It’s been seven years since Neha Gujar, 20, has burst firecrackers during Diwali. Neither has anyone in her family.
It was through sessions and workshops on the harmful effects of burning crackers on the environment by not-for-profit Sanskar India Foundation (SIF) at Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 3 at Navy Nagar that got Gujar to celebrate a noise-free Diwali, with only lights and rangoli.
“We were taught basic concepts about the environment and its importance. The foundation that was laid during school has helped me in many ways,” said Gujar, a third-year media student at Jai Hind College, Churchgate, who now volunteers with SIF and takes a session at her alma mater every Wednesday.
What started out as a pilot project to teach a holistic environment programme with three Mumbai schools in 2004, has spread across 112 schools in a decade.
The environment programme is taught to students between Classes 4 and 7. “We wanted to teach students how health and society are affected when the environment is affected. These children can become instruments of change,” said Kiran Madan, founder, SIF.
Covering environment issues ranging from waste management, pollution to water conservation and eco-friendly festivals, SIF conducts weekly interactive sessions in the form of presentations, games, quizzes, workshops and videos. “These help students in understanding the problem and also thinking of solutions,” said Madan.
Every module is accompanied with one activity such as making eco-friendly Ganesh idols and painting them with natural colours or getting students to record noise levels with the decibel meter in different parts of the school. Eco-friendly festivals form a very important aspect of environment education.
This year alone, the Foundation has conducted 160 workshops in schools during Holi to create awareness on the dangers of chemical colours, 100 workshops in recycling waste material into rakhis and reached out to 110 schools to celebrate cracker -free Diwali.
“The session helped me to understand the importance of energy conservation. We now ensure to switch off lights and fans when classrooms are empty,” said Dhananjay Singh, 15, Navy Children School, Navy Nagar.