CSI School, 12th July, 2019
William Wordsworth, famously said, ‘let nature be your teacher’. For someone known for his way with words, these ring true for all ages. It was with this idea in mind, that we wanted to plant the early seeds of growing plants in nurseries, into the young and eager minds of 19 students from the 9th standard, from CSI School. The young students, all bright and ready, turned up at the Keystone nursery with their science teacher, Ms. Saroja, on the afternoon of Friday, 12th July, 2019. Waiting for them, at the nursery, was Arad Kuttan, who took them around to show the nursery. They learnt about plants in the Nilgiris, native species being brought up as saplings in the nursery, and about invasives as well.
The students were then introduced to the technique of propagation through cuttings. They were shown how to prepare the soil mix, fill the bags and plant the cuttings. This was followed by post-planting care instructions, ensuring that the result of all the efforts was a good and healthy plant, ready for transplanting, in a few months’ time.
It was a short but well packed 2 hours during which all the students got to get their hands dirty and ask our gardener and resource person, Kuttan, numerous questions relating to nursery care. A much welcome monsoon shower necessitated a quick retreat to covered spaces, where they got to observe the gaur herd that was grazing within the campus. With a quick tea time snack, the students made their way down to their homes, with newly learnt nursery techniques that we hope they will continue to try and perfect in their own backyards and school campuses.
CSI School, 19th July, 2019
The second batch of CSI students saw better gender representation, with 3 girls marching in, with the 14 boys alongside their class teacher, Ms. Radha on 19th July. The rains decided to give company this time as well and so after a preliminary introduction to the activity plan by Kaveri, they were huddled into the lower covered portion of the nursery where Kuttan shared the preparation techniques for a mother bed. When the topic of invasives were discussed, the children had numerous doubts – what it meant, what plants it referred to, how it came about, how to handle it today, etc. This made for some vibrant discussion of plants they encountered on a day to day basis from the lens of invasives.
Many of the students being new to the Nilgiris (having come from the plains), they were not familiar with the local native species or their names. The nursery walkabout (once the rains had subsisded) provided them with very useful information on native species being brought up in the nursery. Some local students were quick to catch on to the fruiting trees such as the ‘Tavittu pazham’ and the ‘Bikki pazham’, as they were used to eating these fruits. Other new members diligently noted down the local species as Kuttan explained the significance of native plants in Toda culture.
The soil mixing and filling of bags was where everyone was eager to get their hands dirty and learn the art of doing it right under the supervision of Kaveri and Kuttan. And once we went to the actual cutting and planting, the students were already super excited to ensure that their cutting was planted well. All the students immensely enjoyed the fun, interactive and informative hands-on nursery techniques and even before they had left the campus, they had made up their minds to grow their own cuttings in their homes. A satisfying way to close the week, don’t you agree?