History & Culture

The spirit of enquiry

K. Balakrishnan, who has been a teacher for 28 years, is also interested in archaeology, bird-watching and astronomy.

K. Balakrishnan, who has been a teacher for 28 years, is also interested in archaeology, bird-watching and astronomy.   | Photo Credit: M. MOORTHY

Arivom Arivippom brings together educators from various fields who volunteer their services in awareness programmes

It’s heartening to know that there are people who are trying to show, quite effectively, that knowledge acquisition doesn’t always have to be confined within the walls of a classroom.

Arivom Arivippom (Let’s Learn and Enlighten) is a group of around 50 educators from schools and colleges that has been spreading awareness in subjects like archaeology, bird-watching, Tamil heritage, astronomy and space research to students and the general public.

Founded by K Balakrishnan, principal and correspondent, Bharathi Matriculation School in KK Nagar, Tiruchi, the four-year-old Arivom Arivippom brings together experts from various fields who volunteer their services in the programmes.

“Knowledge is general; it is only us who have differentiated it into different subjects. You can find out information about anything if you have a keen interest in the subject, and it doesn’t matter what you specialise in as a professional,” says Mr Balakrishnan, who has been a school teacher for 28 years. “There’s no meaning in knowledge that isn’t shared with others.”

Heritage

Among the topics that he talks about in Arivom Arivippom programmes are archaeological sites in the region, rock art, bird-watching and astronomy. Mr Balakrishnan also conducts alternative learning modules in mathematics, the subject that he teaches in school.

“Not many people know about rock art in India, even though nearly 50 sites have been identified in Tamil Nadu alone,” says Mr Balakrishnan. “It is endangered today, because of indiscriminate quarrying and vandalism of historical monuments. If we educate young people about the need for conserving these areas, our ancient heritage will survive longer.” Mr Balakrishnan shows students models and samples of fossils from rare sites, so that they can identify archaeological samples easily.

He is also an ardent birder, and says we should be concerned when the avian population of a place starts reducing. “Every organism has a place in the ecology of the Earth. The drastic decrease in the number of sparrows, for example, can be linked to the use of pesticides in farming that have reduced its natural feed of worms, and the spread of concrete constructions that have hit its traditional nesting spots,” he says.

Bird-watching field trips are an excellent way to introduce the younger generation to environmental awareness, says Mr Balakrishnan, who conducts them for schools in the region when requested.

A bigger role

K Kumaraswamy, professor and head, Department of Geography, School of Geosciences, Bharathidasan University, has been making people aware about developments in space research and remote sensing through Arivom Arivippom.

“It is a good forum to disseminate information, and also to bridge the knowledge gap that exists in our society,” says Dr Kumaraswamy, who has been the editor of the Indian Geographical Journal, Chennai from 2009, and has specialised in water resources management, remote sensing and geographical information systems. “Getting experts to talk about science and natural history can help to dispel the many myths that surround issues,” he says. “And it’s not enough for us to report our findings; our research should be validated by other experts.”

The success of public service initiatives like Arivom Arivippom will ultimately need the involvement of a bigger organisation, he says.

“The information we send out has to be available in printed form, so that there is a record of our work. We need to connect with other like-minded groups,” says Dr Kumaraswamy.

At present, Mr Balakrishnan is working on booklets of information shared on the Arivom Arivippom lecture circuit, in Tamil.

“We will have to print them in English as well so that they can be accessed scholars abroad,” he says.

Reaching out

Popularising science in a fun way has been a mission of sorts for I K Lenin Tamilkovan, Project Director of the Anna Science Centre-Planetarium.

“We post information on nature science and astronomy, besides conducting sky observation programmes through Arivom Arivippom,” he says. “The year 2018 has many key celestial events lined up; we’ll be observing many of these from Tiruchi as well.”

The Arivom Arivippom group also helps him to reconnect with offbeat topics like graphic novels and comics in Tamil. “We have had online conclaves about publications like the Tamil magazine Ratnabala that took us back to our childhood. It’s fascinating to hear the history of publishing in Tamil Nadu, and makes us wish we had preserved those magazines. Nowadays most of the vintage publications are only available online,” says Mr Tamilkovan.

The group has members spread across the State and even abroad from places like Dubai and New Zealand. “Most of us connect through WhatsApp to coordinate the month’s engagements,” says Mr Tamilkovan.

In the new year, Mr Balakrishnan would like to see Arivom Arivippom reach out to Government schools, especially in rural areas. “It is our responsibility to bring the children in villages up to the same standard as those in urban centres,” he says. “As a teacher, I have always wanted to pass on the knowledge that I have acquired. Arivom Arivippom is one way of doing it.”

Mr Balakrishnan may be contacted on (Mobile): 9944966826.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 8:37:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/k-balakrishnan-nahla-nainar-arivom-arivippom-tiruchi-metroplus/article22326244.ece

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