It is an initiative taken by Make Earth Smile Again, a social enterprise

Messages on saving paper by using both sides to print out matter, saving electricity by remembering to switch off an appliance that is not in use, and segregating waste at source fill the wall space of the eco laboratory at Sacred Heart School in the city.

An initiative of Make Earth Smile Again (MESA), a social enterprise working in the area of environment management, the practical learning environment set up at a cost of Rs.2 lakh and inaugurated on Tuesday seeks to give students an opportunity to see models and participate in the process of source segregation and recycling waste.

Initiatives such as this not only bring in a practical component in learning, but also seek to evoke more curiosity among students on issues pertaining to the environment, according to MESA volunteers.

Though Environmental Education made its way into school curriculum over a decade ago, much of it seems to revolve around broad, global issues such as global warming, climate change and pollution. However, experts say bringing in certain local issues into the curriculum would help students relate to the content better. According to environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman, notions such as “climate change” may seem abstract from a student's point of view.

“It is important and logical to give local examples. We need to encourage children to look at school as environment, their home as environment, and the food they eat as environment,” he says.

Observing that schools are increasingly considering a practical component to their environmental education curriculum, he says: “Textbooks often take you away from common sense… you don't have to go to Nagarhole National Park to understand environment, it's right in your backyard,” Mr. Jayaraman adds. The focus group paper of the National Curriculum Framework on Habitat and Learning suggests that the curriculum be based on “Learning about the environment”, “Learning through the environment” and “Learning for the environment”. If the idea of “Learning through the environment” is adopted, then, the local environment automatically becomes relevant. The NCF also recommends that the natural environment be taught along with the social environment, rather than see the environment and human beings as two, distinct entities.

All the same, localising content in environmental education cannot really stop with visits to different spaces. Good resources have to be built, according to V. Arun of the Marudam Farm School in Thiruvannamalai and Students' Sea Turtle Conservation Network.

As one who has been teaching the subject to school children for nearly 15 years, he feels a lot of the available textbook content is broad because there are not enough data based on local resources.

“A teacher cannot really get into active research and also be a regular school teacher. In the long run, we must collect data systematically and build good resources on specific, local content so that it can be used for teaching school children,” he says.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012