CSE’s Environmental Education programme takes environment issues into the classroom by organising practical workshops and talks about sustainability issues for school-students, youth and school teachers. The unit also conducts the Ecological Footprint project, which consists of eco-tours, lectures, and poster competitions that teach children about the ecological dimensions of their city.
Such programmes help children understand the holistic unity between environment and sustainable development.
This programme is supported by the bimonthly Gobar Times, a Down to Earth supplement aimed at school children.
The Environment education programme
CSE’s non-formal education programme for children began with the publication of storybooks on the environment based on real-life stories. From these small beginnings, CSE set up a formal unit to undertake activities addressing students and teachers consistently.
In 1998, it began the publication of a children’s newsletter, Gobar Times. Several other educational workshops for students and teachers were also organised.
In 2005, CSE changed the way it undertook education programmes in a way that the task of educating students can be taken up by teachers. The programme, called the Green Schools Programme, is a rating mechanism that enables teachers, students and the school management authorities to assess their own environmental management practices within the school campus.
The programme has two components – a Green Schools’ Manual, that enables schools to audit their performance in management of natural resources within their own premises and a training module for teachers, that provides step-by-step guidance on how to use the manual
In the first phase, CSE trains teachers from participating schools to audit their schools on different environmental parameters and how to improve the management in the schools. This training programme is done through a manual, which the teachers can then use to train students.
In the second phase, CSE assesses the performance of the schools, which have implemented the programme. The assessment and subsequent rating is done on how much improvement schools have made and how effectively they ensure the involvement of students, teachers and management.
The first Green Schools Award ceremony was organised on November 27, 2006, which was attended by over 500 persons. Professor Krishna Kumar, Director, NCERT, gave away the prizes to the top 20 performers, hailing from different corners of the country.
A photo gallery and five exhibit stalls were set up to showcase all the behind-the-scenes actions that had taken place in various schools while the first batch of Green Schools students did their audit.
Similar event was organized in December 2007 and is being organized in December 2008.
The Anil Agarwal Green College
The Anil Agarwal Green College (AAGC), an education and training initiative of CSE, was established to communicate the science, complexity and politics of environment across India, South Asia and the world. It seeks to build a constituency and cadre of knowledgeable, skilled and committed environmentalists from students, decision-makers, field-level practitioners, civil society groups, journalists, lawyers, and concerned citizens.
As part of this mandate, AAGC serves as a research, academic and capacity building hub that conducts a number of short and long-term courses and training programmes.
Housed in a separate building adjacent to the CSE main office, AAGC has state-of-art training facilities http://old.cseindia.org/aagc/index.htm. Short-term courses range from technical workshops on how to build rainwater harvesting systems and decentralized wastewater treatment structures to policy briefings on ecological poverty and food safety, to hands-on training on environmental communication, information management and advocacy.
Other training programmes such as Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), Managing Urban Growth, and Urban Mobility, seek to actively engage with industry representatives and regulators in the country and across the developing world. Over the past four years, AAGC has conducted more than 100 training programmes, training more than 2,500 participants from India and around the world. Courses for students addressing the needs of this important constituency, AAGC has conducted several courses targeted at students and young professionals.
CSE also has a robust Internship programme in place, which attracts many students from all parts of the world. AAGC has recently launched a two-month summer course for students from India and South Asia. Titled, Agenda for Survival, students attending this course are given an intense briefing on issues that are of concern to India and other developing countries. Field trips and meetings with communities serve to illustrate innovations that communities make to enable them to face the challenges of managing their natural resources base. Perhaps the most successful is the month-long orientation programme conducted for students of The Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo, Norway.
Titled Challenge of the Balance: Learning the practice of environmental management in India, it offers international students a first-hand experience of the myriad challenges facing the developing world. AAGC has conducted this programme for four successive years. The coursework enables students to understand and critically evaluate issues that lie at the interface of environment and development; poverty; democracy, equity and justice; and culture. Challenge of the Balance, comprises classroom lectures, field visits to rural India, project work and discussions.
As part of the course assignment, students are expected to produce, entirely on their own, a journalistic product, as their assignment. While the batch of 2006 brought out a magazine, Outsider, the 2007 batch put together an online documentary, using text, audio, photo and video (http://old.cseindia.org/oslo2007/index.asp?id=1). Similarly, the 2008 batch of 30 students produced a magazine, ReAct, a website and a campaign which they presented at the University of Oslo upon their return (http://old.cseindia.org/react.htm).
Students attending Challenge of the Balance considered the programme the most rewarding experience in their academic career. Many students choose to return to India to conduct research for their Masters thesis. At a review meeting held at the University of Oslo, Challenge of the Balance was rated as among the more important and innovative of SUMs activities. The president of the University of Oslo praised the initiative, saying that it served as a model for other courses.
Media resource center
The CSE Media Resource Centre (MRC) aims to facilitate a sustained and interactive contact with the mass media fraternity in India and South Asia. It plans to build an informed and vibrant community of writers on environmental issues by giving them access to information, stimulating them about current issues on environment and development, and inspiring and encouraging them to write in a more rigorous manner.
An active network of writers, once built, will also help to bring information about changes in the environmental field from across the country to our attention. Therefore, it is a two-way street and the key purpose is to build a strong interaction-based network of professionals. Through this, the CSE-media partnership intends to build capacity for sustainable development and create an expanded corpus of knowledge on environmental issues.
To do all this, the MRC has developed a host of programmes, tools and activities such as fellowships, briefing workshops, training courses, media alerts and a feature service. It has successfully conducted several media fellowship programmes for journalists on a wide range of environmental issues such as water, desertification, forests and mining. In association with other teams in CSE, it also conducts national, South Asian and regional media briefing workshops. These workshops have primarily aimed at demystifying key environmental issues for the benefit of the media, to enable better and more informed reportage.
Over the years, CSE has accumulated considerable experience in interacting with the media on a regular basis and in helping media understand environment and its concerns. In fact, CSE is one of the few institutions in India which can effectively combine a good fundamental knowledge of environmental issues and skills in research-based journalism with an expertise in how this knowledge and skills can be best disseminated.