E-nabling environmental education
Updated on Nov 12, 2018 - 4:38 p.m. IST by Meghaa Aggarwal

WWF-India’s One Planet Academy is a digital intervention that takes environmental education online, making a plethora of resources available in a click...

Global emphasis on Environmental Education (EE) emerged in the 1970s and India was among the first countries to formalise it in its education system. Today, EE is a widespread discipline. While colleges offer it as a specialised course, at the school level it is taught as a separate subject in primary classes and is infused into the curriculum of all subjects in the middle and senior wings.

Entry of WWF

In 1969, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) set its foot in India and very soon started the movement Nature Clubs of India, making nature experience the very basis of imparting environment education.

However, times have changed and to keep pace with the changing times, the organisation, with support from Capgemini India, recently launched a new initiative – One Planet Academy (OPA) – an online portal (https://academy.wwfindia.org) that offers a variety of EE resources for teachers, students and schools.

Radhika Suri, Director of the EE Division at WWF-India, says, “The advent of technology is making educational material available on the fingertips of children today. WWF-India recognises this shift in teaching and learning mediums and OPA taps into the affinity of kids for the digital medium to help expand the reach of environmental education in the country.”

Something for everyone

One of the hallmarks of this programme is its Whole-School Approach. OPA is not limited to select groups of teachers and students involved with EE, but is available to every student and staff member upon free-of-charge registration. The content on OPA is interactive, engaging and is aligned to the school curriculum prescribed by national education boards. It seeks to make its users participate in conservation action, inspiring the entire school to become an environment-friendly unit.

Students can enjoy a collection of nature-inspired stories and comics in the ‘Let’s Read’ section of the portal. Full of adventure, humour and information, these are bound to grip avid readers. There are also exciting quizzes to take and badges to win. 

Let’s watch, play, explore

For those who prefer to hear and see, the ‘Let’s Watch’ section contains animated movies and adventure tales. From the depths of the ocean to deep within forests, these take viewers on spectacular trips, through fascinating audio-visuals. 

The ‘Let’s Play’ section features a variety of entertaining adventure games, word games and trivia quizzes. It proves that learning can be fun and even games can be useful tools to gain knowledge. 

There’s also a ‘Let’s Explore’ section which carries information about the various laws that are enforced for the protection of wildlife and environment, the organizations which have made it their mission to look after the planet, and people who have been working diligently towards achieving this.

Popular environmental cartoonist and illustrator Rohan Chakravarty, who has developed a series of 16 comics and a web-game for the portal, says, “No other website, at least in India, is devoted exclusively to making students aware of the country’s natural heritage in so many engaging and interactive ways. 

“Comics, like the ones on OPA, are a great way to learn about conservation. They are action-packed, there are lots of pictures to look at and minimalist text, and yet, they allow one to sit down and think about what’s happening.”

The portal has a separate login for teachers, where they can find a variety of EE-related activity and project ideas. It also features a teacher’s forum and online teacher training courses conducted by WWF-India.

Schools that register on OPA become part of WWF-India’s One Planet School Programme. They not only have access to the portal, but also get to participate in the Wild Wisdom Quiz – India’s biggest and only national-level wildlife quiz, and Eco Trails – an experiential programme that connects individuals with nature and biodiversity. 

Implementing OPA

Environmental consciousness does not exist in a vacuum. It needs social capital to thrive. Formalising EE into the curriculum has ensured that students today are far more environment conscious than before. However, a lot still needs to be done to translate environmental education into environmental action to save the deterioration of natural resources. 

Since the launch of OPA, WWF-India has been actively promoting workshops based on various sections of the portal. “We’ve conducted workshops on green careers, drawing comics with green humour as well as teacher orientation sessions on using OPA to embed EE in classrooms. With the kind of population India has, OPA has a huge ground to cover. We plan to go into vernacular languages to maximise outreach and work together with various partners.”

Corroborates Chakravarty, “OPA has not only helped me showcase my work but has also connected me to an audience much younger than my usual reader base, who have had many inquisitive questions around my comics.” Indeed, Chakravarty’s comics have been so popular that earlier this year, the organisation published them as a book, The Great Indian Nature Trail with Uncle Bikky. 

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