After more than a year of COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions, the KIS Center for Environment and Humanity (CEH) is once again picking up on its ongoing initiatives and planning new interesting programs this academic year. KIS CEH’s vision is to empower individuals and communities to become agents of change for a sustainable world. Its three areas of work include education, outreach, and research – CEH serves as a collaborative platform, in Kodaikanal and beyond, that promotes practical solutions for crucial human-environment issues.
One of our flagship projects this year is focused on youth environment education and is run by CEH’s Project Coordinator Dr. Rajamanikam who has been hard at work setting up Ecoclubs at 23 government and government-aided schools around Kodaikanal. Each school has one sponsor/teacher responsible for planning club activities with their students. Dr. Rajamanikam has conducted teacher training workshops and visited the schools frequently to establish Ecoclub goals, and to support them in planning activities and experiential learning opportunities. As a bird and biodiversity enthusiast, he also guides students through nature walks, bird watching sessions, and backyard biodiversity lessons.
Another key Ecoclub activity is for students to establish recycling and waste segregation within their schools. In 2022, the CEH team delivered new recycling bins at 13 schools, and trained students on how to segregate and manage their school waste. Click here to watch a complete video of an outreach session run by Dr. Rajamanikam. The CEH team will follow up with each school monthly to meet with the Ecoclubs and provide feedback on their waste management. In April 2022, an inter-school Ecoclub exhibition will be hosted where each school can display their work over the past year while celebrating Earth Day.
Dr. Clarence Maloney, a long-time volunteer for environment at KIS, has made his message clear. Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity, and each of us must become activists, innovators, and educators on the subject to bring about change at the individual, local, and global levels. CEH has hosted teachers and local residents over the past year to visit our climate change display which is in both English and Tamil. The ground floor of CEH building offers an in-depth account of climate change, covering topics from its causes, its impact on humans, oceans, and the environment, adaptation and mitigation, and technology solutions in renewable energy. When large gatherings were not recommended due to the pandemic, Dr. Maloney published short informational videos on topics related to climate change which were shared among the Ecoclub sponsors at 23 schools.
In addition to developing long term proposals and programs, Iti Maloney, the CEH Coordinator, has been managing CEH’s community waste management initiatives. This involves establishing relationships with local residents and government officials and collaborating with them to improve waste management practices in Kodaikanal. CEH held two programs for Kodaikanal’s Municipal Sanitation Workers where we discussed the importance of supporting our frontline workers, and ways to make their jobs simpler by promoting and enforcing segregation at source. CEH, in partnership with The Kodai Chronicle Trust, has hosted several community meetings to brainstorm ideas on improving waste management. CEH will soon introduce a Recycling Drop-off Facility on its compound where members of the community waste management group, plus all Ecoclub students and partnering schools can drop off their recyclables in an effort to reduce landfill waste. CEH then plans to launch ward-level recycling drop-off facilities making it easier for sanitation workers to collect segregated waste.
KIS CEH sees itself as a hub for collaboration and innovation, and in the next few years, CEH intends to grow its programs and audience. Locally, we plan to expand our work into promoting sustainable farming practices, demonstrating permaculture and farm-to-table principles, and advancing native species conservation through a seed bank and nursery. We will also continue supporting KIS students from multiple platforms including the KIS Ecoclub, science projects, SEED and CAS projects, and PYP, MYP, and IB projects to conduct research on environmental issues in the Palani Hills. For example, this academic year, one Ecoclub student, Nikil Sankar Narayanan of Grade 10, is interested in studying grasslands and forest fires. He conducted interviews to understand the local population’s perception about the value of grasslands, and why in some cases fires are man-made. This information helps CEH understand attitudes and incentives related to local environmental issues.
CEH is also developing its campus and facilities, with the aim of hosting groups of international students for camps and workshops focused on experiential learning and environmental fieldwork. CEH will integrate its programs such as waste management, native species conservation, organic farming, and climate change awareness into its indoor and outdoor spaces for learning and recreation. As the only Center of its kind in Kodaikanal and its surrounding cities, CEH hopes to become a core attraction for students, educators, and environmentalists to collaborate and tackle crucial environmental issues of today.
Iti Maloney (Class of ‘11), Coordinator, KIS CEH