Starting young: Students given lowdown on environment

The project gained so much momentum that sensitivity toward the environment has become a part of the school's curriculum.

Bengaluru: Every day, hundreds of people pass by the Varthur Lake, rolling up their car windows to escape the smell and the foam or hurrying by as quickly as the traffic will permit them. After the initial uproar over the cloud of foam that erupted over the lake’s surface, the actual problem — pollution — has been forgotten. It was this apathy that struck the students of Inventure Academy as they passed the lake to and from school each day.

“One day, there was a hole in the bridge and people simply drove around it, without bothering too much,” said 12th grader Namrata Ramesh, one of the students who has been involved with the school’s Our Lake Our Voice project since it began in 2015. The project gained so much momentum that sensitivity toward the environment has become a part of the school’s curriculum, with students from Grade 6 onwards working on different focus points.

They started off with a two-day event in collaboration with the America India Foundation and produced a charter on their findings. This involved taking histories of people around the lake, tracking the composition of the smell and even studying the biodiversity of the region. “As we moved closer to the agricultural areas, the smell from the lake grew bitter, because of the pesticides being dumped into it,” Namrata explained. “I also saw a man step inside the lake to clear a pipe, to him it was just a routine job.” She was part of the group asked to study the effects of the polluted water on neighbouring farms, and found, to her dismay, that floriculture was badly hit. “We saw a man who owns a marigold farm and he told us that the water from the lake was simply too acidic for flowers to grow. It actually affected his livelihood,” she said.

Our Voice platform
The Our Voice platform, as they like to call it, began with the VIBGYOR rape case back in 2014. “The incident was so powerful that we asked the students to express themselves and produced a safety charter,” said Sowmya Narayanan, a faculty member from Inventure Academy. “In 2015, we decided that environmental initiatives would be our focus, because there’s no point in sending students out into the world without understanding the issues that resonate within the local community.”

Through the lake project, students also get a first-hand idea of how the system works, whom to turn to, who can be held responsible and how action taken by the people themselves can impact the decision makers.
“The problems with the environment are ones the children will inherit, even if they had no part to play in creating them,” said Sowmya.

The students are also in the process of building and acquiring equipment for testing water around the Varthur Lake.

Since the lake project began last July, the school has rolled out a grade-wise system, with each class looking at different aspects of environmental issues.
“The sixth graders went to a silk factory, to understand that process. They were quite stricken by the way silks are coloured, using chemical dyes that are boiled in vats on wood fires, and how this impacts the factory workers,” Sowmya explained. Grade 7 looked at the waste segregation process and the students were quick to understand that waste segregated at source is thrown into the same truck.

The Segregation App
The waste segregation efforts have grown into a full-blown project too, with the students now working on an app in their Maker Space Lab, which uses a game to explain segregation. “That started with our Lego League team,” said Aaron Joseph, who manages the Maker Space lab at Inventure Academy.

“The theme this year is trash, which is how the idea for the app began, with the problem of the common man not being able to tell what trash belongs in which bin.” The app simplifies this process and those who actually segregate their trash at home can earn points on the game. The team’s app, said Aaron, has been endorsed by Mindtree’s I Got Garbage, which will, if all goes well, roll it out onto app stores.

“We’re also working toward letting people redeem their points as discounts on sites on online shopping websites and wallets like Paytm.
The idea is to instil the students with the spirit of entrepeneurship and also to make them more empathetic toward the world. “A lot of kids at Inventure have no exposure to the other side of society,” said Sowmya. “They do live in an antiseptic world, many have never seen a village. This way, they get exposure to a lot of issues that trouble our inherently flawed society.”

All this, along with a host of other projects, explained Nooraine Fazal, Managing Trustee and co-founder, Inventure Academy, is part of a curriculum called postive change makers.

“We want to enable entrepreneurial thinking in our students. The children pick the projects they're passionate aout and work on them.” The students have also created an offline version of an app that measures air and water quality.
“In Beijing, for instance, kids go to school or stay home based on the quality of air on a particular day. It helps you make informed decisions.” The projects have grown organically, too, for as she puts it, “There’s always a push and pull involved in these things, the kids have their own preferences as well. At the end, it’s about letting them do what they feel passionate about.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
Next Story