How Chennai's naturalists adopt creative ways to teach environmental conservation
June 5-World Environment Day: A look at people conducting nature-focused initiatives
Hello and welcome to The Chennai Emailer — a local journalism project that brings out original human-interest features & news compilation from Chennai. It’s run by me —Mohammed Rayaan😊
I’m currently pursuing the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism (City University of New York).
I started this newsletter as my passion project to bring out the best of local journalism from this city that I call home. Today, I am delighted to present the first edition and I hope you enjoy reading!
Today, June 5, marks the 48th year of celebrating World Environment Day (WED) since its inception in 1974 by the United Nations (UN).
78 years from now, when Chennai celebrates WED in 2100, our home will be among the major Indian cities that will face the wrath of rising temperatures and sea levels. It's ominous but sadly this is what a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned.
While it may sound grim, several naturalists and local organisations from the city are taking matters into their hands. They are adopting unique ways to get youngsters involved.
From conducting workshops to nature walks to designing syllabus for underprivileged students, Chennai residents show how we can take the initial steps to address climate change and talk about environmental conservation.
One such person from the city is Yuvan Aves, a naturalist and educator, who organises various initiatives through Palluyir Trust.
👨🏻🏫Teaching for a greener world
Yuvan believes that nature-focused pedagogy is a better way for students to learn more about their surroundings. A traditional education system can only make us job seekers, favouring those in power and it focuses more on ourselves than serving others, he says to Chennai Emailer.
This made Yuvan and his team to chart a one-year apprenticeship programme for children of the fisherfolk community at Urur Olcott Kuppam in Besant Nagar.
According to its website, “This programme is entirely coast and biodiversity-based, and involves children in fieldwork on their home beach and other biodiversity areas of Chennai, while also specifically augmenting academic learning through art-based and nature-based interventions”.
The Trust goes on to add that they “are working with children aged 8-12, along with Pudiyador — a learning centre. The programme was started in December 2021 and has been receiving great response from the kids and the local community”.
🎲Activities through games
Yuvan says his team regularly partner with other local bodies such as the Madras Naturalists’ Society (MNS) and the Chennai Climate Action Group to work on common environmental missions such as “advocacy and conservation work for Ennore-Pulicat wetlands”.
It was during one such activity that he got in touch with fellow naturalists — Charlotte Trishika Jeffries, Nanditha Ram Satagopan, Rohith Srinivasan and Balakrishnan Ram.
As they started working on different projects, the group felt that games were another creative way through which children can be inspired to protect the environment.
Thus they developed ‘The Wilderness Game’ — “a biodiversity-based card game, with Indian flora and fauna where players build balanced ecosystems in specific habitats, all the while, protecting it from being sabotaged by other players”.
Charlotte explains how the idea came about. “We wanted it to be a better version of 'Who Am I' cards that included local Indian Biodiversity, so we could teach kids about local flora and fauna using fun methods not only in classrooms but outside as well,” she says.
How did the team design the cards? “We used Canva and took inspiration from card games like WWE and Pokemon. We added elements on the card such as the species name, common name, taxa, ecological roles, diet and the zone it inhabits in an ecosystem,” Charlotte says.
👝A full-time profession
Some naturalists from the city have even made environmental work a full-time profession. Take Anubhav Agarwal, a naturalist from the city, as an example. He grew up admiring insects, especially spiders. His passion sparked in the early 2000s when smartphones were becoming a trend.
“I would take photos of plants and insects around me,” he recalls. “I also got to know of many online forums, communities for nature enthusiasts.” He regularly records the biodiversity of the city by taking photos and sharing them on portals such as inaturalist.org or on his Instagram.
His passion eventually became stronger over the years and after nearly two decades, he left his business and started working as a full-time naturalist. Today, Anubhav conducts classes/workshops for children, does photography, and biodiversity analysis of private lands. He used to host nature walks before the pandemic and has plans to restart them soon.
When asked how he conducts classes for students, Anubhav says he “does not go deep into science or anatomy” but keeps it “as simple as possible so that it taps the imagination of the children”. “These kids are kuttis,” he says. “We need to spark their curiosity.”
Anubhav also shared a few details on how he takes up biodiversity surveys. “Some lands owned by private players or institutes have green patches,” he says. “I do fieldwork on the flora and fauna present in those space.”
He notes that when landowners have such data, it acts as a “brownie point” to get nature-related accreditation certificates from relevant bodies.
👥Inspire and connect
The conversation then switched to how Chennai citizens can protect or learn about their environment.
“We assume that since we are in a city, we may not see many species but we are wrong. During the lockdown, I saw a shrew and even birds like kingfishers near my house!” says Anubhav.
“We miss them all because of the hustle-bustle of the city. All you need to have is an interest. Check out online forums and connect with like-minded individuals. That’s how I learnt a lot,” he adds.
Charlotte explains why adopting creative ways is a better method to encourage people to protect the environment.
“Making nature education fun and creative will get more people interested. Kids especially will learn more when they are engaged in such activities,” she says.
How can we spark passion among students?
People have different ways to get inspired and have different interests. We need to recognise them as parents and teachers, notes Yuvan. We need to inspire children through stories and talk about values that will make them yearn for a better life. And here is where nature-focused pedagogy can help.
For further reading:
🥵To check the report by IPCC, visit here.
🌏To check out United Nation’s WED website, visit here.
(Top news of the week from May 30 to June 3 curated from The Hindu & The Hindu BusinessLine)
May 30 (Monday)
📚Indian Institute of Technology Madras Researchers are developing mechanically-rechargeable zinc-air batteries as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries which are used in electric vehicles.
💻Chennai-based edtech platform Venda Learning Solutions posted a consolidated net loss of ₹20.94 crore for the fourth quarter of FY22.
🏥Chennai hospital launches centre for geriatric oncology.
🤳🏽YouTuber Karthik Gopinath arrested for ‘cheating public’.
🎓Stalin lauds JBAS College for providing quality education for women. The college received A++ grade from National Assessment and Accreditation Council
🏠Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) passes resolution revising property tax. Basic street rates to be reduced in some added areas such as Tiruvottiyur, Madhavaram, Ambattur, Alandur and Porur.
👨🏻⚕️Mentally challenged entitled to medical assessment at their residence, rules High Court. Government can consider exempting those suffering from other disabilities also from appearing in person to obtain disability certificates, says judge.
📊Guidance, the Tamil Nadu government’s nodal agency for investment promotion and single window facilitation, signs MoU with Hannoverimpuls GmbH.
May 31 (Tuesday)
🚭Quit Tobacco mobile app launched. It will support persons in their attempts to abstain.
✈️SriLankan Airlines makes fuel stops at Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram airports. ‘They are essentially refuelling stops for long-haul international flights’.
🏞️Eco-park planned along Adyar between Airport and Nandambakkam. The Corporation plans to complete the 4-km-long park before the northeast monsoon.
🎫Tatkal tokens to be introduced in sub-registrar offices. They will be issued in addition to the daily quota of regular tokens.
June 1 (Wednesday)
💌Philatelist Hemachandra Rao passes away. Called ‘Lighthouse Man’, he was an authority on Buckingham Canal and converted his house into a Maritime Heritage Museum.
🏅Madras War Cemetery gardener gets honorary British Empire Medal. Perumal Venkatraman given the award for taking care of 2,000 plants at the cemetery.
🚘Ford workers continue strike for third day as talks fail. Production comes to a halt; workers firm on not entering the shop floor till their demands are met.
💦Va Tech WABAG, a leading player water technology space, has secured an engineering and procurement order worth ₹149 crore from DL E&C Co Ltd., Korea, for a water treatment package for the EuroChem Methanol production facility in Kingisepp, Russia.
🛠️Germany-based Eickhoff Wind Asia has opened its new manufacturing facility near Chennai.
🏥Buddhi Clinic launches new neuropsychiatry centre and research hub.
🛣️GCC to increase mechanical sweeping of roads. Each equipment will clean 50 km of roads every day.
June 2 (Thursday)
⛈️Chief Secretary reviews monsoon preparedness. Heads of different departments participate in the meeting
💰Chennai-headquartered cryptocurrency exchange Giottus announced the launch of Optimism (OP) token on its platform for trading. The company claimed that it is the first Indian exchange to launch OP tokens.
📱Traffic police take swift action on complaints over social media. Issues flagged mostly pertain to auto drivers, illegal parking of vehicles.
💡CM inaugurates dynamic lighting of Ripon Buildings. The work has been completed at a cost of ₹1.81 cr. under Singara Chennai 2.0 project.
🎥3-day tribute event for Crazy Mohan from June 10. Crazy Creations will perform his plays at Vani Mahal.
🏞️Mayor directs beautification of Tondiarpet. Officials told to launch the biomining project at Kodungaiyur.
🚨Provision for traders’ plaints in police app.
🏢Height violations in buildings most common in Chennai metropolitan area. CMDA and the other local bodies are carrying out an inspection of all constructions.
🏥Madras Medical College student completes MBBS with a tally of 36 medals. Belonging to the last batch before NEET, S. Prashanth wants to become a civil servant.
June 3 (Friday)
🎶A tribute in Carnatic idiom to Ilaiyaraaja’s film music. Ranjani and Gayatri will be performing a unique concert, ‘RaajabyRaga’, on June 5 at The Music Academy to celebrate the maestro’s 80th birthday.
📚State Government constitutes committee to formulate State Education Policy. It will be in line with Tamil Nadu’s historical legacy, current situation, future aspirations.
🚨The Greater Chennai Traffic Police have collected fine totaling to ₹6.50 crore in the last 50 days, thanks to the new system of using call centres reminding violators to pay up.
🌐Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni constituency MLA and DMK youth wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin launched free Wi-Fi access at seven locations in the constituency.
🐒1.15 lakh travellers screened for monkeypox. One sample sent to NIV Pune has tested negative, says Ma. Subramanian.
🌳With GCC expediting the stormwater drain related work to finish them ahead of the monsoons, a section of residents and activists have raised concerns over felling of a few trees for the work.
💅🏽SUGAR Cosmetics plans to reach 150 exclusive outlets by year end; focusses on southern market. The company’s 100th brand-owned store was launched in Chennai on Friday.
🦜From the Twitter world
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