used educational framework (refer to the figure below) that caters to learning outcomes in students at knowledge-based, emotion-based and action-based levels. Extensive studies have been done on Bloom’s taxonomy, which are available online and as books.

The 10 activities in this article are the ones I often use to introduce students to environment and conservation. I choose them depending on the students’ grade-level (primary, middle, higher secondary), content, availability of time and support from co-facilitators.

1. Prepare Quizzes

Quizzes are one of the simple ways to start an interaction, especially when it’s conducted after a film. Before showing the film, you could tell the students that you will also conduct a quiz on it and give them prizes. These prizes could be up-cycled products. For example, when showing the film “Save Our Sholas” by filmmaker Shekar Dattatri, a quiz can be prepared based on the species and the stories in the film. The answers are in the film itself. Such quizzes can be used anytime in the future, if you prepare them once with ‘easy’, ‘medium’ and ‘hard’ questions, and document them.

2. Engage Inclusively

As facilitators, we must do our best to engage all students during an interactive session. Moving consciously around the room to make sure that they are heard is pertinent to conducting a successful session.

Here is my interpretation on how a good facilitator’s mind functions during such interactions. The blue dot in the center is the facilitator. Whether we are in a classroom, a circle, or outdoors, let us move around from where we are to engage students inclusively.

3. Preempt Student Questions

Students have a lot of questions if the session involves a story that perks their curiosity and holds their attention. It is up to us to facilitate the session in such a way that the students feel comfortable to ask questions.

While interacting with students using the visual medium, we can preempt the possible questions they might ask by watching the film or by listening to the story the previous day itself. We can implement this by putting ourselves in the shoes of a student to note down the questions they might ask. For example, when students watch the film “Save Our Sholas”, two questions I have been invariably asked are: “why does a king cobra open it jaws while feeding on a snake?” and “how does one feel while walking inside a Shola forest?”

So, making a list of questions students might ask, and keeping a few ready-to-show photos will add a lot of value and impact to your session.

4. Respond In A Succinct Way

Conveying articulate answers to students’ questions is a skill in itself. One of the simplest ways to ensure this is to respond to the questions briefly. Also, do support the answers with succinct information/accounts of experience. In the end, summarise.

5. Engage With The Arts

Art is a great medium to help connect students with nature. Every interactive session should, therefore, be connected with the arts. It should be guided well.

For example, students could be guided to draw a sketch on the film they saw, the story they heard, the environmental scenery along the way to school or even their earliest memory of nature. There is a lot to learn from such artwork, which can be used to improve our programmes in a particular locality.

6. Create A Wall For News

Students can be encouraged to read up news articles on environment and conservation. To ensure this, an activity can be introduced during an interactive session.

An ‘Environment Wall’ could be initiated. It is a space where three charts are stuck together for students to paste newspaper articles they have read.

This works well in both town and village settings. While the efficacy of news is a question, this approach provides students avenues to stay updated on all that’s happening to our environment.

7. Introduce Environment-Friendly Practices

The people who make the biggest difference in the lives of others are the ones who do the ‘little things’ consistently. Environment-friendly practices like composting, recycling and reducing our consumption are those ‘little things’. These can be introduced to students during any session.

While explaining how exercising environment-friendly ways can reduce our impact on the planet, one could also consider narrating the inspiring story of a person from the region who’s actually practising them. This has the potential to connect very well with the students.

8. Connecting Students With Their Families

During an interactive session, a great way to help students think about nature is by informing them about the ways they can find stories on changes in their environment.

This can be done by providing students with an activity to interact with their parents, grandparents, teachers and elders in the school. Through this, stories about ponds, seasonal changes, and ecosystems (like wetlands and lakes) can be documented from their own locality. Arts educator Srivi Kalyan designed this activity called ‘Bridge The Gap’ which was well-received by the students.

Such an activity can be introduced to students after a film-screening on Chilika Lake or India’s disappearing beaches. The students can be divided into groups to find stories from the teachers in their school.

8. Conduct Role-Plays

Students become excited with role plays. These create a synergy between them and their teachers.

Simulating a real-life situation through a role-play helps activate the learning outcomes of the session. Films like “Mindless Mining”, “The Race to Save The Amur Falcon“, and “India’s Disappearing Beaches” (all by Shekar Dattatri) can be followed with role-play activities. Both Bridge The Gap and role-play assignments align very well with the six stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy – ‘remember’, ‘understand’, ‘apply’, ‘analyse’, ‘evaluate’ and ‘create’.

9. Include Board Game Sessions

There is nothing like including fun activities like board games to teach students about environment and conservation.

Recently, games-designer Santhosh of ‘The Elf School’ designed an interesting board game for Karthavyam, a student diploma programme developed at HLC International School. Through this game called “Watch Out”, students were invited to observe public problems around their locality. Such a game can be conducted in a standalone manner, or in collaboration with many other sessions.

10. Allocate Time For Reflection

Reflections are the perfect closures for any session. At the same time, they also provide starting points for many to begin their journey as environmentally-conscious citizens.

Student reflections can be directed by asking them to write one-line feedbacks on a chart about one aspect of the session they liked, and one aspect that they wish would have been included (“I wish…”, “I liked…”). It could also have a set of questions for students to recollect their lessons towards the end of the session. Whatever the method is, refrain from asking them to write a page about your session.

Finally, we must keep in mind that no two awareness sessions are the same, because every school and every student group is unique. There are always surprises in every class. So, the planning, conducting and interactive phases should change accordingly. Therefore, we must consider these ‘how tos’ as pointers and tools to create our own sessions to introduce students to environment and conservation in the best way possible.

However, we must also move away from considering these pointers as ‘techniques’ – and instead, focus on creating a learning environment that honours and develops students’ capacities in learning the topic. As a review of Palmer’s book, “The Courage to Teach”, aptly points out“It’s about time we remember that it’s the person within the teacher that matters most in education.”

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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