Framing environmental awareness as literacy, Janardhana Gungurumale’s Environment Studies Centres enable school children to understand and explore their connections with the air, water and soil around them. Through a range of methods, he has made eco-friendly practices an important value-addition to government schools across Karnataka.
In 2001, Janardhana started the Environment Studies Centre in government schools in the Shimoga district in Karnataka. Where his environmental literacy curriculum and guidelines have transformed into a systematic intervention increasing the eco-friendly practices adopted by the school. In 2011, Janardhana entered into a strategic partnership with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, to organise the Parisara Mitra festival, the State’s biggest competition for eco-friendly schools. Shortlisting 30 ‘best’ schools annually from over 20,000 schools in the state, subject experts travel to each school to judge and document the best practices used and showcased. The evaluation committee also includes core faculty from the schools to create an experiential forum for exchange and learning for school leaders and field experts.
Since 2011, The Environment Studies Centre now serves as a training cell for teachers from these schools. In addition, Janardhana publishes and circulates a magazine to 3,000 schools both incentivizing and celebrating the best practices that emerged from the Parisara Mitra festival. To ensure that schools are continuously engaging with the space, he also organizes weekend programs to engage the larger community of parents and children in environment awareness.
Janardhana is now looking at how he can train school teachers to use the school grounds to nurture and grow local medicinal plants from the community. For this initiative, he has launched the ‘Dhanwantari Shaale’ awards, a similar festival-based incentive for schools that are cultivating medicinal plants on their premises. With around 100 schools participating in this contest, Janardhana hopes to build knowledge on the cultivation and the use of these plants as remedies for a range of ills.
Since his original election to the Ashoka fellowship in 1998, he has realized that to address sustainable agriculture in the area, he must intervene in the school and education systems. The Environment Studies Centre provides an excellent and accessible program to create a new generation of eco-literate and aware citizens for the country.
Note: This was updated in July, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile.