Heritage Xperiential creating a generation of green crusaders

New Delhi: The Heritage Xperiential Learning School (HXLS) is spearheading the movement for creating a sustainable future by providing environment sensitive education to its students through its unique experiential curriculum. The most recent achievement in this direction is the Grade 6 student-led initiative on Waste Management and a ‘Multi Laminated Packaging’ (MLP) collection drive, as a part of their learning expedition, ‘Geography that Shapes Us’. Through this learning expedition students evaluated the interdependence between the natural and the human communities in their local context, Gurugram and more importantly the human impact on the environment. For bringing in actionable change, the school has collaborated with the NGO ‘Safai Bank’ for this project. The NGO accumulates MLP waste and reuses it by sending it to the cement industry where they are burnt in their kilns in a process called co-processing. In a short span of 4 months, the students have collected and deposited over 14,000 MLP packs to the Safai Bank.

Rajeswari S, Educator, Middle Programme, Heritage Xperiential Learning School, said, “Learning Expeditions are an integral part of our school’s experiential learning curriculum. Learning expeditions (or project) have service learning as an important element where the concepts and skills built through the expedition find a real-life application. This begins by presenting students with a pertinent, real-life problem. Students perform primary and secondary research on various aspects of the problem, gather and analyse information, interact with experts to learn more, collaborate and brainstorm to find possible solutions to the problem – all within the ‘learning by doing’ framework. The solution is reviewed, evaluated against the service-learning goal of the learning expedition, and its efficacy is tested.”

Explaining this further, Prerna Shridhar M, Head – Middle Programme said, “HXLS takes environmental health very seriously and is running multiple student-led projects in this field. For this project, our students closely evaluated the interdependence of nature and humans and the impact of our present choices on future lives. The sustainability of Gurugram city was assessed and solutions were drawn based on the current trends with an effort to make the city green and sustainable.”

The aim of the expedition was to build the value of environmental stewardship in students and to examine the relationship of interdependence that humans have with the natural communities around them. As part of the expedition, students studied the Aravalli Range and their impact on the geography of Gurugram. They donned the hats of environmentalists and analyzed the environment of Gurugram–focusing on factors that affect their environment and examined ways in which they could address current environmental problems. Environmentalists like Chetan Agarwal were invited to the school to talk about Waste Management and ground water recharging. A gallery-walk put up by the teachers gave students data about the environment of Gurugram and India, and they further evidently saw those conditions in field trips to Aravalli bio-diversity Park, Aravalli hills. Based on this background work, they identified effective ‘Waste Management’ as a critical element to avoid air, water, and soil pollution. This would result in a healthier, happier Earth. In order to understand and derive effective strategies for waste management, the students focused on ‘Waste Segregation’ and ‘Multi-Laminated Packaging’ (MLP).

During the research phase, students discovered a report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) that records 53% of plastic in 15 cities across India to be MLP. The most common use of MLP is in packaging of food and FMCG products – the everyday things we consume packed in glossy/ shiny wrappers like biscuits, chips, candy, laundry detergent, tea, hand-wash etc. All of these are non-recyclable, non-biodegradable and non-reusable and mostly end up as garbage on the road or in landfills. Anther study claims that Gurugram generates around 100 tonnes of plastic waste, including MLP daily.

Building on the foundation that the previous batch of students had laid, the current batch of grade 6 students took a decisive step to eradicate this problem. The students started a school-wide drive to collect MLP wrappers, in partnership with the Safai Bank. To generate awareness about the MLP issue and the drive, the students prepared visual aids like posters to put around the school campus, made presentations in different classrooms, sent emails to all departments of the school, and placed attractive hand decorated collection boxes at critical points in whole school so that the MLP waste could be deposited easily. Furthermore, the Middle Programme student council has also joined the grade 6 in this initiative with an effort to create a sustainable process for waste management in school.

Apart from the public initiative taken as a school, the students emphasized that there is much more that can be done as an individual. This includes implementing of waste management systems at the individual and community level.

This spark of active citizenship has led to individual student-led initiatives beyond the expedition. For instance students like Suhani Ravi Tewari and Sifti Kaur – Sifti Kaur, a grade 6 student wanted to be a changemaker and has started an MLP collection drive in her condominium. Sifti launched an awareness campaign and arranged for cardboard boxes for each tower in the condominium complex. She brought these wrappers to school and sorted them with the help of her classmates and deposited them with Safai Bank. Sifti will be continuing the drive in her condominium.

As a part of a summer assignment, Suhani Ravi Tewari, a grade 7 student, decided to work on a community project. During the school field trip to the Aravallis, she saw the landfill at Bandhwari and was determined that MLP should be disposed in a responsible manner and not add to the landfill. She started an MLP collection drive and with her mother’s support, reached out to family and friends. She baked cakes as a gesture of appreciation and encouragement for people who collected a substantial amount of MLP. Her passion and determination came in handy when a family friend invited her to participate in the Operation Cleanup initiative of Shillong Times. She travelled to Shillong, Meghalaya and spoke in 8 schools about MLP and also spread awareness about it in an event hosting the chief minister of Meghalaya. Her efforts have been a catalyst to Safai Bank finding a presence in Meghalaya!! Her mantra is “Reduce the MLP you consume and dispose it responsibly.” Suhani also feels happy to be a part of a growing community of young active citizens who are working towards the sustainability of their city and thereby their planet by making strong meaningful choices.

The students with continuous efforts and research were also able to conclude that MLP wrappers are being consumed and produced in large numbers. Everyone along with the manufacturers and the government need to take a collective action to curb the menace and place some alternatives for all the citizens. “We must also abide by the Plastic Waste Management Rules for trying to reduce plastic waste by stopping the production of it and instead of dumping it and recycling it. We have to remember the three R’s that are to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. We should bring in the concept of the fourth R, which is created but not followed, which is to Refuse. If humans refuse to take the polyethene or the plastic bags given by shopkeepers or stores, automatically their production will stop,” said Sunayna Uberoy, Educator, HXLS.