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Posted - 12/12/2019
Planet Protector Academy News by Vanessa LeBourdais
Wow, it's been a whirlwind two weeks in India! We've been in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Coimbatore. It's been incredible meeting all sorts of educators, edtech entrepreneurs, Ashoka Fellows, corporate social responsibility folks, NGOs and school associations. We attended two Canada/India trade conferences. We held workshops with 120 principals in Tamil Nadu ("we've never seen them so engaged" said the organizer). We visited the school that did the Planet Protector Academy and was full of super-engaged Planet Protectors who'd transformed their homes, families and community.

I never knew that traveling for work meetings could be so deep or so fulfilling.

High level:

- The scale and potential impact for us is immense
- The context in India is ripening for our work - our timing is "perfect"
- Our impact on our first school was off the charts
- We are stoked about the future in India for Planet Protectors!

Scale of potential impact
We connected with large networks, like the National Independent Schools Alliance, which reaches 55,000 schools. (By comparison, there are about 100 elementary schools in the City of Vancouver). We are starting by partnering with an India-wide social enterprise reading app, fREADom, which will be featuring some of our content for marginalized early readers. We have a number of schools keen to try the program, including about ten classes we hope shortly, and many potential partners who see the value in what we do, including some very promising leads we’re following up on, all with large potential for impact.

"Perfect timing"
We feel that India is really primed for the Planet Protector Academy to take root. The leading edge schools are in alignment with our learning approach - interdiciplinary, 21st century learning, leadership skills, all aimed at preparing kids for a "VUCA" world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambigious). India is undergoing an awakening around environmental issues. There is a real hunger for programs like ours that will help with these transitions. One major corporate social responsibility company said our timing is “perfect”.

Our first whole-school impact
We went to visit two sister schools in Tamil Nadu. The school in Mettupalayam had all done the PPA. When we arrived, the 800 kids rose up and were quivering with excitement like we were rock stars. They told us how they changed their parents, their school, how the City became involved, how they’d adopted a whole section of the city to take care of. They asked to thank their teachers for all stopping using paper cups for tea. The school talked about how they’d eliminated plastics and had set up composting systems, and how overjoyed they were with the effect. One girl asked me, “How is it that you love children so very much?”  They all pledged enthusiastically to be Planet Protectors for life. We told them, because of their enthusiastic response and changes they’d made, we were here to spread the PPA magic around India.

"Before" the PPA
The next school, a sister school, is doing the PPA in the new year. We arrived and were politely but unenthusiastically received by the 2,000 or so kids.  One girl summed up their energy: “My generation doesn’t care about the environment. How are you going to make us care?” I thought of the total transformation that happened at their sister school and I said to her, “Just you wait!”

Our future in India: the scale and potential impact is immense

Sion and I have come with open minds and open hearts, listening to what teachers, schools and kids here need. We are going to have to adapt the PPA to suit India where it is, and we have big ideas to do that. As India is an in-person, relationship-based culture, we are going to need to come back again relatively soon, to make sure the seeds we are planting now germinate well.

We see huge possibilities here. We are so grateful that you are a part of it.

With gratitude and excitement,

Vanessa & Sion