Biodiversity Exploration & its Documentation by Rural Children in the Himalayan town of Palampur

What was this project?

This year-long project was an attempt to educate the students of rural Palampur to explore the natural world and witness its remarkable biodiversity. The idea was to help students become aware of the thousands of life forms that thrive in an invisible and delicate web of interdependence to ensure a balance of various natural processes on our planet. Through this engagement we wanted to sensitize students towards the beauty and importance of other life forms and make them realize how urgent it is for human communities to alter their lifestyles and actions in order to save hundreds of species from getting lost forever.

The goal of this project was ‘To help students closely experience the rich diversity of life that thrives on this planet and recognize the unconstructive influence of humanity in permanently altering natural ecosystems.’

This was a National Geographic Society sponsored Early Career Grant project.

Why we thought of this project:

For centuries, Palampur has remained a traditional mountain town with rich cultural values. However, the recent wave of development has significantly changed the landscape of Palampur. Increasing rates of construction, excessive use of plastic, ill-management of waste, and deforestation have visibly altered the living ecosystem. We need to ask, ‘What are children learning from such a world?’ It is disheartening to know that the aspirations of young students have modeled for their own lives are similar to the aspirations that got us in this mess in the first place.

This project makes an attempt to divert this human-centered approach towards life and following an all-life inclusive approach by creating awareness and organizing sensitive dialogue. 

Project Location:

Kandbari, a picturesque village located a few kilometres from Palampur, in the heart of Dhauladhar range of Himalayas. Surrounded by water streams and dense forests, this village offers a perfect spot for biodiversity exploration and is the starting point for many hikes and treks to the deep forest. 

In this one year we did a lot of activities, learned many new things, made new friends. Because of this work, we got to know more about children, how they learn and how much more is to be done to bring them closer to this natural world. Know our thoughts about this one-year project by going through this video.

Why students and why this age group?

After working with children for five years, we realized that, by this age, children’s minds have the highest curiosity to know the reason behind the things happening around them. And if from this age children are not only taught about nature through books, but if they experience it with their own eyes through experiential learning, then they will never be able to forget these experiences. Through this, they may be able to prevent activities that harm nature in the future or make careful decisions. When I (Project Leader) was at this age, I also wanted to know more about the natural world from people around me. Unfortunately, no one was either aware or interested. I wanted to ensure the students I worked with did not have to face such an issue.

How we selected them?​

We reached out to more than 300 Students for this project through presentations. The project was shared with them during these sessions. Through an expression of interest and a short essay-based test and after the consent of the parents of the children, we selected these 20 children from over 200 children.​

What we planned to achieve our goals? * ​

1) 4 day and 2 day Residential workshops: This included discussions around the natural world, biodiversity exploration, field visits, illustration drawing, specimens collection, story writing. 

2) Sunday meetings: We met these students every Sunday for one year and understood their observations and tried to answer their queries. 

3) Digital cameras: Students were given digital cameras for the whole year to document the biodiversity of the village.

4) Nature journaling: Each Student maintained a nature journal for the whole year to record observations, thoughts, experiences, and any questions that came to mind.

5) Expert visits: Students engaged in meaningful dialogues with experts to gain insights about ecosystem functions, scientific classification, natural cycles, evolutionary theories, human intervention, habitat loss, and other relevant subject areas.

*To know more about this, please see our magazine.

We have made this small magazine and integrated our work in it. It contains the details of the why, what and how of the things we did in this project. If you think that this magazine can be useful to someone you know, please do share it with them.

हमने इस छोटी सी पत्रिका को बनाया है और इसमें अपने काम को एकीकृत किया है। इसमें इस बात का विवरण है कि हमने इस साल भर चलने वाली परियोजना में क्या, क्यों, और कैसे किया। यदि आपको लगता है कि यह पत्रिका आपके किसी जानने वाले के लिए उपयोगी हो सकती है, तो कृपया इसे उनके साथ साझा करें।

Outcomes of the project

It gives us immense pleasure to inform you that our effort has been successful in which we wanted to sensitize the students to the beauty and importance of other life forms. It has made them realize how urgent it is for human communities to alter their lifestyles and actions in order to save hundreds of species from getting lost forever. After the project was over, we asked few questions to understand how they were affected, what they gained through this year-long project, and their views about the actions of our species towards the natural world.

Watch these responses by the students to our questions.

Whatever we did in this one year, how did it affect your own life and did something change in you?

In this project they were given digital cameras and most of them had used it for the first time. What was their experience?

What are the changes you are expecting in the coming 10-15 years in your surroundings?

Do elders are taking care of this planet?​

If given a chance to attend another project like this, would you like to do so? If yes, what else would you like to learn?

Documentation of the local biodiversity of our village

During this project, we were able to make around 1600 observations and documented more than 800 species of plants, animals, and fungi of our village. Through these observations, students were exposed to the biodiversity of their own village and understood how it works. You can see some of the documented life forms photographed by the students.

Collection for the nature museum

During this project, we also collected dead specimens from the field for observation. We collected different types of birds, bees and wasp nests, dead insects, skulls, seeds, snail shells, and lots of other things from our surroundings. We also discussed about them in detail.

People involved in this project

Want to replicate this project for your students?

Thank you for taking out your precious time to see and understand this work of ours. It is our endeavor to take this one year's work to the rest of the children of the country who wish to know more about our natural world. This project is easy to do and positive effects have been seen on kids. If you want to repeat this for your school kids, then please do contact us.

Contact us

If you have any questions/feedback about this project, or want to know more, or want to talk to the students who participated in this project, please feel free to contact us. We can get in touch with you through Zoom meeting or any other medium.