No school curriculum is complete without an inculcation of awareness about environment related issues, and a respect for Mother Nature. Environmental Sciences, an important subject in the lower classes might be part of the school curriculum, but the reality is that scant attention is given to it in the senior classes in a large number of schools! E.V.S. as a formal subject at the twelfth ISC board level has been discontinued. At the lower levels, it will now be more of an activity based subject. The implications of this decision has meant that the subject no longer receives the importance that it had as a formal subject in schools running under the I.C.S.E. board guidelines. In C.B.S.E. based schools also, E.V.S. is taught till class five. But then, inculcation of respect for the environment and nature should be the most important focus of every school curriculum and even if it is not taught as a formal subject like E.V.S.
Today, more than ever, there is a great need to make our young students aware and sensitive about important environment related issues, and concerns regarding global warming, pollution, and the benefits of recycling, garbage disposal, and love for Mother Nature. Some schools have separate dustbins labelled biodegradable and Non-biodegradable waste. The garbage containers are coloured green and blue respectively. While this is a positive step towards making students aware about the need to segregated waste, it might also be a good idea to have a third container labelled, Toxic waste, or E-waste. Even if these dustbins are never filled, it is important to have them around even if they are unfilled so that they can stand out as important reminders of the problems we face with regard to disposal of toxic waste. Toxic waste and E-waste are usually those products which can’t be recycled by the local recycler, and they need special treatment. Discarded Lead-Acid batteries, mobile phones, discarded P.C.B. boards, electronic equipment, cathode ray tube, and so on contain hazardous and toxic materials including lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and so on, which if not handled appropriately will leach into the ground water making it highly toxic. A school in which I have worked organises Activity Days based on the theme of recycling waste into useful decoration items. This is an important activity which explores various ways in which useful objects can be made from discarded objects. A visit to the Rock Garden in Chandigarh will definitely make students aware about inventive ways of recycling waste materials. The sale of greeting cards made from recycled paper and decoration items made from papier-mâché will motivate students to learn about the importance of recycling paper.
It is only when you take the children into the lap of Nature that you will be able to make them learn to appreciate and respect Mother Nature. Alas, forests have receded, and instead of trees we have concrete jungles, but we can at least, bring Nature to the schools! Planting of trees, having a horticulture division, planting of rare plants and herbs, having a zoo, planting of fruit trees encouraging students to bring their pets, will all instil respect for Nature. Sale of herbal, decorative and exotic plants grown by the horticulture club of the school will help encourage students to appreciate the valuable gifts of Mother Nature, and learn more about plant life, and the importance of conserving them. Government schools in Delhi are encouraged to set up Eco-Clubs, and they even receive a grant from the Directorate of Education. This is a positive step taken by the Government of Delhi, and in many cases, the Eco-Club activities form an important part of the school activity. Some of the activities of the Eco-Club include Horticulture, Skits, exhibitions, tree-plantations drives, and waste management activities. In most cases, these activities provide a refreshing change for the students and their teachers! Excursions to Game Reserves, National Forests, Nature Walks, and painting competitions based on Nature will instil respect and appreciation for Nature in students.
If our purpose of educating children is to build character, then I guess the best way to do this is by teaching students to respect and appreciate Nature and to learn to protect the Environment. It is the small things that we teach in school that finally make up a whole picture. When you teach a child not to burn garbage, and to segregate Bio-Degradable waste from Non-Bio-Degradable Waste, you are training the child to become a more responsible adult, an adult a better human being, a person with a better character.