Every Child a Scientist
Article 13 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) emphasises the need for public education and awareness about the importance of, and the measures required for, the conservation of biological diversity. The use of and the inclusion of biodiversity topics in educational curricula have also been highlighted. The Global Biodiversity Strategy (WRI IUCN, UNEP 1992) suggests that the national biodiversity curricula focus on contributions to community food, health, and livelihood welfare, and should be developed in partnership with teachers, NGOs, and national ministries of education and environment. However, even a decade after the adoption of the CBD, biodiversity education remains a challenge in several developing countries. As a result, students and teachers are losing opportunities to understand the significance of their surrounding biotic world and its various ecological, economic, physical, and cultural manifestations. In India, in recent years, both government and non-government agencies have made several attempts to reach out directly through formal and informal approaches. While this is important, education should not be limited to school-going children alone, though they are an important audience. The tribal and rural communities retained their traditions intact until the recent past and still use a large part of their knowledge for their health and food security. The fundamental cause of the loss of such knowledge and the depletion of biological resources is public ignorance about the value of the local natural heritage and its application in human life. The younger generations among the tribal communities and other such disadvantaged sections of society have few opportunities to gather such knowledge. Hence, it is essential to create opportunities for them to understand the importance and value of biodiversity and their conservation traditions.
‘Every Child a Scientist’ is a concept developed by Prof. M S Swaminathan with the objective of furthering education for children in science ,art, and cultural aspects of biodiversity at MSSRF CAbC. The name of the program draws inspiration from Carl Sagan, who said “Everybody starts as a scientist. Every child has the scientist’ sense of wonder and awe.” Every Child a Scientist aims to inculcate a spirit of inquiry on scientific principles and laws through an interactive process of learning by doing and asking questions. The course is a step towards developing a young generation interested in safeguarding the biological wealth of our country. This program intends to impart basic knowledge on bio-resources conservation and it ssustain able utilization among students. A curriculum has been designed to equip the students to understand more about the environment, status and value of natural resources, scientific utilization of resources, and current issues pertaining to the governance of bio-resources.
The comprehensive methodology adopted for the workshop includes classroom lectures, debates, discussions, field visits, exposure visits to the organisations working in the field of biodiversity and project work. Apart from the regular academic exercises, efforts are made to integrate physical training, team dynamics, and leadership development. Eminent scientists, academic ians and activists handle various sessions. As part of the field trips, students visit different forest types, agricultural landscapes, water bodies, etc. to understand the functioning of different ecosystems and their conservation relevance. Classroom lectures focus on biodiversity, its conservation and sustainable utilisation–floral and faunal diversity, agro-biodiversity and food security, climate change, biotechnology and its application in conservation, agriculture and food security, application of space technology in natural resource management, etc. Various hands-on experiments, water quality testing, seed germination, soil pH measurements, and slide preparation on mitosis and meiosis will form part of the training programme. Exposure trips to biodiversity-rich areas will form part of the field trips. This will also give the students a fair idea of which direction/sector to choose intheircareerpursuits.Sofar,120 Students have availed the benefits of the program.