Thursday 1 November 2018

Upper Elementary Ecology Class #2

Every time there is an Ecology class with the PFC, the Upper Elementary kids get really excited as to what new things they will be learning or seeing.  On arrival at the restored urban wetland where the monthly class takes place, the kids were happy to see the familiar faces of Mahesh Anna, Krishnaveni, Vaishnavi and Maya Akkas and greeted them enthusiastically.

After the exchange of initial greetings and pleasantries, the children now split into two batches were taken to the nearest patch of plants and asked to spot some insects seen there.  They excitedly found a lot of insects there like butterfly, dragonfly, and moths.  The class took off by drawing their attention to identify insects by their features like having six legs, a pair of antennae, wings, etc., and how millipedes and centipedes were different from insects.  They were then taken to the communication center and while walking to the center were shown lots of pictures of insects cut out on stone and displayed at the pathways.

At the communication center, they watched an educational video on bees and butterflies and cross pollination.  The parts of a flower were drawn on a board by Krishnaveni and explained to the children.  Though they had learnt about the parts of a flower but having not reviewed it recently took them some time to re-learn the terminology. By the detailed drawing, they understood how pollen from a flower stuck on the bee's body was dropped into the style of another flower, reached the ovules, and fertilized it.  This phenomenon was known as cross pollination.  The fertilized ovules then became seeds of the fruit that developed and the seeds when dispersed grew into new plants.  

Next, the discussion moved to how bees helped pollinate almost 80% of the food that the world produces.  Also, they were told how the proboscis or sucker of a butterfly was long and adapted to suck the nectar of flowers like periwinkle with a longer stalk while the bee had a short sucker.  On further questioning, the children realized that the world without bees in it will have no trees at all.  Then, where shall we get our food without plants.  Some suggested that there still were milk, eggs and meat available to eat but quickly became aware that without plants there would be no food for the animals whose meat they planned to eat.

Having learnt all of this they now moved to the next activity.  They had to dissect a flower to check for the ovules.  They were provided some periwinkle and hibiscus flowers and Voila! with a magnifying glass they could all touch and see the ovules that they had seen on the board drawing.  Again, a recap on the parts of flower and cross pollination followed by another fun activity.  They had to cut out paper insects that kept them engrossed for a while. 

Having completed the paper cutting activity, the children wanted to further explore the place.  The walk now was focused on spotting the insects that they had learnt about.  They observed some butterflies which were identified with the help of the butterfly chart carried by Vaishnavi Akka.  As we walked further, they were able to see how an insect had laid eggs on the leaves, how some butterfly eggs on the tree bark had hatched and broken out of the web.  We then got to see a huge caterpillar happily chomping on big leaves camouflaged in the foliage.  They also spotted a ladybird and some millipedes on the leaves.

After completing the walk, the children were shown specimens of a peacock flower that had developed into a pod after pollination with its dry petals sticking on the stalk of pod.  They could see the different development stages of the pod that grew from the flower and as the pod's size grew, the petals shrunk further and had dried off. 
As all good things come to an end, the class for the day had come to an end and the children ran off to the bus to get back to school with the hope to come back again and explore it further with their Anna and Akkas who opened a treasure trove of knowledge for them.

- By Naqeeb Sultana

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