YOUNG WORLD

To grow like the saplings I planted

PREMA MANMADHAN

PLANT A SAPLING: To learn important lessons and for a better future

PLANT A SAPLING: To learn important lessons and for a better future  

Life in apartments is comfortable but children do so miss activities like pottering about in the garden. Though there are open spaces in most flat complexes, the most that children can do is run around. Gardening is ruled out unless it is potted plants. So all that children learn from books in their nature study class remain confined to textbooks. There are hardly any practical lessons.

The Gurukul, a school that Asha R. Panikkar set up in Venkode, near Thiruvananthapuram, took this into consideration when they moved into their new premises here. The school recently organised a tree planting session. Parents came with their kids and each child planted a sapling. Some are shade trees while others are fruit trees, apart from medicinal ones.

The fruit trees included the mango, jack, coconut, chikkoo and white apple. There were teak saplings, kanikkonna (whose yellow flowers are a must for the `kani' on Vishu), cherry, almonds and other flowering trees too.

To grow like the saplings I planted

The parents helped the children plant them.

"They will be responsible for tending the plants. They will water them, manure them and get to see the changes in the plant first hand," said Ms Panikkar.

There are nameplates that give the date of planting, the name of the child and their date of birth; so that years later, they can identify their trees and remember the days they spent in the school.

The other innovation that the school plans is a small plot for each child where vegetables will be grown. Flowering plants will also be included in the garden. The plots have been laid alongside the borders, so that each child gets an individual plot to do his own gardening. "They can experiment to their heart's content here. They will cultivate it all by themselves, watering and tending to them. The vegetables will be used for the cooking classes that we have in our school. They can also take them home if they want," said Ms Panikkar.

To set an example for healthy cultivation of plants and trees, only organic manure will be used in the school. That way, children will learn directly the ill effects of chemical manure and how organic manure is healthy. The children also plan to plant vegetables including beans, spinach and tomatoes.

They are debating what to plant and parents are helping them choose the vegetable they want, and look around for good seeds. The miracle of life taking shape will be a practical botany class no textbook can teach and working with the soil will teach them the first lessons of agriculture.

To grow like the saplings I planted

If the plants die or pests kill them, it's yet another lesson that teaches them why farmers' livelihood is so uncertain. In a child's world today, filled with classes, tuitions, music lessons and tennis coaching, there is little time for any kind of communion with nature or communication with folks at home.

Such an attempt in school will put Nature back on the timetable of children and give them relaxation while they learn. "The joy of seeing a plant that you have tended flowering is unparalleled," said a proud parent.