Organic farmers and activists regularly talk to the students about the importance of preserving native trees and cattle, methods of growing healthy crops

Kaumaram Sushila International Residential School at Chinnavedampatti, Coimbatore, is a school with a difference. When almost all educational institutions are pressuring their students to focus predominantly on studies, this school seems to hold a different view on school curriculum.

“We strongly believe in going beyond the classroom. Lessons must aim to teach students about the native culture. They must be more practical or field-oriented rather than be merely bookish,” says Mr. M. Deva Prakash, Managing Trustee of the school and Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation.

Every academic year, the school makes it a point to inform parents seeking admission that the school gives more importance towards the conservation of biodiversity, natural organic farming, and socially useful productive work rather than marks-based education.

“We even dissuade some parents who come to our school seeking admission for their children,” says Lalitha, founder of the school. “If they are keen that their children should secure a high percentage in the exams held for admissions to professional courses, then this school may not be suitable to them. The reception from parents and students is quite encouraging,” she says.

This is one of those rare schools where it is possible to see children ride horses and graze them in the school lawn, learn mountaineering, play with varieties of ducks, puppies of sippiparai and kombai breeds, Assam goats, and see them watch bees make honey.

A small portion of the school’s playground area has been earmarked for growing vegetables, and students from 4-8 years are taught the importance of growing and consuming healthy food.

A number of organic farmers and activists make it a point to come to the school and talk to the young students about the importance of preserving native trees and cattle, as well as methods of growing healthy crops.

Kangayam breed cattle are reared in the school campus along with other native animals.

“The cow dung is composted along with other decomposable waste generated in the school. The manure produced is then used by students in their little farm patches where they grow vegetables of their choice. Chemical inputs are completely avoided,” says Lalitha.

The students tend to their vegetable plants during their class timings and feel rewarded when they take the vegetables back home to be cooked.

“We also make sure that children get to eat the vegetables they grow. This encourages them to eat healthy vegetables free from toxins. As a school we feel that our project is a success when we see that our students have started making compost pits and small patches of kitchen gardens at home too,” says Lalitha.

Students also feel a sense of responsibility towards protecting more than a 100 native tree seedlings planted by them around the school campus. These trees are home to over 30 different species of birds identified in the vicinity.

Apiculture (honey bee rearing) is one of the activities that has been introduced to the students this year. Students appreciate the art of interdependence in community living by observing the functioning of honey bees in specially-made glass display honeycombs.

Children get to watch all the activities of the bee colony, and appreciate their importance as pollinators. They are made aware of the fact that almost 90 per cent of our food, especially vegetables and fruits, come from these pollinators.

Students take turns to ensure that the animals are cleaned and fed well. This helps them develop an intimate attachment towards animals around them.