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Maazingira: Intergrating Environmental Education & Technology to bring youth closer to engaging with and understanding their environment

Using mobile learning, apps, gaming and eco-communities to mainstream Environmental Education among children and youth in Kenya

Photo of Sandra
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

There is a big disconnect between our youth and conservation/environmental education.
Children come from diverse backgrounds, rural, urban middle class and slums and as such have differing exposures to the environment and to technology. Our children are the custodians of our future environment and as such need to grasp the fundamental importance of protecting it at the foundation level so that they grow up understanding the need to manage its resources for a sustainable future. While we emphasis literacy and numeracy in early childhood, environmental education should be given a similar place at the table from an early stage. This will encourage environmental education and conservation as whole to become a way of life as opposed to a the preserve of a privileged few. Children from urban areas and rural areas need to appreciate the immediate environemtal challenges around them ans understand interdependency and connectivity of these problems as a whole. With growing populations and dwindling natural resources, one cannot separate the connection between a healthy environment as a base for peace, prosperity and planet. Technology in Africa and the world at large has began to bridge the digital divide and is now used widely from analogue sms mobile technology to smartphones and web and mobile apps. By integrating environmental education and technology, we can create an opportunity for young children to become both environmentally and technologically literate in the process by encouraging children and youth to engage in activities that will help them appreciate nature and explore environmental issues. Young children may be the importance of reducing pollution and recycling, tree planting and water conservation but may not be taught or fully understand the reason behind these concepts or the greater effect they have in holistic terms to the environment and the existence of humanity at large.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Children and youth are the primary target who will can also influence older people around them. Environmental education will encourage them to become good stewards and to think globally but act locally regarding the environment and environmental issues. Environmental education is an invaluable tool for teaching critical thinking skills and applying these skills to the students’ everyday world. Educators can integrate technology and media with environmental education through activities that encourage children to explore, create, problem solve, communicate, collaborate, document, investigate, and demonstrate their learning about the world outside of their classroom. With the influx of technology, more emphasis can be placed towards development of environmentally focused gaming technologies as part of the youth technological innovation drive especially when it integrates authentic experiences, is child-directed and inquiry-based, and relates to the whole child.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The app will use mobile phone sms learning, a mobile and web app to provide quizzes, information, games and activities. More complex android games will cover areas such as poaching and ecosystem management which will encourage the youth to try and develop games addressing environmental challenges. Use of mobile phone sms learning will also ensure those without smartphones and internet access can benefit from the app. Various prizes and competitions will keep audiences engaged and outdoor environmental clubs will be set up in schools and communities as well a provision of exposure trips to forests, conservation areas and game reserves and parks which many people in Kenya have not been too and as such make it difficult to appreciate the value of our natural environment. The idea aims to bridge the current disconnect between children and youth and conservation. Exposure and experience are key factors to appreciation.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We are a consultancy organisation dealing in technological innovation, communications, early childhood education, training and organisational development. Maazingira is a product of the company http://www.maazingira.com

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

I worked as a Communications specialist for conservation organisations and have lived in conservation areas. I had a mentor who would challenge me on attitudes towards conservation amongst Kenyans. I also worked in early childhood education developing learning activities for children. I decided to utilize the current technological revolution in Africa to address two of my passions. I want Kenyans to see that conservation is not the preserve of a few and realise that they too can be a part of it.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace is influenced by the fight for natural resources - water, grass, poor agricultural land, poor sanitation in Kenya. Prosperity has been influenced by poor farming practices, poor grazing practices which influence culture and employment for the youth and happiness and survival as a whole. Planet is being affected by drought, climate change, dwindling resources and lack of awareness of the impact o our actions towards others and the environment a whole. We need to understand the inter-dependency of life and appreciate our behaviour and it's effects, to appreciate and understand the role of each element in life from as perceived 'insignificant' fauna like insects, bees, rodents and flora in general, energy cycles etc only then can we connect to the existence of humanity and how it affects our peace, prosperity and planet.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The project will work with schools, teachers, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Conservation NGO's, youth groups, tech students and large retail supermarkets. Exposure trips will be facilitated to conservation education centres and game reserves, prizes and incentives will be offered through supermarkets and KWS and lodges, tech students will be encouraged to build games surrounding environmental issues, community ecoschools and clubs will be set up in different areas which will enhance exposure through various activities.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The new Kenyan educational system has included Environmental Studies as a core subject, Kenya as a whole has numerous outdoor spaces, forests, rivers, conservation areas where exposure tours can take place, the gaming industry and tech space is growing rapidly among youth who can engage in competitions to create conservation based games.

Geographic Focus

Kenya, East Africa, rural and urban communities.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

18 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

6 comments

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Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Dear Maazingira: Intergrating Environmental Education & Technology team, I was drawn to your submission because my team is also working with youngsters to improve environment. I understand the issues you are dealing with are slightly different though.
Have you had success with mobile technology as an educational tool in these areas? is the penetration of mobiles good enough to sustain this effort? It would be great if these youth could be provided with opportunities to spread the lessons learnt though this initiative in their communities, since I believe much of the endangering activities must be perpetrated by the older members of the community? In our project, we give special emphasis on creating opportunities the youth to interact with the community leaders and to try and motivate them for collective action. Maybe this component could strengthen your idea further.
All the best
Shikha

Photo of Sandra
Team

Hi Shikha, thank you for your interest in our project and the extra insight you have given - we will definitely look into incorporating your suggestions. At the moment, mobile technology is being successfully used by a number of programs to deliver the national education curriculum to school children. The catch is whether or not the apps being used can cater to people without smartphones. Many people even in deep rural areas have basic analogue phones hence offering an sms based form of mobile learning works well to increase ones' reach. As part of our initiative, we want to form clubs/eco - communities where youth can practice hands on environmental protection as well. It is difficult to change older peoples perceptions and beliefs so our approach is to try and target youth who can hopefully grow up wit the right mentality and also influence older community members around them. At the moment conservation efforts in Kenya are considered the preserve of a priviledged niche - NGO's mainly - and the average Kenyan does not feel connected to it at all. So we want to start by getting them excited about environmental protection and get them to feel like a part of it, something that they can also contribute to.
 I have read through your submission which I think is very commendable and has a very pwerful approach especially in bringing together different castes. All the best and many thanks agin for your feedback.
Sandra

Photo of Dusti Becker
Team

Hi Sandra! I am inspired by Maazingira: Intergrating Environmental Education & Technology to bring youth closer to engaging with and understanding their environment more general provocation: how might we use technology to more deeply connect us to our environment? This make me wonder if you could use design thinking tools in a game format for youth to generate ideas and creative solutions to the environmental challenges that Kenya is facing.
All the best,
Carrie (part of Dusti Becker 's team)

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