The Upper Elementary kids were sad as their Ecology class in August had been cancelled and were eager for the next tentative date. As the trip was reschedule they were exhilarated to go to the restored urban wetland again.
We reached there on time and the children were eager to go in. The first activity involved breaking up into three groups Each group had to measure a 1 x 1 foot plot observe the area and do a survey about the animals and plants found in it.
The children measured and demarcated a 1 x 1 plot and started looking for the animals and plants along with the direct and indirect indications of other animals/insects living there. One team was assigned a slopey terrain and the kids started to look for the flora and fauna found there. They took turns to note down the date, start time, temperature, humidity, terrain, and got along with the observations. They were briefed on how to jot down the animals seen and how to record their number and the plants on their piece of plot.
The kids were delighted to see a lot of butterflies fluttering around the Tridax plants. They were also enlightened about the Kuppaimeni and its medicinal uses by the PFC member Maya. They also spotted a few bugs and their eggs, an ant colony, a caterpillar feeding on the leaves. It was really eye opening to know that if the leaves were torn in the middle in patches it was eaten by a caterpillar but if it was torn from the edges to the center it was eaten by bugs.
Interestingly, this group of kids found more stuff outside the plot that within the plot. One of the kids had picked up a 'yanai kundumani' a red bead which brought back nostalgia about my childhood days as these seeds were then used to play "pallanguzhi". One of the kids told she had seen pallanguzhi being played at her native place.
While engrossed in this activity, they were suddenly distracted by a gliding pelican which soared off to fly away. After all the euphoria subsided, they went back to their observations when they got side tracked again as Mr. Mahesh of the PFC brought a specimen of a worm snake in a small plastic container. At first, we couldn't spot it but then were able to notice movement of a thin and small creature. Mr. Mahesh informed that worms contract and move forward while this was a snake as it was slithering forward. It had very tiny eyes, and like one child pointed out, smooth, shiny bright scales that glistened in the sunlight.
After a good engaging 40 minutes, the data jotted on the survey sheets provided, they were now in for a snack break. After the snack break, the PFC team decided to play the video on their laptop.
The video clipping was very informational. It showed the different types of forests and the biotic and abiotic factors of a forest ecosystem. When asked about the layers of forest habitat, pat came the answer from the Al Qamar kids; canopy, understorey and forest floor, as they had done the card material at school on it. They got to learn about the Lianas, Bromelids, and the animals that inhabit the different layers of the forest. They learnt about the food pyramid formed by the producers, consumers and the Apex predators. The next video shown was about the flying squirrel, flying lizard and how they use the patagium to glide from the canopy to the understorey or the forest floor as they do not have wings. They learned that a patagium is an extension of the skin that helps flying lizards in gliding from a higher level to the ground. The kids recognized the picture of a tree frog but were surprised to know that a tree frog spends all its life on the trees and has rounded toes to give a better grip while moving around on trees.
As the video lesson ended, they were again taken for a group activity. They had a white board and pictures of animals. Each kid was given a picture about which they had to speak a few facts and then fix it on the board at the appropriate layer of the forest habitat marked on the white board. It was vital information to the children that if one animal is removed from the food chain how the ecosystem comes under stress and how the food chain can come under threat.
This ended our class for the day. The children thanked the PFC team and all rushed back to the bus buzzing with knowledge gained by hands-on experience. The assignment given to the kids was to read books about different types of animals living in the forest habitat and how humans affect a forest. Looking forward to the next stimulating class inshaAllah.