Getting kids involved in wildlife protection can provide the foundation for educating them about environmental sustainability.
In 1992, a fourth grade student in California posed a simple question to his teacher, Laurette Rogers—“what can we do to save an endangered species?” Triggered by a film about endangered wildlife, the question sparked a reaction from the students and their teacher which eventually grew into a national movement.
The class decided to dedicate itself to protecting the California Freshwater Shrimp and went about informing themselves as to the best way to try and conserve this species.As part of their conservation activities, the students held public forums, planted acres of trees to help shore up Stemple Creek (home of the shrimp in question), spoke with local media and even lobbied local governmental authorities.
Twenty one years later, that simple classroom project has evolved into an entire curriculum-based program called STRAW –Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed—which is still headed up by Ms Rogers and aims to provide teachers with the knowledge and means for implementing science and environment-related curriculum into classrooms in a manner that has impact.
The project attracted the attention of filmmakers David Donnenfield and Kevin White, who profiled STRAW, its beginnings and its work in the documentary “A Simple Question” which has since screened at more than 25 film festivals worldwide. Though not the first classroom to tackle wildlife protection, Ms Rogers’ students demonstrated the permeable effect that well thought out environmental curriculum can have on students.
Teaching children about wildlife protection provides a vehicle through which students can start to comprehend environmental issues and learn about the importance of preserving nature. Closer to home, a number of organisations have implemented smart wildlife protection programs geared towards children and encouraging them to be proactive on the issue.
Earlier this year, the Department of Forest and Wildife in Kerala issued a series of “green passports” to local students who attend schools in or around the state’s Periyar tiger reserve. The program has been designed to support and promote an interest in wildlife conservation, while also providing tangible recognition to students already active on the issue.
Passport holders are given in-depth insight into the biodiversity of the state’s national parks, being guided by foresters and rangers each step of the way. A wildlife warden from each park stamps their passport once they have completed each round, positively reinforcing their quest to learn about protecting the flora and fauna native to the state.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) also recently launched a campaign to educate children about the importance of wildlife conservation. The “Fight for us, Write for us” initiative will see CBSE representatives work directly with schools to educate students about wildlife protection and maintaining biodiversity.
With more than 600 species listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable in India, efforts such as these go a long way towards eliminating apathy among future generations about wildlife conservation. Creating tailored programs for children that get them actively involved in wildlife protection allows them to take ownership of the issue and provides them with the building blocks for learning about and understanding our societal responsibilities when it comes to environmental conservation.