A couple weeks ago I put a poster up advertising a "Nature-Themed Art Show/Contest". In my clubs that week we collected leaves and berries from around the school and pasted them on paper, like so...
Before I knew it, submissions were flowing in. We received seventy-seven (77) pieces of art in the following two weeks. The quality of some of them just blew me away, and they were all from fifth through ninth graders.
We had a three day exhibition in a spare classroom, and the kids and teachers could vote on their favorite pieces. The response was incredible -- I think most of the six hundred kids of the school came in, looking, pointing, laughing, voting. They were so excited about shouting out their choice that even after the voting was closed they would shout at me: "I'm number 37! I'm number 6!" I was like, "That's great, good job."
The kids got so excited about the whole deal -- I was amazed by the art, the enthusiasm, everything, and the teachers loved it too. I'm thinking of taking the show on the road to other PCV's schools, bringing the winning pictures plus some others such as the one above that really represent Martuni's environment and environmental issues.
The picture above depicts a tree that was planted by the Soviets close to the shore of the shrunken Lake Sevan. A huge amount of Lake Sevan was drained in the 1930s and 40s, ostensibly for the purpose of turning its surrounding wetlands into pasture land. They realized by the 50s that their actions were disastrous for the water quality of the lake and caused an immense loss of wetland habitat for the once enormous diversity of migratory birds who made Lake Sevan their home. Today the lake is rising again, which environmentalists think is a good thing, but the rise is mitigated by the lakeside Soviet forests and by the numerous "rest houses" that have been built right up to the edge of the smaller lake.
The environmental problems in Armenia are not small, and won't be easy to improve, but perhaps a population of active, interested students can make a difference. Also, if we can model and propagate creative teaching methods that encourage free thought and community action, we just might see some change around here.