Connecting with kids is relatively easy given our content and team effort. But we further look to connect the kids with each other, allowing them to exchange thoughts and ideas, explore new horizons, appreciate diverse cultural viewpoints, develop their personalities, and bond with each other. In doing so, tigers, forests, and nature-related issues will be the central theme, with their friend Bobby leading from the front.
Changing the narrative for an entire generation is a herculean task. But the ground is ready with many schools and organizations engaging students on various aspects of conservation. A common thread binding them all would be wonderful, with a mascot who would spearhead the movement. There are many dimensions to both the threats faced by tigers and to their importance in the ecosystem. Similarly, there are many child-centric issues like unnecessary competition, peer pressure, technology-induced problems, under-developed emotional intelligence to name some that can be easily overcome through proper guidance and engagement. Channelizing student energies for a good cause is a win-win situation for all stakeholders – children, parents, schools, environmentalists, and of course our tigers!
Making a film that children would enjoy is the first task. And we are already moving along very well on this front. With lovable characters, hummable music, and a powerful message, we will ensure that Bobby and his friends are well received by children and Bobby makes a place in their hearts. Once that happens, children would be more receptive to what Bobby has to say further. They would have both a larger attention span as well as appetite to know more about Bobby (read tigers). A mundane session on conservation will now become more exciting and absorbing.
We have already started roping in organizations who are engaged in nature conservation and carry extension activities in schools. Some of the organizations work with rural and tribal populations. Many schools have independently shown interest to extend support for this programme, including urban and rural schools as well as those in tribal areas and fringe villages. We will be providing material, possibly a CD, to schools and organizations to conduct the sessions for children.
Film making has some limitations including that of cost and time. Further, it is not possible to include every dimension of tiger conservation in a single film, for that carries the risk of creating a muddle. Therefore, we will expand the scope of our work by providing content in other forms that can be connected to the film and be seen as an extension of the same. This includes presentations, information booklets, and interactive media. We will be providing the content in English, Hindi, and Marathi to begin with, and look forward to translate in other languages.
We will organize training sessions for teachers and our trained teachers will set up a Bobby’s Corner in their respective schools and engage students with the help of the material we provide them. Our team members and volunteers will also be undertaking this task. The engagement will include viewing the film itself, presentations, interactive sessions, quizzes, drawing carnivals, elocution and other such activities. All activities will focus on environment-related issues including tigers and their habitat, global warming and climate change, industrial waste and affluent, pollution – air, water, soil, sound, light, etc.
At present, the short film is in English and Hindi. We will be making adaptations in other languages so that it reaches the local population and the message of tiger conservation is easily absorbed by them. Of special importance are those states that have tiger habitats like Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, and Assam among others in India. Script translations and different voiceovers would be needed, while the music track and video remain the same. With some support, we also look to make adaptations in foreign languages, so that the message would reach children in other countries having tiger populations in the wild as well. Along with the film, the entire training material will also be translated in local languages. We look forward to assistance from enthusiasts and experts from different regions for this purpose.
Once children have made friends with Bobby, we look to expand the scope of our activities by developing more content using the characters, especially Bobby as the mascot. Apart from short films, there will be doodles, mobile applications, games, computer based self-learning content, quizzes, competitions, presentations, and information booklets among other things on various aspects of conservation. We will use the teacher-student engagement route as well as interactive online platforms and mobile applications to further the cause.
Along with online engagements and school activities, we will be organizing study tours for children into forests where they will get an on-the-ground experience of the wilderness. Children will be accompanied by trained guides and will get to interact with wildlife experts. Participants will get to explore the various facets of nature and indulge in a host of activities like bird-watching, photography, life-hack skills, age-wise adventure activities, leadership training through games and situation analysis, and team building among others. While exploring nature, they would get an opportunity to explore themselves.
Engaging tribal kids
The real saviours of the forests are those who actually live in forests and along the fringes. They have a host of problems to deal with, including poverty, marginalization, frugal resources, lack of education, possibly ignorance of the larger role of tigers in the ecosystem, lack of opportunities etc. If we want to save our forests and tigers, we need to reach out to the tribal kids and make them understand that the survival of tigers is in their favour. We will be converting/translating all our material in local languages so that it will be easy to break the ice with them. Apart from conservation, our teams will impart skills training to the children and engage young adult boys and girls as guides for our treks and camping activities.
Connecting the kids
There is immense potential in all children, but the scope and area as also the ways and means of expression differ. It would be a great idea if children from diverse backgrounds get to know each other, spend some time together, exchange thoughts and ideas, appreciate each other’s world, share skills, and establish a lasting bond of friendship. All our programs will be inclusive where city kids will get to spend time with local kids in camps and have a closer look into the world of forest dwellers, albeit for a brief time. But this opens new vistas of thinking as they mix together and play games, cooperate, coordinate, and converge on diverse tasks. We can hope that they carry this forward in life when they address each other’s problems and those confronting natural habitats.
At a later stage, we look to create opportunities of livelihood for tribal youth through ecotourism given their knowledge of forests. Tribal art, food, craft, and other items can be monetized, merchandized. A direct connect with urban folk will be of help. Established online and offline platforms and the associated community would serve the purpose.
In a nutshell
We have a multi-pronged approach towards conservation. Create content that kids across cultures would love. Impress upon them in an engaging away the need for tiger and nature conservation. Use Bobby as a mascot and bring them on common platforms, both online and offline. Create an environment of trust and cooperation among them. Make a connection between urban and tribal children. Reach adults through children and create livelihood opportunities for tribal youth.
We have clearly defined objectives for the project that would be realised over a period of time.
- Change the narrative from tiger as villain to tiger as friend and hero in the collective psyche of children.
- Create a universal mascot for tiger and nature conservation.
- Develop world-class content for continuous engagement with children.
- Create platforms for children to engage and express.
- Children are future leaders and decision makers. Groom them to make informed decisions about nature related issues when they occupy positions of power tomorrow.
- Reach adults (e.g. parents, teachers, siblings, family) through children with the message of conservation.
- Facilitate healthy interaction among urban, rural, and tribal children by bringing them together in camps and on other platforms.
- Empower tribal children through exchange programs and skills training.
- Create livelihood opportunities for tribal youth.