The “Ecological Bus” Project familiarizes Russian children with Baikal and teaches them how to take care of the lake. We have visited one of these eco tours and found out what the children who dreamed of seeing the great lake are thinking.
The “Ecological Bus” has been holding educational trips for the sixth year in a row. This time the participants of the trip were the people who have never seen Lake Baikal before and who had protected the lake for many years. The bus went along the route: “Irkutsk - Listvyanka village”. The project was traditionally organized by the “We Shall Protect Baikal Together” Association and En + Group.
The Irkutsk people were lucky: a natural object of global scale - Lake Baikal – is situated relatively close to the city. However, Irkutsk Oblast is large, and not everyone had a chance to visit the lake. “I have dreamed of visiting the Baikal since childhood,” the fifth-form student Damir from Nizhneudinsky district confesses. Once he heard a story about the legendary lake at school and promised himself that he would definitely see it. And his classmate Alina was eager to take the photos of the beautiful Lake Baikal, to show them to her relatives.
Every month, a group of schoolchildren or students from different districts of Irkutsk Oblast go on a trip to Lake Baikal by an “Ecological Bus”. The following three directions were chosen for the trips: “Pribaikalsky National Park - the villages of Bolshoe Goloustnoe and Listvyanka” and “Baikal Nature Reserve - the village of Tankhoi (Republic of Buryatia)”. One more route was added in 2015: it leads to the village of Kultuk with a visit to a unique monument of engineering art – the Circum-Baikal Railway. Such trips are used to encourage the participants of environmental activities. Tatyana Butakova, the Director of the “We Shall Protect Baikal Together” Association, says: “I have been hiking along the coast of Lake Baikal since my school years, it was back then when I fell in love with the lake. Now I want to share this love with the younger generation. The motto of the ecological bus is: “Know, love and preserve Lake Baikal!”
This time the tour was attended by eleventh-form students from the Lyceum of the Irkutsk State University who had developed an ecological game, as well as the children from Alzamai who had participated in eco-campaigns. These participants included Damir and Alina. By the way, the children had made bird feeders in the classroom and then observed the birds coming to these. They made a long way to Baikal with their classmates: 10 hours by train from Nizhneudinsky district to Irkutsk, then the “Ecological Bus” took the children to Listvyanka.
The group is accompanied by an experienced tour guide – Elina Olga Konstantinovna – on the road. She tells the group about the history of Irkutsk from the foundation of the fortress by the Cossacks and the destructive fire of 1879 to the present day, stresses the features of historical monuments and heterogeneous architecture. Olga Konstantinovna has been cooperating with the “Ecological Bus” Project since its very beginning: “We educate children so that they know more about Baikal and its nature and want to preserve the lake. Chekhov wrote the following lines: “If every person had done everything that he/she could on his/her land plot, how beautiful our land would be.”
The first stop is at the Chersky Stone. The participants of the trip are climbing the mountain for the sake of seeing a picturesque view and hearing a story about the Siberian explorer Ivan Dementievich Chersky who sailed along the entire coast of Baikal on a wooden boat, making notches on the rocks which are still used to determine the water level in the lake. A common photo of the participants is also made here, besides, they listen to an illuminating story about the way “ritual” ribbons tied to the trees do harm to the plants – the trees dry up and die because of these ribbons, however, there are special poles for the ribbons called “serge”. Now the children will not repeat such mistakes and will tell others about these.
The students of the Lyceum of ISU have their own opinions about the environmental problems of Baikal. They say that every time they come to the coast of the lake, they feel a serious responsibility to preserve it. Lyceum students even took the first step towards the lake’s rescue - they have developed an ecological game.
“We have created a project on public monitoring of the state of Baikal, which may involve local residents, especially young people, in doing research. We proposed a strategic game where the players need to imagine themselves living in a post-apocalyptic world that virtually ran out of natural resources, so the entire economy relies upon on fulfilling tasks aimed at protecting nature”, as an eleventh-form student Igor said. The participants of the game are divided into groups by their occupations. One group photographs the coast, tracking the algae washed away to the coast, the second group conducts water intake and its analysis, the third one develops tools to improve both activities, etc. Accordingly, all teams receive awards for their activities: the team with a greater number of awards wins. One of the options for the project implementation is to transfer it to the students of schools located on the coast of Lake Baikal. ”
The second stop of the “Ecological Bus” is the Baikal Museum. The children learn to know how Baikal emerged (according to some scientists, the basin’s formation started more than 60 million years ago), what seismic activity is and why earthquakes happen at Lake Baikal so often, what things were studied by “Mir” deep-water devices in the lake’s waters, and what animals inhabit the forests of the Baikal region. Schoolchildren also saw the living inhabitants of the lake - Baikal fish (Arctic cisco, sturgeon, grayling, Baikal oilfish, taimen), crustaceans that are the “sanitary assistants” of the lake, and, of course, ringed seals – all these were swimming in enormous aquariums filled with real Baikal water. The visit ended with the observation of Baikal microorganisms through a microscope in the environmental education center of the museum.
At the end of the trip, the children shared their impressions – what a great lake they saw and what they felt: “Majestic. Great. Powerful ”,“ Breathing is easy there ”,“ I felt admiration and freedom ”,“ It seemed to me that I was such a small person, almost a grain of sand, compared to Baikal ”,“ I felt joy ”... Damir fulfilled his dream and Alina took the photos of Baikal landscapes by her smartphone.
Daria Musikhina, a Sustainable Development Specialist of En + Group says: “We are glad that over the years of the project’s existence, it has not lost its relevance, instead, it has become a kind of brand among environmental education programs in the region. To get on the “Ecological Bus” tour, schools register several months in advance, hold contests among students to encourage those who are really concerned about the future of their native region and preservation of its unique nature. It is also noteworthy that the children from different districts of Irkutsk Oblast, not only from the regional center, often take part in the trips of the “Ecological Bus”. This demonstrates the social significance of the project because some of the participants go to Lake Baikal for the first time. Sustainable development of a society is impossible without careful attitude to resources and environment. In order to form such an attitude, one should instill the fundamentals of eco-friendly thinking and behavior from an early age.”
Next month, the "Ecological Bus" will make a trip once again. Another group of children will fulfill their dreams of visiting the lake, discover new knowledge about Baikal and fall in love with the lake, whereas the “We Shall Protect Baikal Together” Association and En + Group will definitely help them with these things.
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