Thursday 5 July 2018

Ecology Class with a difference - 1st Class

The Environment Education class for Grade 6 this year is being taught by teachers from the Pitchandikulam Forest Consultants. The course covers Chennai's rivers, forests, estuaries, wetlands, flora and fauna.Filled with excursions, the idea is to give a hands on feel for local ecology with the secondary aim to sensitise children to environmental issues. 

 So these kids are heading to an actual restored urban wetland for classes on site. What better classroom can you ask for?

Teachers' Recap of the 1st Class

I had mentally prepared them that they would have to walk for 3 hrs. All of them said in chorus that they will not complain and will walk for 3 hrs.

We started at 9.35. After our Duas, the discussion started. Where are we going?. I was a silent spectator listening to their conversation.  

Then the journey started with  many suggestions. We were struck in the traffic on the Adyar bridge for 5 minutes. The boys were describing the Adyar river. They were describing the pollutants found in the river.

When we entered the restored wetland, the coordinators asked the kids to stand in line in pairs. So the besties got together and they formed the line. The moment the line was formed the coordinators burst their bubbles saying the one’s standing on the right and left have to go with separate coordinators. The kids wore a forlorn expression. The Deadly Duo and the 3 Musketeers got separated in this exercise. You can imagine their faces不不不不不不

The journey started with a question posted to the kids. How many rivers does Chennai have? Do you know the answer? Email me for a prize :)
Mr. Mahesh, a wildlife biologist, briefed the children about the rivers and the lakes in Chennai. He gave a brief history of Tamil Nadu emphasizing how the kings and queens in earlier times built lakes to preserve the water.

Then the walk started. The coordinators explained to the kids that if they were quiet they could see birds, insects and wild animals.The moment wild animals was mentioned the group got excited and questions started pouring. What animals live here?. Can we see a tiger? Their enthusiasm was dampened when they learnt that they could only spot jackals if they were lucky.

Then the group was shown a video about how the place was restored. The room was so silent. The coordinators got a little antsy seeing the silence and they played a cartoon. The moment the cartoon was played, the room became lively.The cartoon was about how man proceeded to destroy the earth. Killing animals for special clothes for food, for sports goods etc. How industrialization pollutes the earth?The video ended with human being living on junk after exploiting all the resources. An alien civilization comes and destroys the human civilization on earth.

After this again we walked . They saw real spiders with their webs, different kind of butterflies, the red cotton bugs, ducks, white heron etc. 

Then we had a game. One of the coordinators would say a name of an animal or an insect or a tree. The kids had to spot it. The animals and insects were paintings on stone slabs. The kids were  very enthusiastic and they spotted everything correctly.

The coordinators were impressed. They couldn’t believe that our kids were so observant and well behaved.
We then walked on a bridge above the river. The right side of the river was salty and polluted and the left side was really clear and fresh water. The right side had mangrove plants. We could actually see the salt deposit on the back of the leaves. They learnt about aerial roots. They also learnt about the difference in the roots of mangrove and normal vegetation. They also learnt what is an estuary.

We returned to the entrance. Halfway there we rested for a little while. In that place we found some foot prints. The kids decided that it must be a jackal's prints. Once they spotted the footprints requests started pouring in "Aunty can we stay overnight here. So we can see the jackal." One of the kids described how he will spot the jackal - He would camouflage himself and when the jackal comes near he would scream.不不不不不不

At the end there was a feedback session. The coordinators asked the kids what was their take away?
One answer was since this Poonga is so big we can’t replicate it . So will do a miniature version of this poonga using terrarium.  One more answer was they will recycle the waste. One of the coordinators asked how will recycle help. The answer was by doing recycling of papers we need not cut more trees."

This is a wonderful initiative. We thank the consultants from the Pitchandikulum Forest for making it possible.

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