Since 2002, CAbC has been implementing a programme called `Every Child A Scientist' (ECAS) to inculcate the values of biodiversity conservation amongst the rural and tribal children and youth.
The objective of the programme is to familiarize tribal children and the youth towards local biodiversity and its' importance; scientific knowledge; information and communication technologies. The programme is based on a well-developed curriculum aided by simple databases and booklets of resource materials. Emphasis is given to address the diversity of ecosystems, habitats, and landscapes and their importance in the day-to-day human life.
As part of enabling exploration and documentation of bio-resources and their value to the community, children are given exposure to some basic skills in botanical illustrations, plant collection as well as identification, herbarium preparation techniques and traditional knowledge documentation.
An Education Committee consisting of experts has been formed under the leadership of a veteran biodiversity educationist in Kerala. Members of the resource team were drawn from different disciplines: wildlife, ecology, plant taxonomy, ornithology, horticulture and agriculture. In addition, volunteers of the Agrobiodiversity Conservation Corps (ACC) who were trained earlier by MSSRF extended their help in conducting field trips and introducing the children to the other stakeholders. Some traditional healers were also involved in educating children about the medicinal uses of various herbs known to them. Printed materials like magazines, booklets, and posters are being developed about different issues like conservation of medicinal plants, endangered plants, wild food species and wild relatives of crop plants.
A detailed curriculum has been developed with the aim of enabling children and neo-literates to increase their capacity for observation and positive attitudes towards biodiversity conservation. Effective applications of computers in possible areas have been visualized and applied. Basic education on biodiversity, soil, air, water, rivers, mountains and their relation to subjects like biology, geography and economics has been built in the syllabus. Education through simple project works has been emphasised, in order to enable children to enhance their capacity as well as to increase and sustain their wonder and awe about the living world.
The Botanic Garden in the CAbC campus serves as a “learning lab” for the trainees.The “Child scientists” are being brought in to inventory of the natural diversity around them and to undertake studies on subjects like Plant Morphology, Horticulture, Fungi and Algae life and Habitat ecology.
Experience shows that children are a very receptive group, and a variety of customized programmes are required to make them understand the value and importance of biodiversity in their day-to-day life. Most of the tribal children do not have access to schools or do attend regularly. The relevance of education, awareness and training to such children in this context is important; it can lead to children, youth, teachers and parents getting involved in the protection and maintenance of genetic wealth. Such a committed team can also be brought in to inventory the natural diversity around them and chronicle the knowledge of their elders about biological resources. The trained students and youth being formed into a ‘Biodiversity Conservation Corps’ can engage in mobilizing the masses with practical information about the biodiversity of their respective villages.