Nature has blessed us with beautiful forests and oceans. Forests that provide life giving water. Oceans that fight climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide we spew. Without forests and oceans life would be very bleak indeed. Yet, we destroy more every year, with no thought for tomorrow. At a time when the world’s wildlife is predicted to disappear by 2050, we need regular engagement in schools for children during their formative years to connect with nature and learn about conservation. Only then, there will be a generation of eco-literate citizens taking part in conservation and leading sustainable lifestyles. Unfortunately, schools face a myriad of challenges to bring this change, and they range from program continuity to space and functionality, and from teaching and learning to resource availability. Young people can be a powerful force for change.
In India, 65% of the youth are below 35 years of age. This is a staggering 86 million and 730,000 young people! If a million of them – about 1/8th of this population – become nature educators, a powerful youth-led movement to connect children with nature can be created in schools. As the first step towards this, YOUCAN launched the Earth Ambassadors Fellowship in co-creation with NELIS South Asia to identify, support and empower passionate youth to lead nature education initiatives in schools.
Seven people were selected for the fellowship. They were four young professionals 3 students who are pursuing their undergraduate programs. They took part in a two-day training program at HLC International to learn about nature, teaching and learning and self-discovery. In the coming months, they will be closely working with the YOUCAN Team to design and conduct their own nature and sustainability outreach initiatives for a small group of children in schools near their locality, or in the ones they have studied. Some of the topics they covered were; nature around us, conservation and you, coasts, rivers as lifelines, butterflies and environment-friendly practices. We are looking forward to develop this as one of the models for youth engagement in nature and environmental education in the coming years.