Last year, an unusual project of Bulat Utemuratov’s Foundation “Green School” was launched in Almaty. Greenhouses where children learn to grow plants came into being at once in 16 schools of the southern capital. We observed the project together with one of the pupils.
Artyom Krivonos studies at gymnasium No. 34 in the sixth grade. He enjoys digital art, loves to weave bijouterie and takes care of his pet lizard Kuki. But more so Artyom likes crop production. Interest in plants appeared in early childhood – he planted a vegetable garden with his grandmother. But the “Green School” project, which was launched in Artyom’s gymnasium and fifteen other schools in Almaty last year, helped strengthen his love for this activity. When Artyom saw that they started building a greenhouse in his educational institution, he could not believe his eyes. Here it is – a chance to learn even more about plant life.
Today we came to our greenhouse for the first time. It is so big! Our teacher Ekaterina Nikolayevna told us about various plants, and how to take care of them. What I like the most here is drip irrigation. I feel, there is a lot of exciting things ahead of us. Will tell all about this to my parents today.
Artyom and other pupils got involved in the work right after the first excursion. They come to the greenhouse every day – in any free minute they run to see what has changed there. And this despite the fact that crop production is not a compulsory school subject, but an additional activity. Artyom is among the first to oversee the progress and, together with his classmates, notices amazing things.
Today we popped in the greenhouse and saw such things! It turned out that when they brought soil they also brought us tenants – digger wasps. We even did not know these existed. Now we collect them using an adhesive tape. In general, we learned so much about pests – it’s so interesting! Apparently, not all chemical agents can be used to control pests, it is necessary to be very careful about this in order not to harm the product. By the way, we already have first sprouts germinating. I am so eager to see our first harvest.
Artyom shares all his impressions with his parents. And his mother Anastasia admits that participation in such a project has invaluable benefits for her son: “In the current century of gadgets that occupy all the space in a child’s life, such projects are something magical. I believe that children should be involved in work, in nature. And it’s great that it’s so accessible: the child came to school and learned so many exciting things during the school day. Plus, in the cold season, while there is no grandmother’s garden, Artyom practices his skills without being distracted from his studies. When children come into contact with nature, they definitely change, they learn responsibility, they learn through plants to treat the world and people with care.”
Day twenty five
Our greenhouse has changed a lot for this time – it became so green! Most of all I like tending the plants, pot new ones and harvest. But the most interesting is to watch how everything is growing, how a tiny seed gives birth to a large plant that bears fruit. My granny allocated a bed in her vegetable garden for me and I will try and plant strawberry spinach by myself this spring. We shall see how things turn out.
At Artyom’s school, biology teacher Ekaterina Nikolayevna Rozhkova helps the children with the greenhouse. She notes how happy the children are to participate in the project: “Remember how children used to work on the school garden plots? And then this activity was canceled. And it’s great that projects such as the “Green School” are now emerging, which help pupils get used to work. Children, by the way, have a lot of ideas. One of our pupils once asked: like, give me a piece of the greenhouse, I want to grow bananas. And other children brought all sorts of seeds from home to plant in the greenhouse. By the way, we have already harvested cucumbers, basil, cilantro, rocket and spinach. We even preserved two jars of cucumbers.” Harvesting was a big event for Artyom as well.
Day thirty nine
Today I want to mark our main achievement – we have harvested a good 11 kilogrammes of cucumbers! I think this is a cool outcome for a small school greenhouse. And how delicious they are! Each of us tried a cucumber, and the rest of the harvest was given to our canteen. Now we will eat salads prepared of environmentally friendly products in which we are sure. As we have grown them ourselves! Now it’s time to weed out and to seed celery.
“Green School” is a project on the development of environmental friendliness among schoolchildren, therefore, in addition to building and equipping greenhouses, the Foundation developed a whole curriculum, including the invitation of experts. One of the subjects of this curriculum, which has already been implemented in schools, is waste sorting master classes, which were run by professional eco-trainers, representatives of the first zero waste store in Kazakhstan and HelloEco eco-consulting.
“When representatives of Bulat Utemuratov’s Foundation approached us with the idea of holding a lesson on “garbage”, its format immediately appeared in my head – an interactive lecture with live communication with pupils and a practical master class on waste sorting. We wanted to not just tell and not even just show what garbage is, how it is divided into recyclable and non-recyclable. But also so that each pupil could practice waste sorting on their own, with their own hands,” says HelloEco co-founder and CEO Dina Ogay.
During the interactive lecture, the organisers talked to schoolchildren about what garbage is, how it differs from recycled materials, what happens to waste and why it needs to be sorted. In addition, they held quizzes and demonstrated things made of recycled materials. What is especially important: children were visually shown waste with different labelling, explaining which waste can be recycled and which cannot. The outcome of this master class was a waste sorting relay race.
co-founder and CEO of HelloEco:
“For children, this is primarily new information, new neural connections. This is the most important thing – to know, to see, to discover, to understand. They begin to see a causal link: in order to get the notebook in which they write, it is necessary to cut down a tree. If, after use, this notebook goes to a dump, it will harm animals, soil, water and people, and a new tree will have to be cut down. But if this notebook is brought to a collection point and sent for recycling, then it can turn into a new notebook, napkin, toilet paper, box. It will gain new life, and a new tree will not have to be cut down. One master class with properly conveyed information can be an effective turn in the mind of a child.
We held 16 master classes, in which more than 500 pupils participated.
And there was no single lesson where the children did not know that a plastic bottle decomposes up to five hundred years, and a glass one up to a thousand years! There was no single pupil who did not understand the meaning of the word “dump”. During the relay practice, the children themselves could sort the waste and separate the recyclable materials to be sent for recycling. We have prepared a poster cheat sheet for them to make it easier to find the correct material marking. But the guys managed the task even without it! At this age, real awareness is emerging in children. After all, they are the ones who will inherit the result of our life and actions today. I am glad to be a part of this story and make my small contribution. This is yet another link in the faith that humanity has a “green” future.”
The master classes were also attended by teachers who saw the interest of the children and appreciated the practical benefits of such classes. Here is what the class teacher of the 5th “A” class of gymnasium school No. 168, Ainagul Topayeva, says:
“Such initiatives are undoubtedly important, because they bring up careful attitude to nature and respect for work. This is very interesting and useful information, even I, a teacher, heard some things for the first time. What else can be done so that our children grow up as conscious people? I think it needs a separate subject. If such classes are held at least twice a week – lessons, conversations, discussions in the form of a game – that will be good. Besides, in this way we educate not only children, but also their parents – pupils come home and share their impressions with moms and dads. This is such a simple step that will help us solve a global problem. And I think it’s quite doable, it’s just a matter of time.”
What will happen to the “Green School” project next? Firstly, schools in Almaty, that already have greenhouses, will continue to build on this trend. Secondly, by the beginning of the new academic year, 20 greenhouses will be installed and equipped in the capital – work is already underway to design greenhouses and select schools. In a year, another 20 greenhouses will appear in Shymkent. And then, we hope, all schools in Kazakhstan will be gradually covered, and each of them will have its own corner of nature, which children will take care of.