By Ashish Jhalani
Studies show teachers need environmental knowledge and eco-pedagogies to effectively engage children and make them responsible citizens.
NCERT, India’s government organisation that has been set up to assist qualitative improvement in school education in India, has set out the following goals for ECCE for every child.
-To maintain good health and well-being.
-To become effective communicators.
-To become involved learner’s and connect with their immediate environment.
These may sound exceedingly simple, but are are very well thought out. And eco-pedagogy has a lot to do with the child’s overall environment than just with nature.
There is now a term called “nature deficit disorder” which is very alarming. As we raise our young children with the lack of a bond with the natural world, they are unlikely to feel concerned about protecting it. This itself is contributing to the progressive destruction of the planet.
The Pencil Power Report by Square Panda emphasise the relationship between the child and the environment. It has been compiled by stellar names in ECCE such as Dr Venita Kaul, neuroscientists Dr Vera Blau McCandliss, D. Prabhat Ranjan and Dr Nandini Chatterjee Singh of UNESCO, educationists Dr Sandhya Sangai and Dr Romila Soni of NCERT , researcher Rewati Raman Vishewar and administrators Dr Shakila Shamsu and Dr Shreeranjan.
Let us look at the elements of the environment and what our experts have to say-
The first environment around every child is their home- at around nine or 10 months of age, our auditory systems start getting tuned or sensitive to the language that is spoken at home, and it becomes familiar with the sounds in the environment. Auditory discrimination begins to happen. These are the basics of beginning to form spoken language and help the child connect to their immediate environment.
Early learning activities provided by parents at home help prepare their child for success in school—and in life as these first six years are very critical to a young child’s development and early learning. What parents do at the home matters a lot as it influences the school learning. The second environment is the school. What happens in preschool matters a lot, so that parents may do what and how to help their child at home.
A child friendly environment is required to be developed for increasing children’s attendance in the preschool centres. The exposure to other children who are different, is also part of the environment.
The third element of the environment is nature itself. Day in and day out, as children ignore the flora and fauna around them, litter the streets and learn not to appreciate simple gifts like the sunlight and the food grown by nature, they suffer a learning loss. There is no doubt at all that children need to be immersed in nature to learn about the world around them and develop a sustainability ethic for the Earth as they grow up.
Given that children come to school with different levels of awareness, the inputs they receive at the preschool stage must make them sensitive about preserving nature; simple things such as not using plastic, being careful about any kind of wastage- even if it is the water in their water bottle or the food served under the meal-schemes goes a long way in making them responsible and aware.
Eco-pedagogy is nothing but a foundation on which we can build positive associations for sustainability practices and behaviours. Exposure to the natural environment contributes to the psychological and cognitive development, physical development of children. Simple activities like nature walks have the capacity to help develop curiosity and connections. Simply playing in nature can develop cognition, independence and team-building attributes. This is the future we need to build.
The author of this article is Head, global operations, Square Panda. Views expressed are personal.