Shaping Young Environmentalists through Eco clubs
Building a Sustainable Future
In the breathtaking landscapes of Bayan Undur soum in Bayankhongor province, environmental education and nature conservation are highly valued. UNICEF Mongolia has established Eco clubs in rural schools to inspire and empower students to safeguard their natural and cultural heritage. Among them, Sharavdorj Arvanjin has emerged as a catalyst for change in his community. At the age of 11, he joined his school's Eco club, driven by his awe-inspiring visit to the Great Gobi Special Protection Area, where he discovered the need for conservation.
Sharavdorj's commitment to environmental education has been truly inspiring. He actively participates and leads initiatives such as clean-up campaigns and waste management advocacy. Along with his clubmates, they launched a compelling campaigns to collect discarded cigarette butts and used batteries, which resulted in amazing outcomes. In just 2-3 days, one class managed to gather an astonishing number of 5-liter water bottles filled with discarded batteries, serving as a reminder of the immense waste we generate daily and the detrimental impact it has on our precious natural surroundings.
Last year, Sharavdorj traveled 180 km to Tsogt soum of Govi-Altai province to attend the annual experience sharing conference for Eco clubs across Gobi region schools. As a representative of his school's Eco Club, he presented a comprehensive report, showcasing the club's notable achievements in environmental conservation to an audience of 120 students. The experience filled him with pride and a profound sense of accomplishment as he represented his club with distinction.
"My experiences in the Eco club have not only deepened my understanding of environmental issues, nurtured essential soft skills such as teamwork, presentation, and communication, but also brought me new friends", Sharavdorj says.
Sharavdorj's influence extends beyond the school activities as well. Together with the Eco club's teacher, he visited two bag (in Mongolia, provinces are subdivided into soums and soums are further divided into bags) center’s to conduct waste management training sessions. During these sessions, he taught them how to properly sort waste or transform them into useful items. For instance, Sharavdorj discovered that beverage bottles can be repurposed as beautifully decorated light-up bottles by adding lights, and they can also be transformed into self-watering pots. Additionally, he shared shocking facts about waste, emphasizing the consequences of thoughtlessly discarding everyday items for our convenience. He highlighted that plastic can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose, depending on its structure and environmental factors like sunlight exposure. Each training session lasted an hour, and approximately 50 people attended in total.
Sharavdorj's influence extends beyond his immediate community, as he continues to inspire those around him. With a smile, he shares, "I even managed to inspire my younger sister, who used to casually discard candy wrappers after eating. Now she has learned from me the importance of not doing so and has completely stopped. She's already eager to join the Eco club once she reaches the 6th grade, as that's the minimum age requirement for joining any club at our school."
In April this year, two Russian scientists studying the Wild Bactrian camel visited Mongolia and conducted a training session for the Eco club students. During the training, they recognized Sharavdorj's exceptional enthusiasm and proactive approach to the subject. Impressed by his dedication, they suggested that he pursue environmental science. These inspiring words, coupled with the compliments Sharavdorj had received from others in the past, further boosted his confidence and solidified his decision to pursue that major in the future. He believes that by studying environmental science, he can make a positive impact on the planet and contribute to its protection.
The impact of UNICEF supported Eco clubs on students like Sharavdorj is truly inspiring. By expanding and promoting more Eco clubs, we can inspire a greater number of students to enhance their environmental education and take active steps towards preserving nature.