Environmental consciousness: Schools need to nurture citizens for better collective future

Despite the fact that India has the lowest per capita emissions compared to the major world economies including US, China and the European Union, the impact of climate change has become evident in the country through rising levels of air pollution and extreme weather situations.

It’s time for educators to take cognizance of this fact and delve deeper on why climate change is not a one country issue but needs individual, local and global intervention. (Representational image)

By Ashu Ratra

As we embark on a new year with its own challenges given the rising spread of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, it may also help to reflect upon a major discussion that captured our attention and imagination towards the end of 2021. The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) once again drove attention to the immediate actions needed to mitigate the threat of climate change. While we deal with new challenges in this new year, it is pertinent to not forget the various promises our leaders made at the COP 26 and carry it forward by doing our part.

Despite the fact that India has the lowest per capita emissions compared to the major world economies including US, China and the European Union, the impact of climate change has become evident in the country through rising levels of air pollution and extreme weather situations, therefore, it is an equal stakeholder to shoulder responsibility with its global partners in combating the climate crisis.

It’s time for educators to take cognizance of this fact and delve deeper on why climate change is not a one country issue but needs individual, local and global intervention. The role of schools is to break the notion that protecting environment is only the responsibility of the government. The foundational thinking of individuals is shaped during school days, therefore, nurturing individuals who will be the leaders of tomorrow with the right mindset, skills and vision towards the preservation of environment is important. Below are some measures that schools can take for students to become environmentally conscious citizens for a better collective future.

Concept of environmental citizenship

Bringing the concept of Environmental Citizenship (EC) in classrooms can help students understand the importance of living in harmony with the nature and developing a sense of responsibility towards environmental conservation. It is based on one’s life choices in minimizing the ecological impact on earth. Awareness among children through such concepts can influence families towards responsible consumption and conservation of resources including minimizing the usage of electricity, water conservation, reuse and recycling. The ultimate goal of environmental citizenship is to create green citizens. In light of this, our school has designed a program ‘Go Green’ to strengthen students’ knowledge and skills through daily activities and lifestyles that can bring a positive impact on the environment.

Train the teachers (role of educator)

Teachers need to be well-aware about the issue of climate change irrespective of the subjects they teach. Therefore, schools must have a well-designed and comprehensive program that can sensitize teachers about conservation issues and environmental education to guide them and evolve the right teaching pedagogy. It is important for a teacher to know the roles and responsibilities of engaging students in dialogue and active participation in environmental preservation.

Creating green ambassadors

Implementing green practices like nature walks and observations are the best examples of experiential learning programs which sensitize students towards the ground realities. Students must be introduced to the flora and fauna in their campus and encouraged to conduct the biodiversity assessment within their campus. Conservation, biodiversity and wildlife experts can be called to deliver talks in schools and sensitize impressionable young minds. Students can become role models for others by volunteering as ‘Green Ambassadors’ in schools to motivate green lifestyles and adopt best practices towards environment conservation and waste management.

Use of technology and innovation

As part of bringing change, there are several activities around climate change that can be carried out in schools. We need to inculcate knowledge, right set of skills, attitude and values among students to help them make informed choices and decisions. Establishing long term projects with the use of ‘design thinking’ approach will help students to identify problems, empathize, ideate, build prototypes and adapt local solutions to sustain green practices.
For example, a group of students from our school created a product E-Sanitarios for collection of online deliveries at the doorsteps of customers with full safety mechanism. They identified the problem as rising numbers of return deliveries lead to an increase in carbon footprint due to excessive transportation and then worked on a solution with the use of technology.

The most important outcome of education lies in building capacities of young minds and help unleash their creativity in developing environmental leadership skills.

(The author is the Green School Program Coordinator and Science Educator at Shiv Nadar School, Noida. Views expressed are personal and not necessarily those of Financial Express Online.)

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