This ‘Fascination of Plants Day', JNU invites school children to learn about plant life

“From a fragment of a leaf or a stem we can make thousands of whole plants, flowers grown in cold Holland weather can now be grown in the middle of summer right here in Delhi,” claims Professor Neera Bhalla Sarin, Dean of Life Sciences at the Jawaharlal Nehru University here.

The exact methodologies that make possible Prof. Sarin's claims will be shown to about 100 children from schools in and around the JNU campus on May 18 by the professor and her students to observe “Fascination of Plants Day.”

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From appreciating the simple beauty of how a plant is grown in nature to dispelling fears about genetically-modified crops, Prof. Sarin intends to show the children everything that may interest them. “The tour will be done in stages: First they will be shown pictures, then real plans in our botanical garden, and then they will progress to our laboratories and the green house.”

“We will show them how we conserve endangered species of plants, how we grow whole plants from a leaf, how we transfer the good genes of one plant to another plant, how we make plants resistant to pests and how we make the plants resistant to adverse weather conditions and how we can make plants grow in hostile conditions. We will also have a special section reserved for medicinal plants, how current medicines that cure so many illnesses are made from plants,” she said, adding that a special emphasis was being placed on the recent debates on genetically modified plants. “We will give these children all the information that we have, they can then decide on the merits or demerits of genetic engineering and can at least be clued in on current debates on topics like Bt cotton and Bt brinjal.”

As a special treat, the children will have a scientist deliver a seminar in simple Hindi. “We will make it fun, with pictures and video presentations. I want to make sure the children have a nice time. They will be served refreshments and we will give them breaks in between. At the end of the day, we will give each child an earthen pot with a tulsi plant.”

A tour of the laboratory reveals tiny transparent glass bottles filled with minuscule bits of green, which her students say are the leaves of a mustard plant. Moving on to greenhouses where pest-resistant tomatoes, tobacco and mustard are being grown. The mustard plants are dry, as it is harvest time but the tomato plants are in full bloom with bright red tomatoes glinting in the sun. The leaves of the tobacco plants are bright green and dust-free.

The “Fascination of Plants Day” has been instituted by the European Plant Science Organisation that has until now managed to rope in 261 organisations like research institutions, universities and botanical gardens in 36 countries to celebrate the day with events like talks and taking school children on visits to laboratories and botanical gardens.

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