Greening Young Minds, a forest department project to train students in nature conservation has become an instant hit with school children.
So taken in by their joyous experience out in the woods with experts to answer their queries nearby, more than half the students pestered the forest department for plants they wanted to grow in schools and their homes.
They want to care for the plants as a token of their pledge to conserve nature. Pleased with the response to the project in 122 government schools in Bilaspur district, the forest department now wants to take it to all the 11 districts in the state.
The children only have a vague idea that environment is something related to the tree. The purpose of the project is to create a holistic awareness about environment with stress on conservation of nature, with an eye on the future, said state forests minister Jagat Prakash Nadda.
The programme was designed and implemented by divisional forest officer, Bilaspur, Pushpendra Rana. Six department officials prepared for the programme by taking lessons from experts and NGO working on environmental issues.
Accompanied by local forest rangers, the team worked with 15000 students from different schools.
``In each school, the foresters, who included the DFO also, interacted with the students for two and a half hours and told them how each individual can make a difference," said the man who conceived the project.
A field visit to a nearby forest, lectures on environment and forests, watershed projects through play way methods and a quiz on forests was rolled into an enjoyable experience for the children. The idea was to educate the children through games and exposure to nature so that they observe things for themselves on the spot, Rana said.
The importance of each of the species in the wildlife chain was taught through a local game tana bana, after which they got a better idea of how environment gets spoiled if one link in the whole chain gets affected.
``We could even sensitise the teachers associated with NSS in schools, who could regularly involve students and take up activities to save environment in the vicinity of their school," Rana said.
He hoped presence of local panchayat members would sustain the programme.