These days, I spend a fair bit of time conducting nature and conservation education programmes. Outreach and education are crucial in getting people to love and enjoy nature, and to understand why we need to save our forests and their bio-diversity, and finally do something to help save them. During my programmes, I attempt to innovate and come up with new ways of communicating with my audience.
Last year, during a training programme with the Hoolock Gibbon Eco Club, a children’s nature club in Chizami, Nagaland, I launched the ‘Why Walk’. We had spent two years working with the eco-club and the children were quite familiar with the common flora and fauna of the area. They knew the mammals, birds, butterflies and many snakes and amphibians. I had been wondering how to help children better understand the role of these creatures in the natural world. And out popped the idea of Why Walk!
The Why Walk is simple. When you are out on a nature trail, don’t just identify the things that you see, observe them and ask the question “why?” for anything and everything you observe. On the first Why Walk with the children, we spotted a funky looking praying mantis on a marigold flower. The praying mantis had a weird face-like marking on the body. So the question popped up — why? After much deliberation, the children concluded that the face-like marking may confuse predators, who would think that the mantis was something larger and different. They were probably correct.
Further along our nature trail, we came across a flock of birds that consisted of warblers, flycatchers and other small insectivorous birds. Why were so many birds of different species in one flock? A discussion followed and sure enough the children came up with answers that were correct! Staying together in a flock offers the birds protection from predators. In addition, a large group of birds disturbs more insects than a single bird, hence the effort involved to find and eat insects decreases!
We spotted a pretty butterfly, the Chocolate Pansy, sitting with its wings spread on the upper surface of a leaf. Once again, the children answered the why question on their own. Butterflies are cold-blooded insects, and it was quite early in the morning. The butterfly needed to warm itself up using the sun’s rays, and so was basking with its wings spread. The spread out wings meant that the butterfly offered the maximum surface possible to capture the rays.
By now the kids had warmed up to the Why Walk and I did not need to prompt them any more to question what they saw! The Why Walk was a hit with the kids!
Feedback and queries are welcome at email@example.com