Archive for the ‘Environmental Consciousness’ Category

More than a breath of fresh air!

Summer is in full swing and the heat gets to everyone – young and old. Areas where RDF schools are located are some of the hottest in Telangana. Air conditioning is simply not an option for people living in rural areas, but everyone has an intense desire to have access to cooling.

Students, assembling the materials & taking stock

However, Lady Luck was on our side! Synchrony Financial, a multinational organisation that has been supporting RDF in areas such as English development, Computer skills enhancement, soft skills and job skills training, on site in Kalleda School as well in their Hyderabad Head Office decided to recruit students of Classes 8 & 9 from Kalleda School to develop a clever cooling system that does not need electricity! The icing on the cake was that this cooler can be built from common waste materials such as empty plastic cold drink bottles – talk about being environmentally friendly and recycling plastic!

Hard at work, assembling the Eco Coolers

In just 3 months, Synchrony Financial and the Kalleda School students prepared smart, powerless air conditioners called ‘Eco Coolers’. The  method to make an Eco Cooler is fairly simple.  A board is cut to fit the desired window size and bottle neck sized holes are cut out in a grid pattern on the body of the plastic bottle. The neck of the plastic bottle is cut off and discarded, leaving funnel shaped bottle necks that are placed on the grid.  The Eco Cooler is fit into the window. When mounted, the wider port of the bottle faces outward and catches the passing wind, literally funnelling cool air into the house. It has the ability to bring the temperature down by as much as 5 degrees celcius!

..And they’re ready!

This was an electrifying project (pun unintended) for our students who were able to enhance their thinking and creative capacities and learnt how to make an innovative system, perfect for summer and taking into consideration the financial constraints of rural communities. In addition, it was an excellent enterprise in recycling waste materials and doing something positive for their community and the country too. This was such an enriching experience for everyone involved! While initially, students had to spend some time collecting the bottles and understanding how to make them, they slowly picked up and were able to make several of them!

We are so blessed that Synchrony Financial gave our students the opportunity to create a locally produced system and providing them with the necessary skills that empowered them to do something so productive for themselves and rural people. We are very grateful to the team at Synchrony Financial and so proud of our students’ new skills in innovation and social responsibility!

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Experience is the Best Teacher!

RDF children belong to families that sustain themselves on agricultural or daily wage labour. Over decades, due to reliance on chemical based agricultural methods and climate change, farmers have faced immense loss. Therefore a field trip to learn about organic methods of farming was precisely the kind of empowering journey for our children that would allow them to learn from live examples and pass it on to their communities.

On a hot sunny day, the children of Class 9 of RDF Kalleda High School walked nearly 5 kilometres to farms that had gained renown for using organic farming methods. The farmers were very willing to pass on their experience and knowledge to the children, which we were very grateful for. The children and staff observed drip irrigation system,  sprinkler system and crops such as paddy, maize, mango and vegetable gardens too. The children were bursting with questions and the farmers explained everything to them patiently, which was a wonderful interaction to see!

Through the trip, the children learnt the benefits of using bio fertilizers, how it improves soil fertility and how to obtain high yields. They understood the damaged caused to the soil, and the microbiome that are essential to crop growth, if we used chemical fertilizers and pesticides. After this informative trip, the children visited a dairy farm in order to learn about livestock, milk production, caring for milch animals, their diseases and how to prvent them.

All in all, the children were thrilled with their outing and felt that they had learnt a lot from the farmers. They are now eager to speak to their community elders about using such methods in their own field. We absolutely love the feeling of responsibility and empowerment in these children, who genuinely want to strive towards making their communities economically stronger. Hats off to them!

Of Kitchen gardens and Kindness!

Children, hard at work in the school farm

The lush produce at the school

Every RDF school has a thriving organic kitchen garden/farm in order to grow some of their own produce for the midday meals and also to help the local economy.  Seeing fruits, vegetable, grains and lentils grow from seed to cooked stages really inspires our children and makes them an active part of the food production process in their school. It also instills a sense of kindness and care towards nature and her resources.

In RDF Rollakal School, the creation and management of this vegetable garden means that they do not need to buy vegetables from the market for the midday meal programme. This also allows them to reduce expenditure. Some of the vegetables that they have successfully grown are brinjal, tomato, lady’s finger, ivy gourd, bottle gourd and bitter gourd.

Farmer Venu Rao in RoS

It has also brought the local community in Rollakal together. Due to water scarcity, the school’s neighbour and farmer, Karimilla Venu Rao, has been kind enough to supply water for the school’s farm. We are immensely grateful to him for helping us in this time of need. We absolutely love this culture of kindness and kinship towards the land and the people who till the land and this power of kindness that that brings us together.

It once again goes to show the power of trust and relationships within the local community that allow RDF schools to thrive and grow!

Creating Wealth from Waste

Everyday in our homes, papers and newspapers are unthinkingly thrown away. However, if we put our minds to it, these ‘waste’ newspapers can become a rich source of recyclable material. This is precisely what the RDF Matendla School team decided to do. Perturbed by the wastage of paper in their surrounds and also wishing to create a good example for children, the school team informed students and teachers to collect every form of waste paper they could find, including newspapers, from their homes and neighbourhood and bring them to school on the 5th and 15th of each month.

This waste paper is collected during morning assembly and the staff and students who have made the effort to collect and bring this paper are appreciated. The mere start of this process has create a positive impact in the school community. Students and teachers are looking more closely at the usage of paper in their homes and neighbourhood and are now saving paper. Not only do they understand the importance and value of paper, by they are also advocating saving and recycling paper in their community, thus making their local community more conscious about paper wastage and the impact of doing so on the environment.

The paper is being used to create notebooks for the school, paper bags and art and craft items. In this way, everyone is learning how to build a more conscious and aware community and help in preserving our resources and the environment. Kudos to the Matendla team for taking on this responsibility and spreading the message of saving paper, saving trees and saving the environment and empowering the local community to take up this cause!

Soaring Creativity!

Hard at work on the fountain

The MPC and BPC 2nd Year students from the RDF VAPV Junior College showed their prowess at Science and their inventiveness by making a functional water fountain. This working model of a water fountain was made entirely from recycled and waste material which the students found in the college store room and in their homes. The icing on the cake is that this model only cost an affordable Rs. 950 to make!

Nagaraju, working on the fountain

G. Nagaraju, studying in BPC 2nd Year took the initiative to start this project. In his own words –“I took inspiration from APJ Abdul Kalam. I remember reading that while he was studying, his teacher was explaining the flight of a seagull over the sea and fascinated by that, he decided to become a pilot. I took inspiration from his life when I thought of preparing a water fountain. I got together with my friends and told them about my idea. Then we took suggestions from our Physics lecturer and finished the project within 6 days!”

“This is the best project that I have done in college and we decided to dedicate this water fountain to our batch (2016-18). I will never forget my college days. My time here has inspired me to become a scientist.”

The fountain, finished with a flourish!

The fountain occupies pride of place in front of the classrooms on the Junior College campus. We are so proud of the leadership and creativity of students like Nagaraju, who take ownership of their learning and also generously involve their friends. We hope his and all our students’ dreams soar, just like the seagull in Dr. Kalam’s story!

Inspired Student!

Raju of RDF Redlawada School is on cloud nine on receiving news that his Science project has been selected as the best project in the State level INSPIRE programme – and so are we! Coming from very simple and humble backgrounds, we completely understand the challenges faced by our children to progress academically; therefore their achievements are a testament to their grit and fighting spirit and makes us doubly proud!

A student of Class 10, Raju has been inspired by the teaching methodology and experimentation that is encouraged by his Science teacher and the supportive environment in the school which ultimately led to the creation of his prize winning project.

 The process started when Raju started thinking of greener and more economical ways to cook food at home and the production of Biogas. After a few days of experimentation and talking to his teachers, he came up with a plan. He collected some buckets of cow dung in a drum and sealed it airtight for 15 days. Then he poured water into the drum which changed the composition and created an organic substance, suitable for generating biogas. A metal pipe was attached between the drum and a stove to provide gas for cooking!

It’s heartening to see how students like Raju reflect on the real challenges of rural people and come up with innovative ways to provide solutions. While we fully support their aspirations to move to bigger cities to pursue their dreams, we are equally proud when they use their education and knowledge for the betterment of rural communities!

Well done Raju – we hope you continue to shine and grow wherever you go!

Cultivating Children’s Development

Growing our own food is an act of sacredness. In cities, our lives can be very distanced from the natural elements and the chain of people who grow our food. In fact, seeing our food grow from its seedling stage to our plates gives an immense feeling of satisfaction. Since RDF children live in financially deprived, rural agrarian communities, it was important for us to cultivate a mindset in which they see their agrarian history as having provided them with a richness of skills and experience and not something as challenging and thus avoided. While that is a reality, it became necessary for us to help them appreciate what they have grown up with and an understanding of the cycle of food – the cycle of life itself!

In Rollakal School, the school yard is being used as a vegetable garden. In fact, it is a wonderful way to use the school yard as another classroom, helping students connect deeply with the natural world – the true source of their food. Simultaneously, they also learn valuable farming concepts, methods and skills that integrate with academic subjects such as Maths, Science, Physical Education and their health. The school has had a bounty of tomatoes, greens, lady’s finger etc. which is providing a rich source of delicious food for their midday meal.

Working together on the school farm is yielding tremendous positive impact for the children who are gaining not just food knowledge and learning about growing their own food, but also about patience, cooperation, team work and social skills. Working with their hands and seeing the fruits of their labour are imbibing our children with a sense of self confidence and a sense of ‘capableness’. We find the children very excited when it’s time to go into the garden and work there. Every child, regardless of their intelligence or capability level finds something to do in the vegetable garden and that, in addition to everything else they learn, is something we positively cherish!