How to Bring Nature to the Classroom
When my son Darshan was in 7th Grade we were staying in the first floor of a small rented house in Kochi. One day he woke up and looked outside the window and shouted, "Will you please stop making noise, I will bang you!" Suddenly, the chirping birds sitting in the tall mango tree near to his bedroom became silent. For many early risers, chirping birds and rooster crowing are the natural alarms.
Recently, when my daughter Diyah and her neighbourhood friends were playing outside our house, they noticed an abandoned nest of a crow which might have fallen from the nearby coconut tree. In tune with the changing times, when twigs and other natural materials are hard to get, the crows seemed to have used more metal wires they might have collected from construction sites.
Sam Beaver, the 11 year old boy in The Trumpet of the Swan a delightful story by EB White, ventures into swamps even as his father warned him that those are treacherous, soggy places where he can get bogged down. But there was nothing else in the world for Sam to be amazed about as he wrote in his diary about swans- " I saw a pair of trumpeter swans today on a small pond east of camp. The female has a nest with eggs in it. I saw three, but I' m going to put four in the picture- I think she was laying another one. This is the greatest discovery I ever made in my entire life..."
Indeed nature helps us learn a lot about the architectural, survival, food hunting and predatory instincts of animals that may not be interesting to read in a book. In our terrace vegetable garden there are small birds that have set up their nests. When my wife goes to water and tend the plants, these birds make noise to frighten her away. They might be under the impression that some harm is going to be caused to them. The very presence of flowering plants such as Hibiscus or Thechi plant in our household is sure to attract small birds and insects coming in search of nectar.
The other day, Rajagiri Media office had a surprise visitor- a water monitor lizard which had found its way from the nearby bushes. It indeed created a scare in our office. It tried to hide itself behind the table and cupboards and after a lot of effort it was led out by our team members. It was perhaps the hot sun outside and lack of water resources that prompted this reptile for an invasion into our midst!
Yet these are opportunities for us to think and study about nature. It is not without reason that forests have to be maintained. It is the natural habitat of wild animals and also natural carbon traps with abundance of flora also. The Covid-19 pandemic and NIpah epidemic were all caused by our invasion into natural habitat of wild animals.
Two entymologists at University of Florida had demonstrated how bringing insects to the classroom is the best method to teach children about animals and nature. Children exposed to nature at a young age develop positive attitudes towards life.
As I was typing out this piece, I could see several small birds flying in and chirping in our hibiscus plants outside my room. I tried to capture on my mobile cam but they wouldn’t stay in one place beyond a few seconds. One gets reminded of Padma Bhushan Salim Ali, the Birdman of India who patiently undertook bird surveys across India and documented it.
Indeed small insects, birds and other animals maybe irritants or sometimes scare us but they are mostly harmless and attacks only when they are threatened. Understanding flora and fauna is a great opportunity for especially children to feel connected to a wider world.