Dozens of excited sixth graders helped members of environmental groups set up a puppet stage in their Lampung classroom for a new educational program promoting forest conservation.
Behind the scenes, classmates at SDN 1 Way Kerap elementary school rehearsed lines for the play they were about to perform, while others waited eagerly for the show to begin. When the curtains were drawn, several puppets appeared on stage in the shape of humans, tigers and various other animals. Several students sat behind the stage manipulating the puppets, each speaking through their puppets.
They performed the tale of ill-fated Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) surviving in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and overcoming the threat of poachers. At the end of the show, the audience gave a rousing applause. Afterward, students curiously continued to play with the puppets, even though the performance had finished, as this was the first time they had seen a show of this kind. These puppet shows were organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and DAUN non-governmental groups.
After the show, a facilitator from DAUN held a quiz on the importance of saving the Sumatran tigers, and once again students competed to answer and ask questions. WCS and DAUN chose this school for their program, for its location near the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. Applying John Dewey’s “learning by doing” education philosophy, students became involved in the environmental conservation training.
“The students are eager to learn because the program involves games. A transfer of values takes place when they play with the puppets or watch the show. “We hope they realize the importance of protecting wildlife, especially the Sumatran tiger, so when they grow older they will join efforts to save our environment,” said WCS activist Dwi Nugroho Adhiasto.
Dwi said the campaigns are important because educating students at an earlystage develops their awareness.
“Even if they don’t become environmentalists, we hope they will at least be environmentally-friendly,” said Dwi.
WCS and DAUN have prepared a number of stories for the puppet shows, including Tigers are Our Friends, Don’t Hunt Sumatran Tigers and Every Creature has the Right to Freedom. The group holds discussions in workshops before the shows and formulate their material according to the needs of students.
Programs in schools located near the national park are conducted differently to those further away. At the end of each session, a test is conducted to assess students’ understanding of the topics covered. Sessions include information on Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park which was declared a World Heritage Area by UNESCO. Topics covered include; causes of forest destruction such as fires and logging, impacts of forest destruction, extinction of flora and fauna, damage to natural resources and disasters such as floods, droughts and landslides. The success of the program is seen in the students’ ability to explain what damages the national park, and the consequences of forest destruction.
WCS and DAUN have been running the Sumatran tiger conservation program since the beginning of the year in a number of schools located near the park. Dwi said that despite the campaign’s effectiveness in educating children, a number of school principals were less supportive.
“Usually, they are ‘allergic’ to the NGOs, perhaps due to the tarnished image of some NGOs in Lampung. But this is a challenge for us. We want to prove that not all NGOs are as bad as they think.”