Shaping the future shapers: Animal Education teacher workshops begin in India

Participation of teachers, students, and even onsite construction workers illustrate the AAE’s teacher workshop’s broad community impact.A conscientious individual is an outcome of numerous factors. Responsible parents and good teachers are the most evident, and ones, that can have over-riding effects on the growth of a child.

Implementing our Animal Action Education (AAE) programme in schools in India, we have been trying to reach out to the children and sensitise them about wildlife conservation and animal welfare. Our vision is for these children to think for nature and animals in whatever profession they choose to enter.

Read more: AAE student programs about tigers and elephants.

This is important, because conservation is not a responsibility of conservationists alone. Just like ensuring human rights is not the responsibility of the activists alone. It’s about building a society that cares about others, or more realistically does not step on other’s toes for personal growth.

Accordingly, we are reaching out to teachers as ‘shapers of futures’, to make them aware of the crucial role they play in wildlife conservation and animal welfare. Not just as individual members of the society who can bring about positive changes, but also as propagators of knowledge and designers of futures of their students.

To understand empirically how crucial getting the teachers involved is, one only requires a guess as to how many students can a teacher inspire in his or her lifetime. The ideal student to teacher ratio as mandated by the country’s Right to Education Act, is about 30-35:1. Taking this as a baseline, and supposing that a teacher remains active for 30 years in his or her lifetime, every teacher influences about a thousand students.

This is of course a conservative figure. A teacher normally would be teaching more than one classroom in any given year. And in a country like India, where in parts there are 50-100 students to a teacher, the number of students that can be influenced by a teacher is much more. (This, without taking into account the respect that teachers receive from other members of the society including the students’ parents)

The first workshop was held today in a government school called Jilla Parishad Vidyalaya in the remote village of Shenda (Gondia district) in central Indian state of Maharashtra. It was a small one, meant for teachers of 12 schools from the Nagzira-Nawegaon Tiger Corridor in the Central Indian tiger landscape. It was another matter that students from the school joined us and so did a few construction workers who were at the venue. This was of course encouraged because the idea is to join forces and increase the number of potential voices for the cause of the tiger and the forest.

To be fair, the workshop was not about teaching really. Its never about teaching. Its about sharing and learning from each other, where every participant is a teacher and everyone a student.

Our team included my colleagues Anil Kumar Nair who coordinated the whole activity on ground and Achintya who helps out at our HQ.

Anil has been implementing community initiatives in this landscape, to save 6% of the world’s wild tiger population that it harbours, as part of our holistic Central Indian Tiger Conservation Project. The project also looks at capacity building of frontline staff, ecological research, and illegal trade control activities.

The effort of the workshop therefore was to drive towards the project goals to secure this landscape for tigers and for other wildlife.

Following an introduction about the region and its values, by Anil, we started our interaction, asking the audience to share their experiences. Turning these experiences into learning for all, we tried to give them the context of conservation when we could.

A young girl shares her experience of seeing a tiger during the AAE teacher workshop.

A young girl told us about a tiger that she’d seen, and a biology teacher told us the reason for increasing conflicts between man and animal bringing the discussion towards food chain and ecological balance.

When a lady teacher told us about the animals they see when they travel, we spoke about threats that the transport system poses to wildlife in India. When they told us that people do not listen when they tell them not to extract wood from forest, we discussed the compulsion of poor people and potential solutions like the improved cook stoves.

Screening the AAE documentary Born to be Wild: Saving the Majestic Tiger, we drove discussions towards the tiger. These discussions also worked to encourage the teachers and participating students to take positive actions, and help stop negative ones.

Achintya spoke to the teachers about the AAE programme and with Anil and the teachers, laid out ideas for potential activities that they could undertake in their respective schools. We also offered them our support in case of any difficulties, planting the seeds for long-term association with these schools to carry out green activities involving their students.

It only takes one generation to shape a future. All that is needed is an intense tsunami (for lack of better word) of change to sweep through the present.

Our effort through AAE therefore has been to reach as many schools as possible, now, making teachers the agents of change.

Being an agent of change or a ‘shaper of future’ however does not require any special skills. All that is required is a will to do so. The future needs you.

-- SS

For more information about IFAW education efforts around the world, visit our Animal Action Education pages.

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