Raising Environmental Awareness for young students
Drawing competition “Nature and Biodiversity Conservation”
By Viriya Vilavongsa
Capturing and understanding the environment through art is a fun way for young students to reflect about their natural surroundings, habitats and landscapes. To capture the beauty and diversity of the Hin Nam No National Protected Area (HNN NPA) through the eyes of local kids was the aim of recent activities of the HNN NPA outreach unit. Hence, a drawing competition for students of two schools in Boualapha district, Khammouane province was conducted on 26 and 27 May.
On the first day, the outreach team has started the drawing competition in Ban Khayou – Ban Sa Ang Primary School. At first, the team has created basic understanding for all participating students from grade 1 to grade 5 about nature and biodiversity conservation through a brief lecture and question-and-answer games, such as: What are the benefits of nature and biodiversity conservation and what are the reasons why we should conserve it? In addition, the outreach team has explained to the students the rules for the drawing contest. Then, the students had enough time to think about the topic and to draw their pictures using the provided colored crayons and pencils. Once they have finished their artworks, some of the students even continued to compose slogans about nature and biodiversity conservation. They wrote down these statements on paper and stuck them on the walls of their classroom.
On the second day, the outreach team has repeated the drawing contest with the secondary school in Ban Dou. The introduction and explanations were given to students from grade 6 to grade 8 and they were a bit more detailed. The task of drawing a picture about the students’ perception of their environment remained the same.
The drawing contest about “Nature and Biodiversity Conservation” was carried out as a new approach to engage young students in thinking about the environment. Students were invited to think about and draw their perception about the environment. Although the output of the contest was surprisingly uniform, it showed that according to the students’ understanding, the natural environment is composed of the surroundings of and including their village. On most of the pictures, an intact forest with big trees and wildlife, a river with plenty of aquatic life and a traditional style Lao village show what they consider as a well conserved environment.
Without having ever heard about it, the students have sketched what is internationally recognized as Biosphere reserve. On the other hand, the drawings confirm that for the local villagers their biosphere consists of elements inseparably tied together. Exact boarders, distinction of agricultural land and protected areas do not exist in their mindset. Thus, the drawing contest has shown more need for clarification on the one hand, and positive experiences with nature on the other hand. However, there have been also some challenging points, namely that students do not know a lot about distinctive features of the Hin Nam No NPA. The so-called key species or typical habitats of HNN are hardly reflected on the drawings.
Nevertheless, art can serve as an introduction to the environmental education process and gives some insight to the students’ perception. They might be encouraged to observe better, to question and to try to understand. In other words, curiosity and fantasy are enhanced. This was also stressed during this contest, as some of the winners were asked to present their drawing and narrate a short story about the picture’s content.
As a next step, it is planned to compile some of the drawings and stories into a small booklet which can be used for educational and entertainment purposes around Hin Nam No.