NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY GRANT
Biodiversity Exploration & its Documentation by Rural Children in the Himalayan town of Palampur
We have received an Early Career Grant from the National Geographic Society to take our work to the children of our village. In this project, we will help 20 students of Palampur to explore and document the rich biodiversity of Kandbari and neighboring villages. Students have been provided with cameras, journals, field equipment (for amateur naturalists) and collection boxes to assist them in their exploratory journey. We have selected this pool of 20 students through an expression of interest and a short essay based test. It is a humbling experience to talk about our work and engage children coming from the remotest corners of this region.
Project Title: Biodiversity Exploration & its Documentation by Rural Children in the Himalayan town of Palampur
Project Timeline: July 2019 to July 2020*
(*Due to Covid-19 this grant has been extended till July 2021)
We meet students every Sunday and take them out in the field to spot different kind of life forms that thrive in our village. The attempt is to use different sensory perceptions to learn more about these life forms, in the peace and quite of the village.
Students have been provided with cameras to photographically document the life forms that they spot in the field. They get to keep these cameras with them during the entire duration of the project and document as much biodiversity as they can.
We taught children the process to keep their own nature journal and fill it up with illustrations, their experiences, learnings. The journal gives them a chance to reflect on the journey that they have taken as a part of this project.
Collection of things from Forests Around
We are always fascinated with the little wonderful and mysterious things that we find in the forest. We have shared this passion with children and are helping them to make a museum of their own with their own collection of dead insects, seeds, nests, leaves and so much more.
Making a magazine
Towards the end of the project, students will come together and make a magazine with stories and illustrations of their experience in the field and of other things that they did in this one year.
Sharing experiences with the community
Students will visit different schools and colleges and share their experiences with other students. We will also have a community presentation where children will exhibit their photographs and collections.
The Project so far...
With cameras, journals, collection boxes and the heart of a naturalist, these 20 children have embarked on a unique exploratory journey – of self and the natural world.
As a part of this project, we conducted a four day long residential camp from 30th July to 2nd August ’19. The album here shares glimpses of the first day of the camp. We spoke to children about their views on the living world, familiarized them with the crazy numbers that exist when it comes to keeping a count of this biodiversity. We even showed them our museum and told many interesting things about different creatures – from insects to birds, from bees to seeds and so much more! Later in the day, we handed them point and shoot cameras that will stay with them for the entire year! Using these cameras, they will try to document as many life forms in this region as they can. It was an absolute delight to be host to our young naturalists. This experience once again validated our belief in the innate curiosity that exists in all children to connect and know more about the natural world.
SUNDAY FIELD VISITS
We meet students every Sunday and explore with them the secrets of the natural world. So far, we have observed hundreds of butterfly eggs, caterpillars, spiders, moths, seeds, flowers and mushrooms. We have learnt to distinguish a beetle from a true bug, and a bee from a wasp. The life cycle of these creatures is so fascinating and we even observed so many butterflies leaving their cocoons. Bagworms are absolutely delightful, though a bit strange, creatures that we learnt about. There is so much that we look forward to exploring with children every Sunday – the best day of the week for us! 🙂
DIALOGUE WITH EXPERTS
So far, we have invited Sabu Sir, a local bird expert and filmmaker, to come and talk to children about the fascinating world of birds. We also screened his short films on different birds and learnt many things that we did not know before. We also invited Shrey Sir from Solan to take us out on a mushroom hunt. The weather and the timing was nothing less than perfect. We spotted hundreds of wild mushrooms and learnt to distinguish the edible ones from the non-edible ones, and the poisonous ones from the non-poisonous ones. Some of the mushrooms that we spotted were – Truffles, Earthstar, Grey Puff Balls, Coral, WHite Puff Balls, Chanterelle, Ganoderma, Polypore mushrooms. Later in the year 2019, we invited Anjali Aggarwal, Anjali Sohal and Abhinav who taught children how to make illustrations and tell stories using them. We had great fun with colors and reflected back on the journey that we had taken together as young naturalists.