CE takes a stroll through the campus of HLC International School where students talk about hands on learning sessions.Students gear up for their upcoming exhibition Sashwatham to promote sustainability in schools, NGOs and the government.
CHENNAI: I t’s almost mid-day and one of those times when the heat decides to hit a high. As we travel through the rickety roads of Shollinganallur, we reach our destination — HLC International School and directly land in the mini garden located right behind the campus. Soaking in the Sun, a bunch of young children mixing clay and mud, some observing the growth of the planted seeds, while some jumping in what looks like a natural make-shift trampoline made of dried leaves, within the garden are our first take away as we observe the scene. But no, this isn’t an eco-friendly play park we are talking about.
Like two other schools in the city (Ramana Vidyalaya at Shollinganallur, Tattva School, Polachery) HLC International has tied up with Grow Your Own Veggies, a nonprofit organisation, the brainchild of Alladi Mahadevan, to promote sustainability and provide hands-on learning sessions and guidance on how to foster sustainable living to children and parents. As the school is gearing up for an exhibition on different branches of sustainable models of organic gardening and organic farming on January 20 and 21, City Express walks through the ‘organic trail’ to learn more.
As we trace the work of the students through the trail, Upasna, Dharini and Gayathri, three class IX students, take us around. “Most of us waste money and resources in the second part of our lives on hospital bills, mainly because of soil contamination. It’s important to have nutritious soil. It gives us water, food and shelter,” says Gayathri, as she points to the patch of land, adapting a sun ray formation of farming. “Through this method there is an optimal usage of land and water. And we are using a triad arrangement in this system,” she explains.
The compost pit on one patch forms the sun with rays of plants radiating out, while a live pond becomes the sun in another.
Following five main themes of sustainable models here: organic farming, organic gardening, living soil, natural building and traditional cooking, the students have worked tediously, opine the teachers.
Going by a strict ‘no-chemicals’ mantra, the students have grown 25 varieties of paddy, 26 varieties of millets, nine kinds of greens, 60 herbs, oilseeds, beans, gourds, greens, root vegetables, tomatoes, chilies, fruits, and flowers. “All these have been grown from native seeds and indigenous saplings fully organically, without the use of any kind of chemical additives,” says Mahadevan.
Here the students of the school not only learn to work with soil, irrigation, harvesting and sowing, but constantly apply the exercises in other subjects as well. Confused? “We learn everything from math, sociology, and physics through what we do here. This is connected academically and we relate to most of these exercises while we learn the curriculum in other subjects,” shares Dharini. The students learn about pressure, measurements, crop cycles and other aspects as they work their way in establishing a sustainable eco system within the campus.
As the work to make the mixture of a clay wall is happening in full throttle on one side, a bunch of sixth graders jump on a four feet deep natural compost pit on the other, calling it an au natural trampoline! Inviting us inside the pit, which has layers of twigs, dry leaves, top soil and mainly a mixture of ‘amritakaraisal’ — a mixture of rotten fruits, jaggery, cow dung and cow urine, a student shares, “This is a community composting set up an is a rich reservoir of life and nutrition that spreads gradually into the surrounding areas through the action of earthworms and other organisms.
From learning and discussing nitrogen fixation, organisms, microorganisms and optimisation, the children have good knowledge of sustainability, which they intend to share with schools, government and other organisation in upcoming exhibition, Sashwatham.