Fresh green leaves on the Pongamia, Peltophorum proudly flashing its yellow flowers amidst beautiful green foliage and the copper pods, Gulmohar flaunting its beautiful crimson and the Spathodea having shed its leaves and waiting for new ones, while Lagerstromia displayed its pink and purple hues with pride, it was the time for children in Padmanabhanagar neighbourhood to come to Childs Day Montessori for a ten day Summer Camp entitled "Namma Parisara" (which means our Environment in Kannada) to appreciate and understand the environment around us.
"Namma Parisara" the ten day summer workshop for children was organized by Environment Support Group in coordination with Child’s Day Montessori in Padmanabhanagar, Bengaluru. Tiny tots to 11 year olds enjoyed the ten day experience of learning about the environment around them through a lot of games, outdoor exercises and interactive sessions. A group of 16 children, explored their neighbourhood to understand the water needs, cleanliness, road safety, tree cover and briefly about the urban wildlife in the neighbourhood.
The field visit to the Shetty Halli kere in Subramanyapura limits near Uttarahalli to understand the traditional use of a tank was a great learning experience to the kids. The use of the tank by the villagers for various needs such as washing, bathing and fishing helped understand the water needs of a community in the outskirts of the city. It also facilitated the understanding of the structure of a lake, the distribution of the different flora and fauna. Watching Egrets along the shore of the lake, Coots in small groups in the water and Brahmini kites catch their prey was an exciting experience for the kids. Butterflies and dragon flies caught the attention of the little ones only to be completely amazed by their colours and flight. Watching a documentary titled "Our School Water shed program" enhanced the children’s understanding of harvesting rain water through tanks and the importance of lakes in the city.
Visiting the BWSSB water tank in Banagiri layout close to Padmanabhanagar and interacting with the Assistant Executive Engineer Mr. Manjunath on the water demand and supply of the neighbourhood, understanding how Cauvery river water is brought to Bengaluru and how it is supplied to the people of the city amazed the children. Mr.Manjunath also stressed the need for Rain Water Harvesting in Bangalore. He also mentioned the model rain water harvesting unit that has been set up at the BWSSB office in Katriguppe neighbourhood.
In the context of water and its use and abuse,a brief introduction to the toxic chemicals present in the colas and the harm they cause to the health and well being of humans was discussed in detail by Ms. Archana Ravindra, Directress of Child’s Day Montessori.
Walking in the neighbourhood to identify the trees in the area was a very engrossing experience for the kids. Learning to identify the leaves, flowers, fruits and pods was complete fun. In addition, collecting the cherries on the pavement around a Muntingia tree, collecting the boat shaped pods of the Spathodea, collecting a vaiety of leaves was a chirpy activity enjoyed by all. The slide presentation on some common urban trees by Bhargavi Rao provided a good understanding of the different trees and the period of flowering. A visit to a terrace garden and understanding the needs of potted plants, shade loving plants, the method of watering them and learning about the variety of visitors such as butterflies and birds was very inspiring to the children.
A brief introduction to the variety of urban wildlife around us by Bhargavi Rao was presented through a slide presentation and children learnt to observe and appreciate the smaller forms of wildlife such as butterflies, moths, rodents, the variety of birds, reptiles and mammals around our homes and in our immediate environment. A slide presentation by Mrs Nanda Gautham, Child’s day Montessori teacher on some predatory birds kept the kids spell bound and aroused a deep interest in the food habits, calls, nesting habits of such predatory birds. Mrs Gautham also showed pictures of big mammals such as the Indian Bison and elephants that was a thrilling experience for the children.
Of the many surveys of the neighbourhood the most shocking was the garbage survey of the neighbouhood. Children were shocked to see the amount of plastic strewn around at every corner of the neighbourhood. In addition was a variety of hazardous waste such as batteries, old medicines, plastic, glass, metal pieces and construction waste. The survey helped understand the magnitude of the problem and the interactive discussions further made children realize the need to segregate the waste at source. Watching the documentary ‘Nagara Nyrmalya’ made by Environment Support Group enforced the need for segregation in an entertaining way. Children also learnt to make recycled paper in a simple method and enjoyed the process entirely. In addition to learning the need for segregation of waste at source, children also learnt the Brick, Bagasse and compost method to make compost effortlessly at home.
As part of this workshop children learnt how we move in the city and the impacts of the increasing number of private transport vehicles in the city. Children also studied the safety of the roads in Padmanabhanagar and expressed the difficulties they face while walking, playing and commuting to school and other places in the neighbourhood. A slide presentation based discussion by Bhargavi Rao on how the use of public transport could help reduce traffic congestion and make our roads safer for pedestrians was enlightening for the children and helped them design their dream roads. Children sketched their imagination of safe roads making provisions for all users keeping in mind, children, differently abled, senior citizens, street vendors, trees and for vehicles. Children also made sketches of their dream parks and the facilities they enjoy in a park.
Visiting the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike office in Padmanabhanagar ward number 55 and meeting with Mr.Mahadeviah the Assistant Executive Engineer was a very exciting experience for the children. In addition to understanding the structure and function of the ward office, children also understood the different tasks performed by the different officers such as collecting of taxes, monitoring the disposal of waste and the building and repair of roads, storm water drains and other utilities. The enthusiasm of meeting with the BBMP, pressed children to demand for a proper park in the neighbourhood and they even made requests to clean up the parks that were in a poor state. The excitement also led them to write a letter to the Assistant Executive Engineer of ward number 55 requesting him to make Padmanabhanagar a safer and cleaner place in Bengaluru.
The workshop concluded with a brief interaction with Mr. Leo F.Saldanha, coordinator of Environment Support Group and he shared a true story of how small children had helped revive a park in Jayanagar. This was followed by distribution of certificates to the participants who were energized over the ten days on a variety of environmental issues in the city.