BENGALURU: Legendary investor Jim Rogers once said agriculture will be such a profitable sector in the future that farmers will one day be driving Lamborghinis and stock brokers will be driving tractors. Monetary returns aside, working outdoors brings rich dividends for the young mind. It is fun, engaging and influences children to embrace sustainable livelihoods.
According to Janani Eswar, founder of Growing in Nature (GRIN), a Bengaluru-based organisation that works in connecting children to nature, we are suffering from what Richard Louv calls ‘nature deficit disorder.’ Children spend less time outdoors and more time indoors and on their screens, resulting in many behavioural problems.
“I met a seven-year-old who told me that tomatoes came from a supermarket. We are getting so disconnected from nature that we do not realise that working outside and with plants is not just a life skill but is as essential as speaking a language. Our bodies are built to be outside, so when children work outdoors, they are operating on an instinctive level and are forging deep connections with their surroundings.” says Eswar, who also works with schools to devise curriculums that include nature as part of their teaching process.
So why should children work in the garden and grow their own vegetables? “When we get our hands dirty with soil and plants, the bacteria trigger serotonin or happy hormones in our brains. When we deprive ourselves of these natural anti-depressants, it leads to obesity, ADHD and depression,” says Eswar.
These three schools in Bengaluru have included organic farming as part of their curriculum right from the first standard. They grow their own produce, compost and teach their students advanced techniques like vertical terrace gardening and greenhouse farming.
BM English School
Located in Hennur, BM English School has been actively involved in gardening and organic farming for more than 6 years. With an organic vegetable and herb garden in the campus, its students display a remarkable knowledge of plants. They also produce vegetables that are used for the canteen and compost waste. The school's 'Green Club' actively participates in farming, grows and sells vegetables and also takes part in famous organic farming events in the city such as Oota From Your Thota. The organic farming module was put into place by Dr. Vishwanath Kadur, the most renowned urban agriculturalist in Bangalore and a pioneer in organic terrace gardening in the country.
Says Dr. S Rajesh, Principal of BM English School, “We have organic farming as part of the curriculum from grade 1. There is one class a week. Each group is given a patch of land to cultivate. The older children make their own organic pesticide using neem oil, clove and turmeric. We also do not use hybrid seeds and seed making is an important part of our curriculum. Children grow vegetables and take home the produce.”
Prakriya Green Wisdom School
Prakriya Green Wisdom School goes one step ahead of an organic farming curriculum - it strives to be an all-round sustainable campus that grows its own produce through recycled wastewater and places its children in an environment that turns them into conscious users. Children learn from nature and work on patches of soil right from nursery. The school does not encourage junk food. The campus is a no plastic zone and a conscious living practice is developed throughout the child’s stay in the school.
Says Rema Kumar, Director of Prakriya Green Wisdom School, “The whole idea is that when children grow their own food, they become co-producers and understand that everything is interconnected, including chemicals in insecticides and how they destroy the soil’s health in the long run. Our canteen’s food is nutritious and we use a lot of local vegetables and fruits that we cultivate. Water consciousness is another keen focus area. We have rain water harvesting and we recycle the water that we use in the canteen and kitchen. ”
The campus has more than 100 varieties of trees and is home to vegetables and fruits, mostly of the local variety, including papaya, mango, guava, rajma, beetroot, carrots and beans.
Salads are prepared at least thrice a week and the school composts vegetable waste from the canteen and children are encouraged to never waste food.
“As a society, we are not doing enough to avert the problems that surround us. Our children will have to face their consequences so we w ant them to understand that water crisis can be averted by using really sensible water management systems that have been practiced over a million years," says Kumar.