Workshop report: Environment education for school teachers at MM Hills

Introduction
Malai Mahadeshwara Hills (MM hills) Reserve Forest is located in the Southern most part of Karnataka. It is flanked by Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northeast and Biligiri Rangasawmy Wildlife Sanctuary in the Southwest. There are more than 30 schools located in and around MM hills. ATREE field academy has initiated environment education training for the school children and initiated forming eco-clubs in the schools in and around the MM hills. In this regard, ATREE field academy organized a training program for the school teachers in MM hills. The main objective of this workshop was to expose the rural school teachers towards the importance of conserving natural resources and how they could help the children to learn the importance of conserving biological resources. Permission from Mr.Siddaraj Arus, Block Education Officer (BEO), Hannur was secured to conduct the workshop and invitations were sent to science teachers from 38 high schools in and around MM hills. 34 teachers turned up for the workshop on February 26-27, 2010.

Featured talks and activities of the workshop
The workshop was inaugurated with an invocation by Ms.Sheela, President of the Divya Joythi Federation, MM Hills. Mr. Mohamed Attaulla Khan, Principal of K.K High School Varthur, Bangalore gave insightful inaugural talk on innovative environment education programs for schools. He has demonstrated several environment education programs in more than 50 schools in Bangalore. He described innovative ways to form Eco-clubs in schools and involving students effectively in creating backyard garden, developing plastic free school premises, conducting anti-plastic campaigns in and around school, vermi-compost bins, and water harvesting. The session was informative and interactive.

Dr.Siddappa, Fellow from ATREE, gave a talk on importance of natural resource and traditional practices: a case study from Biligiri Rangaswamy Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. Siddappa effectively articulated about the Soliga tribes and their lifestyle embedded with nature. He emphasized the need to respect and nurture the cultural and traditional practices of conserving and protecting Mother Nature.

Participants visited a sacred grove in Kommudikki village near MM hills RF. The Sacred grove has a Shanimahathma Temple and has series of seven trees (Taare Mara, Terminalia bellerica). People worship these trees and felling these tree for any purpose is taboo. On the way the participants also visited the Lantana Craft Centre in Hanne hola. Lantana craft program is one of the flag ship programs of ATREE. The participants were quite excited to see the craftsmanship of the artisans working on Lantana and fabricate furniture out of Lantana.

The participants were also shown a film “Home” in the evening. “Home” is a video documentary produced by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The film is entirely shot by aerial photography. The film shows the diversity of life on earth and how the ecological balance is altered due to human interventions. The documentary was viewed in the evening session. All the participants requested a copy of the documentary to view it in their respective schools.

Day II started with a bird watching program led by Dr.Giby and Mr.Harisha in Kokkubare. The teachers were enthralled watching birds and in handling the binoculars. For most of the teachers it was the first time, they got to use the binoculars. Giby and Harisha explained about importance of birds and their service in natural ecosystem. At the end of the program the participants were able to identify more than ten bird species, Jackal, Giant Squirrel, Wild boar and common languor. The participants chorused on having such activities for their students in their schools.

Prof. Ganeshaiah is a noted writer among Kannada readers and he has written several books including a science fictions.

He gave a talk on why do we need to conserve nature? His narration on story of a lost man in Siberia was thought provoking. He described that how a mindless use of natural resource led to disaster of a community in Easter Island in Latin America. He also spoke about the symbiotic relationship between insect and fig trees. His talk was well received by the participants.

The afternoon session was taken by Dr.Veerabadhra Nayaka, who has done his doctoral work on Role of Environment Education in rural schools in Chamrajanagar and Kollegal districts. He conducted an activity session for the participants. He used the activity modules from Vanasanjeevini a hand book for environment education in schools. The activities involved identification of trees and animals and mapping the forest and forest resources in and around a school.

At the end of the program the participants felt that the workshop should be extended for one more day. All the participants were positive about forming eco-clubs in their schools and plan activities. Environment Day celebration is planned in all the schools on June 5, 2010. Eco-club membership registration for the student will also start on the same day. ATREE MM hills field academy will divide the schools into clusters and plan various activities for each cluster.

Contact details of the resource persons of the workshop

Organised by Ramesh Kannan, G. Ravikanth and N.A Aravind with the funding from JTT

Report by Ramesh Kannan