Team: Sujatha Padmanabhan, Sunita Rao, Yashodhara Kundaji
The “Learning for life – Nature as our teacher” programme was begun in January 2004 in the Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK) School. The programme is a collaborative effort between Ashoka Trust for Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), VGKK, and Kalpavriksh.
To develop a relevant conservation education programme for lower and upper primary and high school levels to be implemented in the VGKK school.
The VGKK School is situated in a unique context, in a small revenue pocket within the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT) Wildlife Sanctuary. The Biligiri Rangaswamy (BR) Hills lie at a juncture that links the ecologically fragile Western and Eastern Ghats. A small population of the Soliga tribe lives within the sanctuary in hamlets, having had to give up their shifting cultivation practices and settle down after the area was declared a sanctuary in 1974. Many of the children who attend the VGKK residential school come from these settlements.
The need for developing this programme was felt by the teachers and administration of the school. Some of the reasons given were
- Erosion of traditional knowledge amongst the Soliga children over the years,
- A need to foster a scientific outlook amongst the students, and to make them aware of the rapid changes taking place in the outside world.
- Almost all the teachers are non-Soliga, and they expressed the desire to be oriented to the tribal way of life and to the issues of the sanctuary.
During the course of the programme, teachers, students, the local Soliga community, staff and researchers from VGKK and ATREE, and others gave information and guidance regularly. Research papers and literature on the BR Hills and the Soliga community were referred to. Draft chapters were shared with all concerned and the comments incorporated. Workshops were held with the teachers to field-test some activities.
Orientation Workshops for teachers:
A series of workshops to orient the teachers of the VGKK school to the use of the Handbook have been planned. These workshops and the translation of the kit have been supported by a grant from Asha for Education (Bangalore chapter). The first workshop was held in December 05.
Environmental Handbook for teachers:
As part of the programme, “Forests Alive!” a Handbook for teachers was developed which explores a range of issues that are relevant to the lives of the Soligas within the BRT wildlife sanctuary. It also has a number of activities that the teachers could use to help children become more aware, sensitive, and proud of their culture and natural heritage. The content of the Handbook was discussed in a workshop with the teachers of the school, where decisions were also taken as to what topics would be dealt with at each level.
Uses of the handbook:
The entire package can be used as part of an EE programme for students from Classes 1 to 10. It can be adapted for non-formal learning programmes as well. The book will also be of interest to the Forest Department, wildlife tourists, NGOs and concerned individuals. While the Handbook is set in the BR Hills and BRT Wildlife Sanctuary context, its contents and activities can be adapted and used elsewhere in the country and outside.
The English version of Forests Alive! has been published in Kannada by Navkarnataka Publishers as Vana Sanjeevana. The Translation was done by Shri Nagesh Hegde, a reputed writer and journalist.