"Answer the quiz on insects and win a handmade bookmark" was the persuasive invitation. Trapped by a child's winning smile, I turned over the quiz card and was bamboozled. These were tough, really tough questions. Sheepishly, I gave up only to receive a brilliant lecture on entomology.
The event - the first ever "EcoFest - Ecology of Madras through the eyes of children" held at Vidya Niketan Matriculation School on 7th March. The event was a culmination of two years of Pitchandikulum Forest Consultants' engagement with 4 different schools in and around Chennai. Al Qamar Academy was one of the four, the others being Vidya Niketan, Gurukulum, Kovalam and Naddukuppam High School along with some homeschooling children.
The children presented their learning through research projects, models, games, quizzes, and even a few videos. Topics ranged from Reptiles, Sea Salinity, Animals of the Adyar Poonga, Ennore Creek and the impact of power generation, water pollution, medical industrialization and even a Carbon Footprint analysis. The children made clay models, used Lego to represent industrialization, experiments with ink to demonstrate oil spills.
It was very evident that the children had in-depth knowledge knowledge on every topic that they were presenting. The presentations were very interactive and engaging. One project that caught my attention was the topic about industrial revolution. This topic was studied by an unschooled child and Al Qamar child. Both had so much information and inference and presented a balanced view on need for industrial revolution versus the impact it had on nature. I could feel the empathy and a sense of community embedded in the study.
Be it about it synthetic medicines or impact of borewells or about the fishermen or the ecosystem impacted by the Ennore power plant or the industrial revolution, children had done a detailed research. They have approached the issues with so much passion and had put efforts to genuinely find a solution.
All the presentations were fascinating and at the same time intriguing. The children really engaged the listener and had an answer for every question asked.
The cultural show in the evening conveyed the children's messages through drama, puppet shows, skits and a therakoothu. The Al Qamar street play, scripted and directed entirely by a group of 5th and 6th graders, was tongue in cheek depiction about the disaster wrought by multinationals in third world countries.
Now its simply up to us adults to seriously reflect on their messages, to make a change in our lives so we can leave behind a livable Earth.
- By Aneesa Jamal & Shajitha Syed