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हम साग थिकौं, हम साग थिकौं, मिथिलावासी के पाग थिकौं…

The title is a line from a Maithili poem that became very popular on social media sometime last year, loosely translating into, “I am the edible greens of Mithila, as glorious as the Paag (turban) of Mithilawasis”.

Classroom engagement with teachers and students, participating in the teaching-learning process is a crucial part of our work at Aripana. One can say, classroom engagement keeps us anchored. It keeps us focused, like nothing else, on what needs to be done to improve the quality of education, especially in under resourced government schools.

It was during the second wave of the dreadful Covid pandemic that we decided to continue engaging in teaching-learning by conducting classes online for a cluster of government schools in the Laheria Sarai area of Darbhanga, North Bihar. We had no idea how it will be, but immensely rewarding a journey it continues to be, 3 months after we first started in May 2021.

With support from the government school teachers, we not only taught chapters from the Science syllabus to students of Class VII & VIII but also engaged the children to understand the topics of Waste and Biodiversity, by participating in Earthian 2021 (Wipro Foundation’s largest environment education program for schools in India).

One of our science sessions focused on the following objectives:

  • becoming familiar with different kinds of leaves in the neighborhood
  • understanding the variety of services that leaves provide not just to human beings but to other organisms as well, with whom we inhabit the shared space called environment.

Needless to say, some very interesting discussions and sharing of stories and photographs followed! The children also put together a chart of the leaves they found in the neighborhood that required them to step out, observe, collect, get information and present. Here is an example of one the charts:

Leaves around me by Ritesh Kumar, Class VIII, Heycock Institution, Bengali Tola, Laheria Sarai, Darbhanga, North Bihar.

While on the topic of uses of leaves, children mentioned eating green leafy vegetables. Being situated in Mithila, a culture that has a very distinct cuisine in which greens play a major role, we just had to spend some more time with the children, reveling in the variety of greens, their occurrence, cycles of cultivation, form and structure, taste, their preparation and health benefits. Many children still belong to families that regularly cultivate greens in fields adjoining their homes. So lo! Was it surprising then that the children could identify close to 31 greens just by looking at their pictures!

Here we present a compilation of edible greens that have a special place in Maithil culture and cuisine and are an integral part of the diet of the children we work with. How precious is this knowledge that resides with the children and how priceless is the experience of watching and at times helping in the cultivation of these greens.

We ended the session by reading a wonderful poem in Maithili, telling us more about मिथिला के साग. We look forward to reciting this poem until it we have it memorized 🙂

When a lesson is relatable to students’ lived experiences, abounds in local examples, uses language the children speak in their homes and immediate contexts, it only etches deeper into their minds and what they learn about starts mattering!

Team Nature Classrooms, of the Nature Conservation Foundation, we thank you so much for guiding us in maximizing the potential of environmental science and science, in under resourced schools. We are already on a satisfying journey with the teachers of Bihar, together, making Environment Education matter.

Creatively communicative about science & nature.

The moth flutters and swirls,

goes round and round,

but does it make a sound?

For it knows you are asleep.

So when you see a drowsy moth,

What should you do?

Let it snore away.

Inspired by a poem by David L. Harrison

The country celebrated National Moth Week from 17th to 25th July 2021. Elementary school students of government schools of Darbhanga, North Bihar steeped into exploring biodiversity as part of Wipro Earthian 2021, joined the National Moth Week celebrations this year, befriending these fascinating creatures. We hope there entry into the world of moths leads to sustained interest and positive actions on behalf of students and teachers that makes the world a safer and friendlier place for moths.

For 7 days, the team members of Aripana, along with teachers and students, learnt about one new moth by sharing pictures, their unique characteristics and sketching them. We even decided to focus on moths that have been seen particularly in North Bihar, in the year 2021. Below is a collage of some of the sketches by students and teachers, of the moths we learnt about.

A collage of the sketches of moths by students and teachers of government schools of Darbhanga, North Bihar.

This was quite a fun exercise and one that educated us quite a bit. During the process we were acquainted with various Indian platforms on the internet that are dedicated to moths (and other biodiversity) – documenting the names, characteristics, their occurrence, habitat, habits, etc. Two platforms we found to be quite comprehensive were The Moths of India and inaturalist. We also came across some helpful groups on Facebook, dedicated to moths.

It is the citizens, residents and common men and women of the country that have contributed to creating these platforms and the information on it. Through Citizen Science initiatives, individuals concerned and passionate about biodiversity, flora and fauna, contribute information about the natural world around them helping create very precious records of various species, each important in maintaining our ecological balance.

Team Aripana would like to introduce children to Citizen Science initiatives, supporting students and teachers to become creators of knowledge themselves – recording and sharing information about the natural world around them.

Jyoti Roy, Teacher, Heycock Institution, Laheria Serai, Darbhanga was traveling during the NMW week but succeeded in contributing to the week long exercise. “I also tried to draw a moth as I thought it would be the best way to encourage the children to do so along with making them aware of the kinds of moths present in their surroundings. And I anyway love activities related to nature.” We are so happy Jyoti Mam joined in despite her busy schedule, choosing to inspire students by her own actions.

Very soon, we had Nutan Kumari, Teacher, Bansidas Kanya Madhya Vidyalay contributing too. She believes drawing is a critical aspect of studying Biology as the skills required to draw, encourage observation and enhance knowledge of the world around us like no other medium. She not only enjoyed sketching moths but also followed it up with a lovely sketch of a pond ecosystem. “I was inspired to draw moths by the children and I went on to create a visual representation of the Pond Ecosystem as we were anyway teaching students the chapter  पौधों और जंतुओं का संरक्षण : जैव विविधता.”

A picture often conveys what many words do not, don’t you think?

We could not been happier with how the online science classes resulted in so much creativity and that too, on behalf of everyone, be it teachers or students or members of team Aripana. We hope to initiate a sustained project with the students and teachers soon, one that helps them be Citizen Scientists.

Concluding this post with samples of leaf art made by some students – busy as they were – exploring the leaves available in their immediate surroundings and the myriad ways in which they enrich our lives and the world in which we live.