7 March 2017, Vazhaithottam: Conservation Education conducted a programme with 16 children from Vazhaithottam on Saturday, 3rd March. Justin and Shiny spoke to them about the biodiversity in and around their area going on to lay emphasis on water and water sources and the importance of conserving them. Vazhaithottam is a village in the Sigur plateau about 10 km from Masinagudi. Rainfed agriculture is the mainstay of the communities here along with daily wage labour. This year, with the rains failing, Sigur has seen a dry spell that has taken a heavy toll on crops. With not much of flowering taking place, there has been a decline in the number of pollinators and consequently fruit setting has been inadequate leading to poor harvest.
Once the children had understood about interactions and linkages within the ecosystem, they then went on to listing the flora and fauna that they had seen. With Justin’s help, the students browsed through pictures in identification books to list out plants and animals such as birds, butterflies, moths, and snakes that they have commonly seen around their homes. The children were then asked to depict what they understood of their surroundings in their own way and they came up with songs, dances and, most interestingly, a skit that eight of the children had conceptualized in 15 minutes! Although the concept of food chain has been touched on during the introduction, Shiny and Justin did not expect that the sequence of events that the children put together in their skit based on their understanding would portray the food chain as closely as it did.
The children named themselves elephant, tree, grass, deer, ant, bird and tiger. A blue dupatta twisted into a circle formed the waterhole around which all the action took place. As the elephant pulled down the tree, the deer came to eat the leaves and grass around it. As it was eating, a tiger came to the water hole and ate the deer. The children could not resist incorporating an old fable to their skit and so one of them was the scavenging ant who fell into the waterhole and was rescued by a bird dropping a leaf on the water! Then the fallen tree, now a new plant, stands up again while the elephant and tiger come to drink from the waterhole.
Keystone’s Conservation Education activities aims to create awareness and sensitivity within children regarding their surrounding biodiversity and also inculcate a sense of curiosity regarding the various linkages, direct and indirect, that connects each entity in the ecosystem. This programme left Shiny and Justin feeling content that the children had indeed understood the concepts that they had tried to put across.
Thus far, we have been using our core funds to implement the conservation education programme. But this places limits on how much we can do and how many children we can reach out to. If you like what you are reading, then please do come forward and Support Conservation Education.