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Interacting with village children at Children’s Land in Sadhana Forest

The challenge for the environmental movement is how to make it interesting and exciting enough for young minds to engage in such activities from an early age.

Interacting with village children at Children’s Land in Sadhana Forest

India Pondicherry, India  |  Jan 11, 2011
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 The challenge for the environmental movement is how to make it interesting and exciting enough for young minds to engage in such activities from an early age. 

The project: One of the projects the Living Routes students are involved in is to create new structures for children at the Children’s Land.

Unschooling method: The Sadhana Community subscribes to the idea of un-schooling where children are not forced to learn. Instead they are allowed to learn at their own pace through exploration and life experience .

Making choices: Keeping this in mind, it was decided that the children will decide on what they need and help chose the design for the structure. The Living Routes team discovered that in most instances the children said ‘yes' to whatever is being proposed and were happy to participate.

This was intriguing for the students as to why the children were not able to articulate their preferences like the children they are used to interacting with. One of the reasons for this behaviour, I think, is the background of these children. They come from rural India from lower-middle to poor class backgrounds. They are just happy to have something done for them and consider it a blessing.

 Another more important factor could be their cultural conditioning. In India, the children are instructed what to do in every aspect of their lives and this continues well into their adulthood. This does not mean that they are not smart or incapable of making decisions. The value system dictates that one follows instructions and advice from well-wishers and parents who have more experience of life and are there to guide them. This is hard to understand when one is looking at this behaviour coming from a culture like the US where children are given choices and are asked to make their own decisions from an early age.

Sheena Iyengar, a professor from the US describes this diversity in dealing with choices in her TED talk. Sometimes having too much choice can lead to more stress instead of being the enabler of personal expression. The real challenge with choice is to understand where choice is useful and to what extent, in order to enhance quality of life. This will definitely vary from culture to culture and even individuals. However, this is something that needs to be explored further in the context of modern choice and consumption driven society.

Getting children involved: Once the children had decided to build a performance stage with waste materials (well they were asked and they said ‘Yes’), the next step was get them involved in making bricks by filling soil into old plastic bottles. A couple of LR students went around and managed to convince a few children who were playing to come and help us with the task. After all it was their stage that we were building.

We noticed that after a little while they were bored and wanted to do something else which was more stimulating. I wondered about the choices these kids will have to make and which way they will swing. On the one hand they can spend more and more time at this fascinating place called ‘The Children’s Land’ and have wholesome fun while learning about trees, environment, and recycling and on the other hand they are bombarded with alluring images and music in marketing messages from television and media to consume more and be part of modern India. May be they will do both.

Using marketing techniques to promote environmentalism: The challenge for the environmental movement is how to make it interesting and exciting enough for young minds to engage in such activities from an early age. And the question I ask myself is, would it be ethical to use the conventional marketing methods to achieve this?

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  • Interacting with village children at Children’s Land in Sadhana Forest

    January 11, 2011
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