We had a 3 Day Summer Camp for the Somanahalli government school children, where children were introduced to experiential learning based on the theme of birds, interacting with experts in the field.
It gives us immense pleasure to organize nature camps, because there are so many children who are eager to learn. There are people who are ready to share their knowledge and encouraging thoughts. As a result of this, a wonderful 3 Day Summer Camp around the birds transpired for kids of Somanahalli village, mainly the Somanahalli government school.
Firstly, we’d like to thank the Principal of the government school Mr. Suresh, who readily agreed and offered all his help and support. A big thanks to Mr. Janardhan – a board member of the school who happily let us use his open field for any activities. Divya Madam, the staff of the school was a key person who made calls to reach out to the children, as it was a holiday and they weren’t at the school. It was her sincere effort which mobilised all of them. The school staff Kamalabai happily agreed to cook the meals for all of us. Some of the children were ever-ready to provide any required support and assistance.
eBirds provided the brochures to all the children which were put to very good use, and the course turned out to be very meaningful using these brochures effectively. Special thanks to Deepa Mohan in this regard for taking the initative of thinking of connecting eBird, and coordinating and procuring all the brochures.
Special thanks to Cleanup Turahalli group for providing a beautiful scrapbook and pencil kit for each of the children. The children loved it. Special thanks to Nandini aunty and Sudhi and Deepa Narasipura, for contributing financially towards food expenses.
Heartfelt thanks to each of the facilitators Deepa Mohan, Mangal, Swetha, Deepa Pandit, Manju Pandit, Anand, Meena, Chitra, Vidya Kadambi, Sanjay and Aanvi.
Children gathered gradually, and by 7:10 AM, a huge group of 33 children were chirping around with excitement in the school. The session started off with briefing them about what they could expect. The idea was to orient them towards the 3 day camp. There were a few ice-breaking games. We used the eBird cards to get an idea of the children’s knowledge of the surrounding birds, and they could identify 14 of the 40 birds (by the end of the camp, this number grew to 26). They were also guided about their daily visits and sensitised about their safety.
Now its time to walk towards the lake. As it had rained previous day, the morning’s weather was really beautiful. The lake was teeming with birds like a mini-Ranganthittu. On the bank of the lake, the session was used to slow down, listen, smell and observe. Children were split into smaller groups to enable better coordination among themselves. A lot of a-ha moments started coming up, as they started observing the same surroundings in a different context. The very same birds which they had passed by got a little more attention today. They also enjoyed 10 minutes of silent time sitting on the boulders on the bank.
Children love challenges. Why let go of a chance to learn while walking back to school! Balancing is challenging, and also a need of the time to learn about focusing. A stone, a twig, a leaf, are some of the things they enjoyed balancing it. Some challenged themselves even more by balancing multiple stones!
After enjoying some delicious pulav with raitha, we were ready to play puzzles on bird names organized by Deepa Pandit. They got totally immersed searching for the bird names, and enjoyed helping each other. Next its time for origami. Deepa Pandit taught us how to make a flying bird.
In the end, we took attendance, and distributed the eBird brochures (printed in both Kannada and English) and a colorful project work book with stationery kit, which they really loved. Deepa Pandit gave them a beautiful assignment. They were asked to write a story imagining everything they would do in an entire day living as a bird of their choice.
We enjoyed a glass of refreshing buttermilk and closed for the day.
We had decided the start time for the camp to be 7, but they were ready to arrive at 6:30! This day was entirely meant for obsering the birds and learning more about them from Deepa Mohan, an avid and well known birder, with her friends Mangal and Shwetha. Mangal and Shwetha are also involved in engaging school children with activities on birds.
The day was meant for joyful learning. Each team was given a binocular which created a lot of excitement in them. The colors, bird behavior and the details were more vivid through them and they eagerly awaited their turn. They were more receptive for the upcoming rich knowledge sharing by Deepa Mohan and team. The energy and enthusiasm carried by Deepa Mohan only got multiplied as she could literally explain and show the bird behavior from the bank as it unfolded in front of us. Children had a lot of curiosity, and loved grouping around Mangal and Swetha as they shared their binoculars while enthusiastically explaining about the jacanas, shrek, grey heron, purple heron, spot billed duck, kingfisher, black kite, purple moor hen, cormorants, painted stork…
Along with some more silent time, children were given time and encouraged to ask questions about birds. This session was immensely enjoyed by faciliators and children. There was a lot of room for innocent questions and beautiful replies and interaction.
It was nice to have Deepa Pandit and Manju Pandit also with us. Manju Pandit kindly facilitated a couple of games with the children. It was followed by Shwetha asking them to mimic the birds. We walked back to the school again balancing any items with a few more challenges thrown in.
After relishing some idli and chutney by Kamala bai, its time for some indoor activities. Children in groups were asked to draw and color a bird they picked from an eBird card. The idea was to encourage them to observe the details. It was nice to see each team discuss a little about how they’d draw the bird and who would draw it. Gradually it became more collaborative with different team members drawing other aspects of some scenery and coloring them.
Finally each team presented their chart one by one with a show and tell. Deepa took a count of votes for each drawing from the children. A winning drawing was announced and members of that team got a special chocolate each. Everyone else was also happy to get their chocolate, for a sweetly fulfilling second day.
As these children are privleged to have a school next to a beautiful lake, and amazing agricultural surroundings, Day 3 was used to give them a wider perspective of their natural locality.
Today we had birder couple Anand and Meena, to engage the children. We all walked from the school, along the bank of the lake, to a new place. Again the same birds in the lake – but a different association with them. Anand was wonderful with the children leading a very interactive and fun filled walk. The group walked on along the meandering path, to a large field. Our next sessions were planned under a beautiful Peepul Tree.
We continued our previous day’s discussion, on identifying birds and their different habitats. Anand reemphasized many key points. A special a-ha moment for the children while Anand was telling them about the state bird of Karnataka, the Indian Roller, which was usually confused with the Kingfisher because of the blue hue… it actually appeared on the scene. There was a mesmerizing silence. These kind of experiences manifest more often when we’re out in the open.
An open space gives a lot of opportunities for creative engagement of the children. Children were asked to build nests with material available in the surroundings. What a joy to watch them run around, touch and feel the material, collect the right soft, solid natural materials for their nests. It was amazing to see the children’s creativity and thoughtfulness in creating beautiful nests.
Some teams completed a nest and went on to create another nest and then another. They were having so much fun they were simply unstoppable!
Later we settled down to relish bisi bele bath, cooked by Kamalabai, and lovely gulab jamoons brought by Vijetha. They also got Almond Burfee from Anand and Meena. We were all ready for another amazing session, by Chitra and Vidya. Vidya taught them gratitude. Chitra, everready with a creative story and related hands on activities. Her stories are always captivating animated narrations. They also enjoyed making a paper puppet bird.
We also used the opportunity to teach them about the proper disposal of chocolate wrappers. They collected all the wrappers in a plastic bottle. Hope at least one of them remember to take this lesson back home.
We all happily walked back to school together with a contented feeling and planning to organize more such events in the future.
With gratitude for support for expenses:
Nandini Aunty: Rs. 2000 for the meals and snacks.
Deepa Narasipura who donated Rs. 3000 towards the meals.