How is the study of astronomy useful? Pat comes the reply, “If you are stuck in space, you can find your way out.” The other replies from this group of children at a summer camp included: “you can learn about the movements of stars and planets,” and “learn about gravity”, after which the group trailed into silence, waiting for astronomy enthusiast R. Gopu to ask the next question.

The two-day camp, organised by the Tamil Heritage Trust, also had sessions on mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, Kaagitha Origami by Kirigami Ramesh and a visit to the Nageshwara Rao Park, to learn about trees.

When Mr. Gopu wanted the children to list out names of famous astronomers, they gave a list of foreign names with just Aryabhata from India. Mr. Gopu added the names Bhaaskara, Varaha Mihira, Nilakanta Somayaji and S. Chandrasekar to the list.

During the walk around Nageshwara Rao Park, S. Swaminathan, a retired professor of mechanical engineering, showed the children that if you crushed tender leaves of bottlebrush trees, they emanated a smell just like balm.

“There are at least ten thaazhampoo plants in the park and the plants are nature's gift and found naturally along water bodies. They prevent sand erosion. Other trees you see in the park include peltophorum, an indigenous variety with yellow flowers, gulmohar, butterfly palm, koondal panai and Lagerstroemia speciosa, which is also known as the Pride of India,” Mr. Swaminathan explained.

T.R. Yashas, a student of class VI, one of the participants in the camp said that unlike other camps he had attended, this one was structured. “Though I missed cricket and playing with my friends, I actually did not want the camp to get over. We learnt a bit about Ramanujam's mathematics and we can use it later in school,” he said.

Badri Seshadri, one of the Trustees of Tamil Heritage Trust, gave a brief introduction to Ramanujan's biography and Hindu iconography. He said that over the last three-and-a-half years, the group has been organising one free lecture on the first Saturday of every month from 5.30 p.m. at the Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya.

“The talks are on a variety of topics including Tamil grammar, astronomy, archaeology, paintings, music and sculptures. The June meeting will have a talk on the civil engineering aspects of ancient temples,” he explained.

Keywords: summer camps

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