Conservation Education at Community-based Conservation Centres

Kanakapura CCC

ATREE made an entry into Kanakapura with the school conservation education programme. ATREE initiated its work in 2002 with the promotion of backyard and schoolyard nurseries, by providing seeds. The result is that students and teachers have converted their denuded school ground into biodiversity gardens which serve as backyard laboratories in natural resource conservation. The seedlings planted are regularly monitored by students and have had a good survival rate. ATREE is networked with 72 schools on conservation education covering three hobli in Kanakapura..

In our Conservation and Livelihood Programme, conservation education has taken the form of the Village Green Book, which aims to revive traditional knowledge of indigenous plants; and Nadanavana - to introduce eco-friendly technologies in schools and to strengthen conservation of local biodiversity.

Village Green Book

The Village Green Book works with twenty schoolchildren and six Bangalore University students. This book contains detailed maps and tables describing village land, past and present flora and its uses, plans for greening projects, including a school garden using native plants. The focus of this programme is to conserve and restore knowledge of indigenous plants among village youth.
The Village Green Book was initiated in Elachavadi village. We plan to extend it to more villages with help from urban graduate students and interns.


Nandanavana is a hands-on model of learning about vermicomposting, rainwater harvesting and indigenous species of fruit bearing trees, vegetables, medicinal and butterfly-attracting plants. Nandanavana runs in 59 schools of Kanakpura. Under the programme, 4,177 seedlings belonging to 40 indigenous and eight exotic species have been planted. The seedlings planted in the last three years are regularly being monitored with mulching and basining whenever required. The students have started taking height and girth measurements of seedlings planted. The programme now has plans to make a tree diversity map of schools in Maralwadi.

Field based training programmes

Fifteen teachers from Kanakapura were taken on a two-day exposure trip to observe the dry-land watershed development program at BIRD-K (BAIF Institute for Rural Development–Karnataka). This program integrates water and soil conservation and restoration of native species. The result of this has been strong lobbying by teachers for utilization of barren school grounds for ‘biodiversity gardens’, for a hands on education programmes.

In Bangalore, ATREE conducted an awareness-training programme on environment for 57 children from five slum schools (including dropouts). This was organized by Association of People with Disability (APD) Bangalore and Development Alternatives as part of their Community Lead Environment Action Network (CLEAN) India – an environmental assessment, awareness, action and advocacy programme. Students planted and fenced seedlings using lantana. Then made a trek in the nearby forest and played games that helped increase their understanding of nature.

ATREE conducted a workshop on ‘Conservation Education at Kanakapura - a participatory assessment’ at ATREE’s Maralwadi field office in 2008. 15 school teachers and 35 students from adjacent forest villages of the Maralwadi cluster participated in this workshop. The workshop approached the topic of the importance of conservation education among teachers and students and observed and recorded their responses.

Initiatives from Jan 2010

School kids were initiated in bird watching as a tactic to initiate interest in nature and possibly in pro-conservation action. Birds provide an accurate and easy to read barometer, allowing us to see clearly the pressures our current way of life places on the world’s biodiversity. This project sensitized rural school children to bird life, along with its scientific and technical aspects. The project employs a non formal and an out of the classroom approach to educate children about the ecological importance of birds and the role they play as indicators of biodiversity.

This project has been planned as an ongoing module to engage increasingly larger numbers of children from more schools every year. Currently the project is on at four schools around the Maralwadi hobli of Kanakapura taluk. Children are encouraged to spread the message of conservation to peers and to family members and village elders.

Area limit for CE activity: Maralwadi, Thokasandra and Kodihalli hobli
Funding: The conservation education programme at Kanakapura has been funded by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), SDTTT and now JTT.

Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (BRT) CCC

Conservation education in BRT has been a means of reaching larger audiences. One of its achievements has been establishing conservation priorities and sharing research findings on resource management with the community. Collaboration with a strong community-based organization like the VGKK (Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra) has helped in reaching the community better.

Networks with other organisations have been a strong point of the BRT conservation education effort. Kalpavriksh, in collaboration with ATREE and VGKK, prepared a teacher resource handbook and CD on conservation education, called 'Forests Alive'. The handbook represents participatory experiments and exercises carried out in BRT with the Soliga community. It can be easily adapted to different contexts too.

A mix of field training and exposure sessions, to preparing training manuals for dissemination of information, to using folk theatre and street play involving children to reach out to a larger audience base, organising 'jatha' on forest conservation with the involvement of Soliga elders, have moved the conservation education efforts forward.

Currently, ATREE is developing assessment modules to strengthen conservation education in the region.

Area limit for CE activity: Protected area, BRT Wildlife Sanctuary.

Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve CCC

The ATREE team found that children and youth, despite staying in the vicinity of a forest, knew very little about its biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provided. Knowledge of natural resources and their management, traditionally passed on from one generation to the next, was also on the decline. Overall impact of policy changes in forest management and changes in cultivation practices within the village had resulted in an overall negative attitude towards biodiversity conservation. School curriculum did not facilitate environmental learning and appreciation of local resources. In response to these circumstances, ATREE devised a conservation education module with a hands-on approach, outside the formal school education system, for weekends and long holidays.

Today, conservation education in Agasthyamalai CCC is being revamped to reflect its mission to build a biodiversity-friendly buffer through people participation. The proposed community reserve at Vaagikulum reflects the ambition of the CCC team in encouraging a ground-up conservation effort, also reflected in the activities of the green brigade and the areas identified to build capacities for public participation and observation.

Learning-by-doing strategy

The Pasumai Padai (green brigade) meets at the weekends. The children are from the Singampatti cluster of villages that borders KMTR. They have been drawn into two kinds of activities - being part of mini-research series - in the form of data collection, observation and monitoring exercises; and being exposed to issues that threaten the reserve, and taking appropriate action with the help of civil society and government organizations.

Bats at KMTR - an awareness campaign by school children

…and on tigers

The brigades participate annually in awareness raising campaign for prevention of plastic in the reserve, targeting tourists and pilgrims who visit the reserve during annual festivals.

The conservation education mission in Agasthaymalai CCC is to build a biodiversity-friendly buffer through people participation. Adhering to the mission, unique areas which warrant conservation and occur beyond the boundaries of KMTR are identified and brigades made custodians of these areas. The brigades now not only monitor the area of concern, but also build community stewardship through street plays. For instance in Thirupadaimaruthoor, they monitor the painted stork population; in Vaagaikulum they record the bird diversity in the area identified for community reserve; in Padmeneri, they make observations on a very old fruit bat colony.

These green brigades are also being federated for common activities such as workshops on life skills. Life skill workshops are run to help community members overcome their reserve in participation, and to build skills for observation and recording, before embarking them on conservation issues.

Children theatre

A scientific approach was adopted to evaluate if performing arts can be a good vehicle for creating awareness. A survey was carried out prior and post performance, to test the perception of respondents. It was found that street plays had a higher impact compared to other art forms. Following this, a children theater group has been formed with the help of a local NGO, Nature’s Messenger, to train children in nuanced delivery of the conservation message in the region.

So far scripts have been developed for protection of backyard biodiversity, KMTR uniqueness and issues around the proposed community reserve at Vaagaikulum.

Mini-research: Biodiversity monitoring

The aim was to introduce children to local biodiversity through their own discovery of it in their surroundings. The C&LP villages practice intensive agriculture and are surrounded by small aquatic bodies, irrigation canals, left over large trees etc. These villages are a haven for aquatic birds, amphibians and reptiles. Similarly plants with medicinal value, wild food resource and fodder are abundant in underutilized spaces within villages.

Rewards for learning about biodiversity range from field trips to volunteering opportunities in on-going research. This has resulted in hands-on experience in collecting data, or noting down observations in the field. For example, children assisted in monitoring bat roosts and flying fox populations, seasonality in foraging directions, and food resources, birds of local aquatics etc.

They have generated data of bat flight paths from the roosting site over seasons and have seen them change path with phenology of their food plants and resource availability. They are also monitoring birdlife of a few wetlands and are now working closely with ATREE and local Panchayat to develop a community wetland bird reserve. During school vacations, a week-long workshop is organized, involving children with ATREE field station activities and culminating in a trip to the reserve. A group of children also volunteer as research assistants to interns who visit the KMTR field station.

Implementation programmes: Creating awareness of non-biodegradable waste

Religious tourism in the protected area of KMTR attracts a regular flow of visitors who dispose polythene, in addition to other solid wastes. Consumption of these solid wastes by wild animals leads to causalities in wildlife. Apart from this, road kill also increases. The Green Brigades are involved in sensitizing public and local community members about management of non-biodegradable garbage and cleaning of tourist spots within the forest during festival season.


'Treasures on Tiger Tracks - A Bilingual Nature Guide to Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve' was released at the International Canopy Conference, 2009, organised by ATREE. This book is an attempt to bridge the disconnect that exists between the people who live around the reserve and the forests in their backyard. One of the reasons attributed for this disconnect was the dearth of books in the local language conveying information on the local flora and fauna, a shortcoming that this bilingual guide seeks to remedy.

The guide is a good companion in most of the natural landscapes of the Western Ghats. 392 species belonging to six taxa most likely to be encountered even on a short visit to the reserve have been described in Tamil and English. The Green Brigade was involved in the trial run of the field guide, in association with the Forest Department (FD). It is envisaged that the youth will be trained in monitoring with the field guide and will help the FD in monitoring and surveillance of the park.

ATREE is also working with the missionary school in Singampatti to evolve a meaningful conservation education program for their environmental education syllabus.

Area limit for CE activity: Papankulam, Ayyan, Zamin Singampatti, Indira Colony

Natham CCC

ATREE's partner organization at the site - CCD (Covenant Centre for Development), along with Foundation for Revitalising of Local and Household traditions, supported by Centre for Environment Education, has been instrumental in defining the conservation education programme since 2004.

CCD has carried out teacher training programmes in 120 schools in four districts. Health education programmes on medicinal plant gardens and utilisation skills have been organised. User-oriented packages on primary ailments and health have been provided to schools and SHGs (Self Help Groups). Environment activities centred on the 'pancha bhoota' (5 elements) theme have also been organised.

Vembanad Community Environmental Resource Centre

The Vembanad conservation education effort has been able to integrate conservation education with conservation action, taken in partnership with civil society organizations and stakeholders. In that respect, the Vembanad CERC has redefined children as young adults, giving them age-appropriate activities they can engage in and take responsibility for. To illustrate: college students carry out lab analysis of water quality and take part in the annual Vembanad fish count to monitor the health of the Vembanad lake and its biodiversity. Younger students participate in plastic cleaning campaigns, conducted after the Nehru trophy races when littering and non-biodegradable waste is at its peak, create newsletters, participate in plays based on environmental issues etc. In this way, the conservation education programme is connected to community outreach and helped the younger generation take practical steps in converting thought to action.

Jalapaadom: Lessons on water

The formal conservation education programme is called Jalapaadom, meaning lessons on water. It was begun in consultation with school teachers, and basis that a detailed wetland education module with syllabus linkages and activities was prepared. Jalapaadom targets the 10-20 year age group. 50 Wetland Study Centers have been formed to implement the Jalapaadom activities, with a 50 to 80 strong membership in each centre. The members meet once a week to discuss current issues related to water and wetlands and maintain a notice board for news and stories. Activities include competitions, contributions to a student magazine, student projects, educational puppet and theatre shows, student-created documentaries on the status of Vembanad.


Workshop on butterflies and odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) of Vembanad

Butterfly workshop in the classroom…

…and outdoors
Fishes of Vembanad

Students volunteer for the annual fish count in the Vembanad along with ATREE researchers, fisher folk and other community members
Water birds of Vembanad
Water quality monitoring or Jaladarpanam programme

Students, along with community members collect water for quality testing from different parts of the Vembanad lake in programme, Jaladarpanam
Use of theatre methods in conservation

Behind the scenes in an educational puppet show…

…and in front
Teacher training workshops
Lake cleaning campaign
World Environment Day
World Wetlands Day

A detailed Vembanad field guide has been prepared and distributed to participants.

Archived conservation education activities

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