Partner From

Supported by: Wipro


  • To empower students with the necessary environmental literacy skills.
  • To facilitate and create a hands-on learning system for students to perceive their academic study in the context of their living environments.
  • To work with the education institutions towards a more learning outcome-oriented approach to the curriculum.
  • To create a platform for collaborative, participatory learning, and research in the field of urban environmental sciences.
  • To expand schools as spaces for community involvement.
  • To create equitable spaces of learning.
  • To build open-source information relating to the biodiversity of the city.


  • To create a collaborative, action-oriented environmental education program in line with the current science and social science syllabus followed in corporate schools.
  • To design an environmental education curriculum that involves experts involved in localized environmental action research.
  • To improve and fill the gaps in basic literacy.
  • To provide experiential learning sessions for students to grasp environmental issues in its entirety.
  • To train teachers to use different learning pedagogies.
  • To conduct activities and workshops at the family, school, and community levels.
  • To create an open-source digital platform for knowledge-sharing and peer learning.


  • To work with the Chennai Corporation Education department, to conduct our program for students of middle schools.
  • To meet with the Headmistresses, Headmasters, and teachers of middle school students to propose our program and to request their participation and consent for us to conduct our program in their schools.
  • To map the school syllabus with the environmental education topics we look to facilitate our sessions in, alongside discussions with teachers regarding the curriculum plans for each term.
  • To conduct baseline assessments for all students to understand where they are at concerning general attitudes to the environment around them, and their reading and writing proficiency.
  • To ensure basic literacy in reading and writing is first achieved.
  • To create and modify lesson plans to suit the needs of the students.
  • To upskill our team to learn different kinds of pedagogies to apply in our session.
  •  To involve parents and teachers groups to discuss and identify problems faced by students.
  • To also involve these groups in workshops to share our learning.
  • To collaborate with peer groups to share resources and work together on current research
    of our urban environment.
  • To participate in citizen science efforts toward documenting local biodiversity


  • FICUS works with three schools situated in North Central Chennai areas of Ayanavaram,
    Purasawalkam and Perambur.
  • The schools are corporation schools with a history of poor attendance, situated in areas
    where the student population is predominantly children from low-income families and
    migrant worker communities.
  • The school locations are made up of poorly planned urban infrastructure dealing with a lack
    of classrooms for students, lack of ease of public transport access, lack of safety in terms of
    continuous theft and school grounds used for public alcohol consumption, lack of proper
    sanitation and lack of infrastructure to address flood resilience. All these factors make it
    difficult for students to consistently show up for their classes in these schools.

Project updates

  • Our project funded by Wipro is the ‘Young Scientist Program’, an environmental education
    program for middle school students of corporation schools located in North Central Chennai
    areas of Ayanavaram, Purasawalkam, and Perambur.
  • This program is designed to not exist in a vacuum but to be part of the school’s science
    classes by mapping the program topics with the science and social science curriculum of the
    State Government’s Samacheer Kalvi middle school syllabus.
  • The key component of our program is to apply what is being learned to the student’s
    immediate environments of school and home, for students to make sense of the pages of
    their textbook in the context of their lived experiences.
  • The program is designed to address the rote learning pedagogies followed in schools by
    providing an alternative with the consent of school teachers. The program bridges
    meaningful engagement in the sciences by connecting students to the spaces they occupy
    through an environmental science lens of local biodiversity, the science of growing one’s
    food, and the different concepts of sustainable waste management.
  • We are implementing the Young Scientist Program by engaging with the students and
    teachers of all 3 schools every week during the student’s science period. We use a mix of
    hands-on learning and art-based approaches in facilitating our sessions. We also design and
    create material for each lesson for all our students apart from acquiring open-source
    learning resources.
  • To keep ourselves up to date and continue to learn ourselves, we engage in capacity
    building, through workshops and local events organized by our peers in the environmental
    education field.

Learnings and challenges

  • It has been challenging to facilitate sessions for a mix of students from 5th to sometimes 8th grade given the space restrictions of schools that insist on clubbing them together, and to accommodate repeated requests from teachers not to leave out students of classes we had initially not planned to facilitate sessions for.
  • Learning to put the student’s needs first by creating the space to listen to them is something we have learned is very important. Even if this means reworking our lesson plans and evolving our program to include more nature-based foundational literacy activities in our sessions.
  • Having more than one educator in a class we have learned helps address the different literacy levels and needs of our students. Some students require additional assistance and it is helpful to ensure that we have educators specifically catering to them.
  • Accepting our limitations as educators for issues that require professional or structural support is another key learning.
  • Learning to celebrate the wins that sometimes cannot be quantified through existing assessments.
  • We have learned that being consistent in our efforts and ensuring we show up week after week is important in trust building with the students and teachers.

Plans for the next 1-3 years

  • For the next 1 year, we plan to continue our Young Scientist Program for students of grade 6 and proceed to implement our program for 7th-standard students as well. For schools that have a mixed group of students, we will assess which students are at the 6 th -standard level of our program and which students are ready to take up the 7 th -standard level of our program.
  • Two years from now we plan to proceed to implement our program for students of grade 8 as well, by which we will be facilitating our program side-by-side for students of grades 6,7 and 8 along with their teachers for all three schools.
  • Over the next three years we will look to bring in new talent to further build our team and look to take our program to more schools in the areas we work in. We will also look to demarcate clear departments for education, research, and fundraising.
  • We will look to bring up a community learning centre for students to have further assistance in their schoolwork.
  • Our goal by the end of three years is to ensure we have built meaningful relationships with the school communities we work with and connect the different schools under the umbrella of Ficus, for students and teachers to learn and knowledge-share with peers.