Throughout most of its range, the snow leopard shares space with agro-pastoral and pastoral communities. Peaceful coexistence depends on positive values for the snow leopard and building support for conservation action. Children’s environmental education is particularly important as they are the future environmental custodians and also have the capacity to influence snow-leopard friendly household behaviors.
The educational strategy for children, was developed by the Snow Leopard Trust, and its partner organizations – the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), India, The Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF), Kyrgyzstan, the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF), Mongolia, and the Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF), Pakistan. It is based on the principles of encouraging positive values for nature and equipping them with knowledge as a basis for conservation action and continued learning. It seeks to ignite children’s curiosity and strengthen their practical skills and powers of critical thinking and reflection. It aims to explore the possibilities of behaviour change and give children a sense of confidence and agency in taking action in their own communities and settings.
This strategy may also serve as a useful tool for educators and policy-makers interested in environmental education for children, to strengthen and increase global awareness and support for nature conservation. The approach provides tools for education that can be delivered through in-person and/or online means.
Education Strategy Aims
The overarching aim of this environmental education strategy is to empower children so that they can be actors of change and support snow leopard and wider environmental protection efforts.
Specifically the strategy aims to assist in:
- Enhancing conservation awareness, knowledge, values, motivations, opinions and aspirations amongst children within snow leopard habitats.
- Building skills that prepare children to collaboratively undertake positive environmental action.
- Creating opportunities and synergetic spaces for collaborative conservation action (decision making, behaviours, practice) amongst children in snow leopard habitats.
- Ensuring no girl is left behind.
Theory of change
The strategic vision is to strengthen relationships between people and their local ecology. Children are envisaged as the agents of change as part of the community but also as actors themselves in undertaking conservation action. In many parts of the snow leopard range, children and young people are traditionally not active members of household decision-making and are not perceived as important voices in the community. Young women and girls face particular barriers in taking on roles similar to young men. Yet, children have shown that they can be active members and participate constructively in social change. Today children and youth are more connected through technology and more educated than earlier generations, and more predisposed to questioning traditional and often restrictive gender norms.
The short term outcomes are to:
- Enhance conservation awareness, knowledge, values, motivations, opinions, aspirations, environmental concern of children; and
- Build skills (self-efficacy, critical thinking, leadership, collaboration) that prepare children to collaboratively undertake positive environmental action.
Enhanced values, knowledge and skills of children and youth are expected to lead to the longer term outcome of motivating children in taking part in conservation action (practice, decisions, behaviours) within their communities. It is important to create opportunities for collaborative action, which is expected to help children/youth become motivated learners, build a sense of community and connection to the local environment, and ultimately design conservation solutions.
Empowering girls and young women throughout the process is particularly important in reaching the short and longer term outcomes. Educational programs must be designed to be gender sensitive at all stages including the initial engagement with teachers and students, and types of teaching methods used (collaborative rather than competitive approaches).