Nature Camp for Greening Young Minds

Group photo with the students and the organising team.

A three-day Nature Conservation Camp for greening the young minds was organised by ICIMOD (through REDD+ Initiative Programme)  in collaboration with National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) 28 – 30 January 2016 at the Biodiversity Conservation Centre in Sauraha, Chitwan. The school invited for the camp was “Shri Ratna Rajya Higher Secondary School” from Gorkha, located at the epicenter of the April 25 earthquake. Through a pre-selection process, 25 students were chosen to attend the camp, including two teachers, from grade 6-8 and three students from a local school in Chitwan. Altogether 12 resource persons from both organisations facilitated the camp.

Nepal has around 11,000 schools (lower secondary level). The proposed nature camp was a pilot approach to develop a long-term strategy to provide nature based experiences to all school-going children at least once during the schooling.    

The three-day camp included nature-related activities covering biodiversity, global warming, REDD+, Chitwan National Park and its conservation management and filled with games on the environment and conservation.

Students were divided into groups and each group represented elements of nature —  air, water, soil, forest and snow/glaciers — for children to better relate with the elements throughout the camp. All activities were outdoor-based and demonstrated through innovative games to create a stress-free environment for learning. A nature walk and park safari were also included in the activity module through which students could clearly connect with nature and its elements.

The students shared their camp experience on the final day through a formal programme attended by dignitaries. The policy supports the campaign of awareness through conservation education but the implementation of policy is the main barrier to incorporating outdoor education.

 Bhuraman Ghimirey, a faculty member of the school, said the teaching method of schools are not as effective as the methods used in the camp. He also said students learned more in just two days at camp compared to classroom sessions. Reshika Ale, Grade 7, said that all the students from all over Nepal should get an opportunity to experience such outdoor camps as they learned many things about environment and importance of conservation through demonstrations and not just through books and classes. 

Post-camp discussion was held in presence of the joint secretary, chief of REDD Implementation Cell, chief park warden, executive director of NTNC, chief policy advisor of ICIMOD and other members of ICIMOD and NTNC.  All the participants of the discussion meeting agreed that outdoor learning is a very effective tool especially for students as they are at a peak age for exploring and learning. Recommendations were made to incorporate such campaigns and programmes at the national level through systematic meetings with the policy makers as well as decision makers of the country.