SAIIER 2019:Environmental education in Auroville's bio-region

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SAIIER 2018-19
Environmental education in Auroville's bio-region
A project of Auroville Botanical Gardens


At a time when environmental degradation is at the peak, society needs quality educational programs that can succeed in moving values and changing behavior in the direction of sustainability and environmental conservation. The main objective of the project was to involve the student community and the general public to maintain a sustainable and eco-friendly environment. The Auroville Botanical Gardens has over ten years of experience in the field of environmental education.

Description of project:

Our educational content for students emphasizes the conservation of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests, the protection of wildlife and a waste-free lifestyle. Our educational programs have a positive impact on students' self esteem, motivation and engagement. Though our focus was mainly on students, we also organized educational programs for teachers and self-help group members. The content of training programs to teachers was designed in a way to impart environmental education to students during academics. The self-help group members were trained on waste segregation and traditional medicine preparation. Our educational package helps them to improve their knowledge on environmental concerns.

In this academic year, 2,412 students from 74 schools from Villupuram, Cuddalore and Pudhucherry districts have participated in the education programs. Adding more value to the programs, 115 teachers and 120 self-help group members have marked their presence with active participation.

Outcomes:

The basic requirement of achieving our goal is motivating teachers, who spend more time with the students, making environmental education as a central focus and equipping them with all sorts of skills and knowledge. The content of training programs to teachers was to show how to impart environmental education to students during regular classes. This makes sure that environmental awareness is embedded in their education rather than seen as a separate practice.

The teacher training programs received an overwhelming response from all the teachers who participated. The education programs for the self-help group members have helped them to become more environmentally conscious, both individually and at the community level. Many selfhelp groups have started their own vermicomposting units and have set up home gardens. They have started using their household wastes as manure to the gardens, and we have witnessed many self-help group members having good waste segregation units in their houses.

Reflections:

Caring for the environment will not require us to all become environmental activists; there are small things even individuals can do to make an impact. There are many challenges for environmental educators in India. The challenge of reaching out to large numbers cost effectively is one of the main challenges we face. We would like our education programs to extend beyond the Auroville bio-region. We get regular calls from schools of various districts requesting to take part in the education programs, but we are limited by financial constraints. We are planning to bring in more students from various schools, virtually a school per day and to increase the number of visitors to the gardens.

Conclusion:

Environmental education is an educational methodology that involves the students’ community and the general public in maintaining a sustainable and eco-friendly environment. We put our energy into encouraging the students’ forum and the general public to take responsible actions to bring back the earth’s balance.

In the future, other than hosting visits at the Gardens, we are also planning to form eco-clubs in villages and motivate them to undertake environmental friendly activities including rain water harvesting, plastic free villages campaigns and planting indigenous flora in villages.