Explorer Community Project

What was this project?

We got an Explorer Community Project from the National Geographic Society this year. It was a collaborative grant with a fantastic human and brilliant filmmaker, Munmun Dhalaria.

The project aims to showcase the fantastic biodiversity of Himachal Pradesh, through our natural history museum and how our actions impact it. Munmun’s films: “The Jujurana’s Kingdom” and “No Water, No Village,” were the justified way to show how we are impacting our natural world and what actions are needed.

Project Location:

We collaborate with St Paul’s Senior Secondary School, Palampur, INDIA -ESTD 1923, for this project. We thank the principal, Mr. Virendra Pal Singh Ji, and the school administration for letting us conduct the event.

The Explorer Community Activity

To showcase the local biodiversity, we used our own Natural History Museum. The museum includes different types of insects, birds’ nests, bee’s and wasp’s nests, animal skulls and bones, snail shells, insects egg cases, lichens, moss, different type of seeds, and so many other specimens collected over the decade from our village in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh.

The Natural History collection was displayed on different tables. This gave every student a chance to see the specimens more closely. Information about the specimens was written in Hindi and English.

 

We also showed the film by Munmun Dhalaria about our state bird, Jujurana (dubbed in Hindi).

To explain the impact of humans on the environment, we showed another film on climate change, which has affected livelihoods in the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh and Zanskar in Ladakh.

An open question and answer session with the students followed this. 

What are our learning through this event?

With the help of our natural history collection, we already did a lot of outreach programs in our country. Through this event, we again learned that these kinds of projects are not very common in India, and students have minimal access to information about the natural world. The students, in general, are curious, and such platforms allow them to imagine new things, ask further questions and think differently. We were able to accomplish it through this Community Project.

Through the interactions with young boys and especially the girls, Munmun was amazed at the lack of representation that exists for women in India who are natural history storytellers. Because she exist in a bubble of other filmmakers, it’s easy for her to forget that every time she interact with an audience, she can inspire someone like her younger self who needed to see a female role model before entering this career. It was lovely to hopefully be that person for these young girls who were very interested in how she navigated being a female filmmaker in a patriarchal society.