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One for the planet

The Hindu, New Delhi, 22 April, 2015

The Siruthuli Summer Camp with 100 school students was a combination of rollicking good fun and valuable learning.


Fourteen-year-old Praneeta’s notebook is filled with names of birds, she spotted at a bird watching session at the Siruthuli’s Nature Nurture Camp. This is her first time at a nature camp and she cannot hide her excitement. “I spotted a few I had never seen before such as cormorants, egrets and spot-billed ducks. It was fascinating to watch them at such close quarters.”


The children went to Periyakulam to do the bird-watching. While there, they were also taught about the history of the place as well as the more recent clean up of the big tank by the people of the city. “I came to know that around two lakh people were involved in cleaning it! Even an 85-year-old freedom fighter came along to clean the tank,” says Praneeta.


The children also experienced a farm visit at Periyanaickenpalayam, where they planted trees and even rode a bullock cart!


Around 100 students from 20 schools took part in the six-day camp that introduced the children to concepts such as waste management, water conservation and wildlife protection. With equal number of lectures held at the Siruthili office and field trips around the city, the camp was a combination of theory with practical exercises.


In one of the lectures, Manion, a core member of the Siruthuli team, told the children about the importance of maintaining ecological balance, about how each and every creature, even a dragon fly, contributed to our survival. “All of us are interconnected. The death of a tiger and the shortage of water in your house are interconnected. When the tigers face extinction, the food chain is upset and this in turn, affects forest cover and wreaks havoc with weather pattern.”


There were demonstrative sessions on waste management mechanisms such as upcycling, a technique where a waste product like plastic bottle is converted into a usable one like a pen holder or a mug.


“The basic logic is to extend its shelf life,” said Sujani Balu of Siruthuli. “Unlike recycling, where the product goes through a process of change, here, you use it in an alternative manner. This allows the kids to be creative.” In fact upcycling has caught the fancy of many in the city, says Sangeetha Subash, who conducted a demo session. “I have converted shampoo bottles into pen holders, cartons into containers and plastics into decorative pieces. Children too love the concept. We try to create an upcycling session every time we organise a camp. The kids are excited especially when they are asked to make bags out of used t-shirts,” she smiles.


Chitra Krishnaswamy, who is known for her terrace farming kept the session lively through interactions and audio visual presentations. Children watched wide-eyed as the pictures of bright red tomatoes and green chillies from Chitra’s garden flashed on screen.


Right from making manure from kitchen wastes to watering the plants and preparing the soil, Chitra took the kids through the entire process. Her presentation was followed up by a question and answer session. “How much manure should I use?” “Should I water the plants everyday?” “Will I get more veggies if I add more compost?” The questions did not stop. “Why do you want to burden the soil with too much manure? Put everything in the right measure,” Chitra instructed them.


Chitra inspired Hariharan, a 13-year-old to start a terrace garden once he returned home. The concept was not new to them, says Hariharan. “All of us have a garden at our house. Our schools also encourage us to maintain vegetable gardens. Our science club hosts nature-related events every Sunday; we are encouraged to plant saplings and do gardening. We would love to have terrace garden one day. Nothing can match the joy of growing your own vegetables.”