By Ranjit K. Sahu
Birds form an important component of any ecosystem. They are an inseparable part of the rural and urban landscapes. However development of infrastructure, loss of forests and green cover as well as diversion of land for industrial purposes has been reducing the space that birds need to feed and reproduce. The effects of climate change, environmental pollution and unchecked human activities has led to further interference with the routine life cycle of birds that has had direct and indirect consequences on the ecosystems. We often take the existence of birds for granted but as has been observed, birds have been vanishing from many regions of the world. This includes the common birds that were once seen in large numbers like the sparrows. Thus it is important to make the public aware of the importance of birds in our locality and their relevance to our economic activities like agriculture as well as general wellbeing.
Though the role of birds is obvious to most of us, they are often overlooked. It is important to create an awareness about birds and environment in the common people to help them adjust to the effects of climate change which is becoming a reality. Children are the most active leaners and making them aware of the environment is a step forward to dissipating the concepts in the society. They often discuss the things they learn at school with their parents and thus the information is spread through the society. The presence of a scientist/research personnel further helps to motivate the students.
This model proposed by Mr. Srinibash Das (a development professional with expertise in education sector and interested in international development activity related to the same) was used to motivate students to learn about the birds around them. Though there has not been any major effect of modernization in the remote locality of Giranchaur,(District Sindhupalchouk, Nepal), it has been ravaged by the recent earthquake. Additionally the climate change has been having its own effect. The region which is inhabited by farmers mostly carrying out their agricultural operations in a traditional organic way has many different species of birds of the reported 857 species seen in Nepal. Conservation fo birds would also be important keeping in view the fact that Nepal is home to some endemic species and in future these maybe the main attraction and revenue earners from visiting scientists, tourists and students of biological sciences.
Picture 1: Activity with the students from class I-V. (a-c) Explaining the activity in groups after the presentation. (d-e) Building a nest for birds using local materials, (g-h) drawing about birds and their environments.
The teachers and principal in the school at Giranchaur invited and co-ordinated with Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu ( presently employed in the University of Virginia, USA) who was touring the area and his colleague Mr. Srinibash Das to speak on birds and about the education system in India to help students expand their outlook. Mr. Ganesh Tiwari, played a pivotal role in the liaison between the two groups from India and Nepal.
The half day interaction with students began with students of class I-V in a very informal setting.
Three different approaches were undertaken to inspire children about birds. First a presentation on power point mode using audiovisual aid was shown to the children by Dr. Sahu with translation of his speech in English being carried out by the teachers present into the local language Nepali. Basic information about birds and photos of different North American birds were shown along with a brief description of their habits and habitats. This evoked an interest about the birds seen in the east coast of the United States and also was new information which the e ere happy to learn. Then the students were asked to collect locally available material or use the materials provided (locally procured like twigs and sticks) and make a nest for the birds. Students who were not interested or completed their nests sooner were asked to also draw pictures of birds or their nests or anything related to the environment while displaying the picture of an American brown crested robin feeding its nestlings. Dr. Sahu explained to the students about birds and their habitats and their importance for the farmers.
Picture 2: Locally seen birds. The conceptualization was done by Ranjit K. Sahu, Hari Pandey, Sani, Maharjan, Rashmi Koirala and Srinibas Das and the report drafted by Ranjit K. Sahu in concurrence with all involved. Photos were shot by Ranjit K. Sahu, Srinibash Das, Hari Pandey and were edited by Sanjib Kumar Dash (selected photos).
This activity by the students from Class 1-V in Giranchaur School was undertaken under the supervision of Mr. Hari Pandey, Ms. Sani Mahrajan, Ms. Rashmi Koirala, and organized by Mahakali High school staff and Principal. Mr. Srinibash Das from India and Mr. Hari Pandey co-ordinated the proceedings. Based on the principle of learning by doing where children involved themselves sin activities connected with birds, this was meant to sensitize the children about birds and also use them to spread the message in the community as most children discuss the school activities at home. The activity is a new concept being examined by the school staff (Principal, teachers and Co-Workers) to see how students can be taught science (environment) in an informal manner as a supplementary to the existing curriculum.
The students participated actively and were enthused about birds. The innovative capacity of the students was also obvious in the fact that some of them used their own ideas to build nests of different shapes and sizes than what was demonstrated. The activity is a step towards making knowledge available to all and taking science in a palatable manner to students in far flung regions of the world, transcending geopolitical borders.
About the Author: Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu is a freelance writer currently located in Virginia, USA. His interests include education, environment, sustainability and health care in the underprivileged regions of the world.