Students are taken on an exposure visit to the bio-region. An introduction is given in the class room a week before the visit. During the visit forests and wetlands are mainly covered. The students are exposed to the biodiversity within these ecosystems. Some of the unique fauna are discussed in detail with children, eg. bats, flying fox and migratory birds of the wetlands. Forests with tropical dry evergreen species and sacred groves in the villages are also covered during this trip.
Students perform Theru Koothu– a traditional theater form, taking environmental themes. These themes could include aspects concerning water pollution, importance of forests, waste disposal. Conducted with costume, music and performed for a larger audience, these plays attract many students and village people. They are also appreciated by the Education department, reported in newspapers giving the event a larger coverage.
In this activity, the students are taught about creating a base map of their village. They learn to draw out main community infrastructure like roads, schools, playground, water bodies, shops, markets, temples and health services. They identify places where big trees are and streets with houses. These maps are drawn on the ground with chalk or color powders. Elders in the village are asked to comment and make corrections. Children learn how to map using direction, scales and codes. They also learn about their village through this activity.
This activity is conducted with students in schools to build awareness on local herbal plants and their uses. They practically identify species found commonly in the school campus and in the school’s herbal garden. Some games related to medicinal plants are conducted. Group discussions and outdoor activities keep children interested. Education materials like posters, cards and photos are used for this activity. Children also learn how to make herbal teas. The learning outcomes are related to knowledge on local herbs and their uses for common ailments. There is increased motivation to grow medicinal plants in home and school gardens.
The Pitchandikulam Forest team is involved in environmental education across more than 100 schools in the Bio-Region. The main effort is to make the local communities aware of their region and its importance, especially the Kazhuveli water tank. Our main centre is in Nadukuppam village, where the local high school has been transformed from a low-performing school into a high-achieving model school with excellent academic standards, showing what can be achieved at this level. Children are involved actively in seeds and raising plants in the school nursery, organic agriculture, composting, conducting plays and projects on environmental issues.
We also conduct programmes in other government and private schools on themes like planting, herbal medicine, water conservation, recycling, waste, air pollution, organic vegetables, and celebrating special days like World Environment Day and Water Day.
Children on these programmes regularly visit the regenerated forests in Nadukuppam and Pitchandikulam to learn about the forest and biodiversity of both fauna and flora. This education programme is supported by four teachers, who have also formed eco-clubs in the schools for these activities.
These educational classes and tours are also open to other students and participants. There are regular visits to our forests and education centres by women from self help groups across Tamil Nadu and from government officers to learn about the bio-region, forest and animals.