You could be a girl running after butterflies or a boy chasing garden lizards, you could be the little brat playing with tiny snakes or the adventurous kind that climbs trees, sets up camp and goes on hikes.
But if you know that you are a nature lover, the Young Naturalist’s Camps are the place to be this summer.
The camps which are part of The Gerry Martin Project (TGMP), that aims at creating sustainability practices in India through education and experience, will be of interest to children because they are most often born naturalists, but do not have any idea about how to interact with nature. The main objective of TGMP is to harness people’s interest and spread awareness about various ways to contribute to conserving the environment and wildlife from cities and urban set ups.
It is not an easy task when a group of young entrepreneurs decide to channel their love for wildlife and its conservation and start an organisation dedicated to educating people, while continuously researching on various wildlife conservation techniques. Gerry Martin, the founder and director of the TGMP, began his career at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, where his lack of formal training in wildlife helped him see nature with a different perspective.
He grew up in Ahmedabad, where his hobby was to catch snakes.
In 2000, he became National Geographic’s first Indian Adventurer and was the face of the channel in Asia for a few years.
He later tried his luck at being an educationist and realised that a lot could be done for the environment if children were brought outdoors and given exposure. This was the birth of The Gerry Martin Project.
The team of five includes nature lovers and environmentalists like Conan Dumenil, whose primary focus is to work with schools and education for youngsters and Nariman Vazifdar and Ananth Deshwal, who are responsible for the research and execution of the project.The team works towards reaching out to the masses, while continuously striving towards making the experience more fun for children.
The Young Naturalist’s Camps this year, spread across five different locations in south India, have been designed in such a way that children are exposed to the opportunity of stepping out of the school education system and testing their knowledge through experience, each camp providing its own learning objective — ranging from scrub jungle ecology to Reptile Biology — all under the open skies.
Gerry says, “Children’s passion for nature is beaten out of them with syllabus books overloading them with facts and book knowledge, when what they really need is to step out into the open and experience nature first hand.” The team at TGMP says that all camps are planned in such a way that children explore the wonders of nature around them with their guidance.
“Every child has a unique way of interacting with nature, some click photographs and upload them on Facebook, while others bird-watch. Our camps cater to all these groups because the locations are so rich in wildlife that they will never go back disappointed,” he said.
If the safety of the camps is a concern, parents do not have to worry because the number of trained adults present at every camp is usually equal to the number of children present there.
The long-term objective of the TGMP is to address the snake bite situation in the country. Gerry and his team will continue research on the different snakes in India and their venom, while trying to invent a polyvalent anti-venom for specific snake bites. Until then, it is summer time and the best time for children to learn from the world around them.
Gerry says, “Children who come for the camps always go back with a bag full of great memories and a learning that can mould them for the years to come.”
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