Teaching Kids Environmental Awareness

Posted: June 24, 2013

The Prakriya Green Wisdom School believes in teaching kids environmental awareness by practising organic gardening and wastewater recycling in its sustainable campus.

By Kirti

TA_LogoThis article was originally published at The Alternative – an online publication on social change and sustainable living.

The Prakriya Green Wisdom School in Bangalore has a special teacher – Mother Nature. Students at Prakriya do not have an “environment” class – they connect with nature daily, through the 100 species of trees on the premises, through the many shrubs that dot the school’s green landscape and even through the food that lands on their plates at lunch break! For, the vegetables the children get served often comes from the school’s own organic garden. 

How the Prakriya Green Wisdom School built a sustainable campus

All of five years old, the garden is spread over one acre. The beans, greens, carrots, beets, mango, guava, papaya, chikoo and other vegetables and fruits grown here are chemical-free and nutrition-rich. The produce takes care of as much as 50% of the vegetable needs of the canteen, which feeds 350 odd people.

The water that irrigates this garden is recycled from Prakriya’s canteen. The ICSE school has set up a simple but effective recycling system to use wastewater from its kitchen and canteen to water the organic garden. First, the solid waste is filtered out of the wastewater. This water still has some fats and other organic waste mixed in it. The water goes into an 8 ft x 3 ft filtration tank that is divided into three sections by ‘baffles’, which make the fat in the water float on the surface. This fat is manually removed regularly.

The water then flows into a 70 sq ft long, 2 ft deep tank that has 20mm pebbles and plants such as vetiver and Chinese lilies, which soak up the sulphites and nitrates from the water, filtering it further. The water then flows into an underground tank, from where it is pumped to the organic garden.

The water that irrigates this garden is recycled from Prakriya’s canteen. The ICSE school has set up a simple but effective recycling system to use wastewater from its kitchen and canteen to water the organic garden.

The system is efficient but it does need a bit of tweaking to remove some odour in the recycled water”, says Seetha Ananthasivan, the founder of Prakriya and the director of Bhoomi Network for Sustainable Living. “When there are enough plants (in the bio-cleansing tank) and when the tank is big enough, then the water can be cleaned well. Our tank is not big enough and our plants are not growing well because there are trees above the tank.”

The odour, however, does not affect anyone because the water goes straight to the plants. “We may remove some branches to allow the sunlight to reach the plants in the tank, so they grow well. We may also expand the tank to accommodate more plants. But the smell is not a very big issue,” Ananthasivan says.

For the garden, Prakriya recycles as much as 3,000 litres of wastewater daily. Considering this, the initial cost of Rs. 20,000 that the school spent to set up the system doesn’t seem so high. Maintenance is also not a problem. One of the support staff spends an hour daily cleaning the fats and residues from the water.

The organic garden is the result of some efforts and a lot of innovative thinking. When it was set up five years ago, the soil had to be revived because there were a lot of eucalyptus trees there, making it acidic and dry. The school then got some cows for manure. Today, many methods of composting and the mulching of leaves nourishes the soil.

Teaching kids environmental awareness by setting an example

Prakriya believes that teaching kids environmental awareness must involve a practical and enjoyable approach of being in touch with nature – and that schools in India need to learn from the tens of thousands of schools around the world that have begun to teach gardening, as well as biology, chemistry, food sciences, respect for nature and cooperative working through a school garden.

The school campus also has a strong rainwater harvesting system. Each of the five buildings on the premises has its own rainwater harvesting system. In total, the school has the capacity to harvest 50,000 litres water excluding the Bhoomi College building that stands on the premises. Most of the harvested water is used in the toilets and the gardens.

The school campus also has a strong rainwater harvesting system. Each of the five buildings on the premises has its own rainwater harvesting system.

Asked about the challenges faced while setting up the water recycling systems for the school, Ananthasivan says getting information on how to build them was the biggest hurdle. A YouTube documentary by the The Rainwater Club and Biome provided some answers.

Prakriya’s water-friendliness hasn’t gone unnoticed. Representatives of schools, including from the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh, have visited Prakriya’s premises to get lessons in sustainable living.

At Prakriya, sustainability is a way of life. Catch every drop, and catch them young, we say!

*Photo: Organic garden in Prakriya Green Wisdom School. Source: Prakriya Green Wisdom School.

About The Author: Kirti is an unwriter, whose Attention Deficit Syndrome has kept her from getting bored of journalism even after 10-plus years in the field. She prefers the sword but finds the pen mightier when the topics are food, travel and books.

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