These Two Girls Use Games and Gifts to Teach Indian Kids How to Conserve and Recycle

By Sakshi Agarwal

After finishing their 12th class board exams, Delhi students Sana Sawhney and Ayushi Gupta sat down to rant about the inadequacies of the Indian education system. They decided to develop a curriculum characterised by a hands-on approach.

Identifying environmental studies to be the most neglected subject – and, ironically, not contributing to environmental conservation – they chose to paint this initiative green.

After engaging with people through surveys, their suspicions proved to be true: most individuals remain ignorant of basic environmental concepts. Most couldn’t even sort waste into biodegradable and non-biodegradable bins when asked to do so. How would they contribute to waste-management drives without being informed citizens?

The duo also discerned a wide disparity between education provided in rural and urban India. Either way, practical application of theories was nowhere to be found. This led to, among other things, the woeful acknowledgment of the deterioration of the planet without any actual effort to reverse it.

GreenCurriculum2The girls then began compiling a list of activities that could be used to teach different concepts related to conservation. They called it ‘Green Curriculum’. Age groups and location were kept in mind while deciding the methods of learning appropriate for them.

For example, in rural areas, poster making and role plays were a huge hit. This equipped participants to come up with solutions to environmental problems themselves. Children were given complete freedom to use their imaginations.

The two ‘green heroes’ also worked towards imparting other skills such as spoken English through these activities. For example, sentence building and structure were taught through environmental terms. Such an approach also highlights the need for an interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies.

An idea that worked in both rural and urban territories was ‘Best Out Of Waste’ in which participants made bookmarks, paper bags, and so on, using waste materials. In cities, children were encouraged to bring empty plastic water bottles, which could be turned into pots. Consequently, they were provided with saplings to plant in the pots and take home with them.

GreenCurriculum3To encourage the underprivileged to think out of the box, they were provided with school kits containing donated stationery collected through social-media campaigns. Initially, such kits were paper bags, but now they have sponsors to supply them with cloth bags, which are eco-friendly and longer lasting.

Now, at age 21, with Sana having completed her studies from University of Bath, and Ayushi from Delhi University, the two have distributed over 625 kits across six schools and a community centre, spanning four Indian cities and towns – Delhi, Noida, Lucknow and Manali – and are reaching out to more institutions every month.

To get Green Curriculum adopted nationally, they are formalising their activities into a fully developed curriculum. Follow their progress on facebook.com/theschoolkit.

This is part two of our three part series, ‘Knights in Recyclable Armour’ first published in the July 2018 issue of eShe magazine.

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