Learning with nature

Learning with nature

Learning with nature

Forest conservation is not limited to certain sectors of society. Participation of multiple stakeholders is essential for effective forest management,” says Balachandra Hegde Sayimane, an environment researcher.

Hence, he feels that there is a need to provide conservation education that enables scientific understanding of issues, reasons and deduce solutions to conflict. In this light, a collaborative initiative called Nisarga Kalika Kaanu was started in 2014 by the Government Primary School and local organisations at Hudlamane in Siddapur taluk of Uttara Kannada district. Student-centred approach and an eco-friendly learning environment make this primary school stand apart.

The concept of having an eco-school was started by G M Naik, a Science teacher, and Samshiya, an English teacher. It is also supported by Vighneshwara Yuvaka Sangha of Umbalamane-Bidramane and the villagers.

Learning first-hand

The school was open to imparting education in an alternative manner. When the teachers and villagers conceptualised the idea of ‘learning corners’ (one room for one subject), Prasanna Kumar, Deputy Director of Public Instruction, Sirsi supported it. “Here, teachers sit in a classroom, and the students move from one room to the other. For instance, Class 5 students start from the English corner, then move on to the Science corner and so on,” elaborates Balachandra. Nisarga Kalika Kaanu (eco-school) is the extension of this approach to understand certain topics through nature.
During the Science period, they move to the eco-school. The team has identified 126 chapters from the textbooks

prescribed to primary classes (Class 1 to Class 7) that can be taught outside the classroom. As a result, the students are able to learn and grasp the concepts comprehensively.

Kalika Kaanu provides students an opportunity to learn about varied topics linked to forest such as wild animal footprint reading, plant growth, soil profile, tropical wild fruits and medicinal plants. Further, this nature-driven initiative also introduces different forest and grassland ecosystems to students. In tune with their learning, the students have developed a comprehensive catalogue of nearly 80 tropical wild fruit species available in about an acre of forest patch, adjacent to the school.

“We tried to create a blend of adaptive and text-oriented learning centre in the forest,” says G M Naik. “There are local examples for lessons in the textbook,” he adds. This can amply be seen in their two acres of natural forest that is divided into different blocks.

In each block, different locations are marked with location code. Different experiments relating to scientific concepts like transpiration, and different habitats like anthills, are placed. The location codes are given to the students. For instance, if students want to learn about wildlife, a handout on the topic is given to them. Students can then go to the locations marked on the handout to learn more.

Sharing responsibilities

Seeing examples such as these has made learning easy for many students. “If we are stuck on a question, all we have to do is look at the plants and trees around us to find out the answer,” affirms Chinmay Hudlamane, a Class 7 student. “We are lucky to see live examples in Kalika Kaanu unlike in traditional classrooms,” adds Dhanya Hegde, another Class 7 student.

Much of the initiative would not have been possible without the support of some benevolent individuals and organisations who have invested in the school’s growth. The land for the eco-school was donated by Ishvar Hegde and Mahabaleshwar Hegde, while the fencing was supported by Vighneshwar Yuvak sangha, Umbalamane-Bidramane.

There is an overwhelming response from the villagers who willingly join their children to this school. “Children like to spend more time at Kalika Kaanu. They are provided with local examples for the topics that are taught. It is really an innovative method,” says Mahesh Hegde, a parent.

Enthused by the concept of Kalika Kanu, some children have even shifted from city-based schools to this school. Currently, the school has 54 students and many of them are from the surrounding villages. “Even though the school is a bit far for some students, the parents don’t mind sending their wards,” adds Balachandra. The effort has become successful in this village and it is not difficult to replicate this model in other schools and education centres in the Western Ghats region. However, proper initiation is required from the departments concerned and, of course, inspired
individuals like those in Hudlamane.

To know more about this initiative, email balachandra.hegde@gmail.com.