Be a Pioneering School

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We live in times of shifting priorities and market driven compulsions, yet many of us who are educationists or teachers do get pulled towards tuning in with Nature, doing our bit to reduce carbon emissions or adopt a more ecologically wise way of living.

Over a period of time, as we read about climate change in the papers, roll our eyes at the news about pesticides in our veggies and digest perspectives from magazines like Eternal Bhoomi – this pull ‘to do something’ becomes a little stronger…

Several schools and colleges around the world and in India are making a conscious shift towards the need for ecological education and the responsibility (response + ability) of taking positive action to sensitize students  towards various ecological crises at the community and the global levels. Recognizing that just theory or an academic grasp of such issues is not enough, many educational institutions have designed experiential learning programmes to be the change, rather than teach or preach change.

Now comes the challenge – the doubts, the questions. We share the answers that helped us along, although we are very sure that both your questions as well as answers may be different:

 

FAQs

There are so many things to do, and given the time constraints to complete the syllabi, so little time available to do something meaningful. How do we get started? Should we take on another burden?

Nature’s first lesson is cooperation, collaboration and networking. Do not take on the whole burden, just get the process started, make a beginning and when people see your sincere interest, they will join you  when you invite them– ideas and plans will unfold, especially if the whole community is to gain and not just one power centre.

To begin with, rather than impose rules, start exposing the teachers and the children towards a specific environmental concern in your school. It can be as simple as telling the children the importance of saving water by making sure the taps are tightly closed or to just simply learn to report a leaking tap. There you go, you just started shifting gears.

 

Some places to learn from?

The Green Schools Programme (Down to Earth magazine), Programmes by TERI and Bhoomi Network and the Bhoomi Magazine are focused on eco-learning. Innumerable sources exist on the www. (see box on page 15 of this issue on eco-schools and ecological learning). If you have a more specific query, write in to us Bhoomi.magazine@gmail.com. We will be glad to share our experience and help where we can.

 

How do we choose to do work that can have the maximum impact and learning value for the resources that we invest?

Do not start with notions of return on investment. The projects can be anything – rain water harvesting, becoming a zero waste school, holding an organic mela. The organic way of taking up projects is to make sure that the core group of people who are committed like the idea, and believe that it is a do-able.

 

Where do we find resources to help us along?

Everywhere! First decide on a project. Let’s say you want to do an organic mela. Learn all you can about the importance of Organic Foods. (Read the next two pages). Send out a circular asking parents if any of them are into organic foods or folk crafts etc. and would like to volunteer. Check out the city’s NGOs who can join in. Meet teachers and older students and see if the idea excites anyone. Attend other organic fairs in your area and get together a network of people interested in all things green.

 

And finally, how much does just one school’s work matter?

We will quote an African saying for you – “ Anyone who doubts the power of a small minority has never been to bed with a mosquito.”

 

You can organize a Bhoomi Utsav

- a festival for Earth

 

Any green idea actually needs to be a basket of green ideas…

Are you interested in or concerned about:

 

Organic Foods,Having Fun, Pesticides in Food

 

Eating delicious food,Climate Change,  Community

 

Organic seeds,Millets,Growing your own veggies

 

Preserving   folk    traditions,  great recipes

 

Voluntary  Simplicity,  Health foods

 

Genetic Engineering,  Human Rights

 

Renewable Energy,Farmers’ suicides

 

Handloom clotharts & crafts

 

Degradation  of  Land

 

The best way to deal with all of them together is to organize a BhoomiUtsav – which can be an organic mela, a fun fair, a space for great food, meeting friends, meaningful learning and a farmers market all rolled into one. It is what may be called “solving by pattern” – addressing several issues together through one project – and having great fun too!

Gandhiji is perhaps the greatest eco-philosopher the world has seen till now. He researched, worked and wrote on several issues for ecologically wise living, at a time when the word ‘ecology’ had hardly come into common parlance. Hence Gandhi Jayanthi – October 2nd is an apt day for a BhoomiUtsav – but any other day will be good as well!

 

Bhoomi Network and Prakriya Green Wisdom School will be happy to share with you the what, when, where and how of organizing a BhoomiUtsav, including check lists and do’s and don’ts.

 

Write to bhoomiprogrammes@gmail.com

or call up Bhoomi Network at 080 2284 1173

 

You can also spend time with the Bhoomi and Prakriya team at the Bhoomi Centre, stay at the

Bhoomi Campus for a few days and work hands-on to equip yourself for more green projects

 

Thinking it Through

This is precisely what one may not wish in a regular mela but a BhoomiUtsav is different – all things are connected, and those who wish to understand more need to be given food for thought…

What does organic food really mean? It is much more than food that is free of all chemicals – it is  an opportunity to redefine the way we not only buy/sell food but our entire relationship, or lack thereof, with food.

This relationship goes beyond the health benefits of Organic into broader ideas such as local food (miles), growing some of your own food and directly relating with the farmer.

Perhaps an organic farmer in your area can join in to give a talk, or anyone who is passionate about organic food can be invited to share their knowledge and enthusiasm on the subject.

Organic Foods are tastier!

A Bhoomi Utsav is a place where NGOs and creative cooks can offer mouth-watering foods made with organic fresh veggies and whole grains, nuts and pulses and other wholesome ingredients.  Every region of India has its own wonderful cuisine – and people who are keeping local traditions and recipes alive. Track them down and invite them in to set up stalls

Food is a relationship - not just what is on our plates. Conscious eating, conscious nutrition and conscious recycling are all important to live a wholesome, healthful life – and these need to be projected in a Bhoomi Utsav – through the foods that are available in stalls, through a talk session, posters and stalls for discussions.

Discussion Stalls

Have you toyed with the idea of doing your bit for Planet Earth? A BhoomiUtsav is a great place to meet eco-heroes who can support you. Every city today has people who can help you with installing LED lamps, getting on to a bicycle, recycling waste in your neighbourhood or simply eating more nutritious earth-friendly foods.

Discover the Magic of Millets…

Millets make tasty rotis, payasam, kitchdi, laddoos and more… Millets are also the food of the future. They are much more nutritious than rice and wheat and experts say they will become essential foods in the future to fight climate change – they need less water and can grow in tough conditions with no pesticides or chemical fertilisers, and hence do not degrade the land or pollute the waters. Find NGOs working with millets to put up stalls

Arts and Crafts

No shanty or village market or a city mela is complete without all those little hand made things that fill up our lives and houses – ranging from jewelry (try ear rings made from seeds) and jute bags to hand made soap and pottery. A Bhoomi Utsav is a place to have art and craft corners where children and adults can try their hand at painting, rangoli or other crafts – a good way to make friends with some crafts people you can try to involve. If you are lucky you may track down folk dancers or musicians to liven up the Utsav.

Farmers’ Market

The awareness, understanding and importance of Organic food has grown, but  ‘Where do I buy Organic Food?’ is still a very common question. We do have super markets with an organic foods section, small specialty stores and even online delivery channels, but when only profit drives the food production

When you organise a festival of Earth, it  is   an opportunity to reach out beyond the mass production systems  that rely on cheap oil and explore the idea of local communities of farmers and consumers in a symbiotic relationship.

 

This could be the most significant way we can make a dent in our carbon footprint.