Connecting schools students with Nature at Bhoomi
Experiencing nature at Bhoomi’, is a one day environmental education programme designed to provide an opportunity for reflective thinking and perspective building amongst school children.
On 1st June, thirteen students of grade VII from New Age School, Yelahanka, Bangalore accompanied by their teachers, attended the ‘Experiencing nature at Bhoomi’ programme. As soon as the children arrived at the campus, they were taken on a guided tour where they observed eco-friendly buildings, firewood boilers for hot water, the organic vegetable garden, solar panel for electricity, the different species of trees, rain water harvesting pits and so on.
Following this, the children assembled for a session held by Tejashwini Mali, programme facilitator. The topic of the day was ‘Composting’. She spoke about how it is common for everyone to think that digestion and composting are different but they are not so. Both involve processes where there is breaking down of organic matter, carried out by biological organisms. She spoke about the ingredients of composting and the role of ‘greens’ (nitrogen rich items) such as fruits and vegetable scraps, coffee powder, egg shells, grass and green leaves and ‘browns’ such as shredded paper bags, dried leaves, twigs, etc...
During the discussions, she posed one question after the other, challenging students to think deeply and discover the answers to why certain things happen the way they do. It was delightful to observe that many children were quite aware of several concepts of sustainability and cared about the environment.
After the session, students were taken to the Bhoomi garden where Srinivas, our Bhoomi farm in-charge, had made arrangements for a hands-on activity in composting. There were piles of green material (fresh chopped grass, leaves), brown material (dried leaves, twigs), cow dung and ash kept. Muniraju, one of the gardeners, showed students the correct method of layering for composting. After observing him for a bit, the children jumped into action and completed the whole process of layering.
The next activity planned for them was preparation of seed balls. Needless to say this was great fun. In a bamboo basket, we had kept 5 varieties of seeds - cashew, honge, jackfruit, drumstick and tamarind. There was already a prepared mixture of cow dung and mud (without lumps). Students were asked to pick up a seed, take a small mixture of the clay, place the seed in the middle and make round balls of about one inch diameter. While the students were engaged in this activity, we spoke to them about the varieties of seeds used, what fruit trees they would grow into and the advantage of making seed balls. Nearly 40-50 seed balls were made in a span of half an hour.
The seed balls were kept for drying while the students went to have lunch. All of them were eager to take the seed balls with them so that they could disperse in a barren land near their homes.
Though seed ball preparation and composting were the key things “taught”, this bunch of enthusiastic children “learnt” so much more with the hands-on experience of connecting with nature.
Environmental education promotes critical and creative thinking skills. It inspires children to become more engaged with their communities. In that sense, programs like this that offer children an opportunity of being with nature are definitely the need of the hour. We look forward to offering more programs of this nature to schools in Bangalore.