Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Biodiversity fair at Joggeswari Pathshala Girls’ High School, Sarangabad, nearBudge Budge

Sessions taken by Bichitra Pathshala (March 11, 2011)

   1.   Celebrating diversity    by Subha Das Mollick

   2.   Diverse ways of seed dispersal    by Sumita Majumdar

Celebrating diversity: The facilitator began by asking the question:”Suppose tomorrow a strange creature takes admission to your school – she is 7 ft tall, her head is covered with curly reddish hair, she plucks leaves from trees and puts them in her mouth, she dresses in a strange way and speaks a strange tongue. What will be your reaction?”

Some said, “We’ll laugh at her”. Some others said, “We’ll try to convert her to our own ways. We’ll try to make her one of our own.”

They all said, “We’ll try to befriend her and share our tiffin with her.”

Facilitator asked, “Suppose you all decide to go for a picnic to the forest nearby, will you take her along?”

The girls replied in a chorus, “Yes”.

Facilitator, “Suppose, out in the forest, some of you get busy with lighting the fire for cooking, some with cutting vegetables and some with clearing an area for the games. Your strange friend enjoys herself in her own way – climbing trees, chewing twigs and running after squirrels. Suddenly, a horde of hanumans appear from nowhere. They upset everything – the cooking, the games, the laughter, the songs. The girls are terrified and don’t know what to do. When they are in a state of extreme panic, suddenly their strange friend jumps down from the tree top and picks up the leader of the hanuman horde by his collar and looks straight into his eyes. She says something to him in her strange tongue and lets him go. It works like magic and the hanumans retreat with their tails wound tight behind them.”

Facilitator asks, “After this day will you change your opinion about your strange friend? Will you change your own attitude towards her?”

Chorus, “Yes”.

Facilitator, “Will you still try to convert her to your own ways?”

One girl. “Yes. Why not?”

Facilitator, “Because if she gets converted, she will lose her special powers to tame the hanumans. Next time she accompanies you to the picnic and the hanumans attack you, she will not be able to save you.”

One girl, “Oh! Yes.”

Facilitator, “So let us appreciate the strangeness in strange creatures and let them be strange even as we befriend them. The world will be a very boring place if everything and everybody is identical to everybody else. It is the diversity that makes the world so interesting and all the diverse creatures around us have special powers that we do not have. For example, we cannot build intricate honeycombs like bees or be disciplined like ants. So there is something to learn from all creatures and there is every reason to celebrate diversity.”

After this discussion the facilitator played a short animated film called “Anders Artig”. The film begins with the hatching of a number of identical looking eggs. Baby chamelions come out of all the eggs, but from one egg a brown coloured strange creature comes out that is different from the others. It cannot change colours like the chamelions, it cannot catch insects like the chamelions, but it can swim in the water and climb the rocks really fast. One day, an eagle kidnaps one of the chamelions and takes it to its nest. The other chamelions stand and stare helplessly. But the strange creature climbs up the rocks and rescues the chameleon from the eagle’s nest. From that day the other chamelions befriend him.    

Diverse ways of seed dispersal: The facilitator began by asking, “Have you ever seen a travelling tree?”

About 50 girls of classes VIII and IX, gathered in the classroom said, “No. Never”

Facilitator, “And why would they? They stand at one place and get all they want – water and nutrients from the soil, sunlight from the sky and oxygen from the air. Yet, sometimes, some plants move. If you don’t believe me, I’ll show you. What you’ll see on screen is the Bird Cage plant rolling in the desert sand of California.”

Thus began the screening of David Attenborough’s film on dispersal of seeds. Some seeds glide away to long distances using tufts or wing like attachments on their surface, some propel themselves like helicopters, some fruits explode by a mere touch and the seeds are flung at least a yard away, some spores explode when just a drop of water falls on them and some seeds just drop off into the river and ride right down to the sea. That is not all. Some seeds piggy ride on animals and humans, some plants sow their own seeds on crevices of edifices. And there was at least one seed that survived millennia and germinated after 2000 years into a strange plant that bore different flowers on different branches.

As these dramatic visuals of the wily ways of nature unfolded on the screen, the facilitator added her explanatory notes in Bengali. She aroused the students’ curiosity through her commentary and drew their attention to the most important aspects of the visuals. The students on their turn, identified some of the plants they saw on screen and correlated the visuals to their own experience. They watched mesmerized, with rapt attention and asked just the right questions to satisfy their curiosity.
Posted By Debasish Mandal

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