A Tree Fest held recently in Madurai left the children bustling with excitement, curious and asking for more green excursions.

Eleven-year-old Subashree surprised her father by enquiring about the next Green Walk trek. “It is on your birthday next month and you wanted to go to the mall,” he said. “No, you take me for the walk instead. This is much more fun. I can visit the mall any other time,” she replied.

With her first trek up the Samanarmalai in Madurai to see the Jain Caves, Subashree came closer to history and nature. “I haven’t read about the natural caverns or Jaina beds in my history book.” she said. “It was interesting to see the Thirthankara sculpture and learn beyond the textbooks.”

For Harshitha, it was like a journey into the past. What she had studied in classrooms but could not relate it to outside, the knowledge became more relevant now.

“It was like an outdoor classroom and lot of fun,” said Gomathi, a Std. XI student. “I saw the rock carvings from so close for the first time.”

The 200-odd children, who turned up with their parents for a Tree Fest recently returned happy and stimulated to visit more such archaeological sites in the future.

The Tree Fest commemorated the 25{+t}{+h}walk of green walkers with a trek to Samanar Hills and a gathering of like-minded people who feel and care for heritage. Green Walk is a touring concept initiated three years ago by a group of friends who trek to heritage sites in and around Madurai to raise awareness about neglected or damaged monuments.

Experts spoke on the importance of safeguarding historical and archaeological sites and the fantastic response of the children turned the event into a celebration.

Children danced, sang, watched skits and participated in quizzes. What held these kids together was the spirit to explore. They enthusiastically participated in different activities and were given participation certificates and special gift hampers containing traditional toys and games.

The children were later divided into five groups out of which one group mingled with the local villagers and the people at the venue to learn about the 800-year-old Banyan tree under which the tree festival was being conducted.

Another group of children laughed and wowed at each other’s faces and hands getting painted with colours made from natural or organically-grown products. Turmeric paste was used for yellow colour, rice for white, kumkum for red, crushed leaves for green or various flowers for orange and purple – all glowed on the children’s skin.

The other two groups were deeply engaged in clay modelling and origami with colourful models of fruits, vegetables, flowers and animals on display for everyone to see. Finally, the children took to the stage to share the day’s experience with the audience.

R. Sathish Kumar of Std. VII said, “Today, I have learnt why it is important to protect our ancient monuments.” Rajeshwari of Std. VIII said, “I enjoyed my day and would like to take part in the next Green Walk too.” While Sridhar of Std. VI said he liked doing all the activities and learnt about many new things, Nandini was thrilled about the new friends she made.

The lesson beyond the classroom at the green concept learning camp worked like magic on the children. They went home promising to take on the responsibility of protecting at least one tree.