We decided to take students in and around the school to explore the various animals and plants in the vicinity. Class 6 students were about to learn ‘Getting to know plants’ and we had told them we will start it with a nature walk. Students were very excited with the prospect of being out of the constraints of the classroom and on the streets instead. To inspire curiosity and observation for this activity, we asked them, “You have been walking on this street every day for so many years, what is going to be different today?” After a brief discussion they themselves said, that they wanted to go for the nature walk with a special lens, that of a keen observational eye.
We asked them to carry a notebook and pencil to draw/write what they see.
As we walked past the initial bougainvillea and the avenue trees, students slowly opened up and started keenly observing smaller and subtler things. One student noticed how a small shrub had a mixture of some dark green leaves and some light green ones. She asked with wonder, “How is that possible?” A few of her friends suggested that it maybe it was because the shrub was growing in the shade of a bigger tree and enough sunlight wasn’t reaching all the leaves. I was quietly listening and felt happy not just about the wonderful observation but also because of the argument provided by their friends. Interestingly, after walking for a certain distance they also found another shrub of the same kind which was not growing under a shade and students quickly pointed out, “Look, this one is not in the shade and still has leaves with a mixture of colors.” So, the question was still unanswered and the wondering continued...
Another group of students got excited about a small plant growing inside a sewage pit. They kept wondering about where it must be getting sunlight from and how was it growing on the cement. Bending over to find more about the plants someone saw something and cried in excitement. A small grass leaf was decorated with tiny rows of pearls on its underside. Everyone gathered curiously hypothesising what the delicate and beautiful structure could be. Someone said maybe they are dew drops. But they are too hard for that, another one quickly quipped. They must be eggs. It was nice to see the students delicately handling and carefully carrying the leaf back to their class at the end of the walk.
During some initial discussions in the class about what they knew about plants, all students said that grasses are not plants. They don’t have flowers and stem, they claimed. As we were walking along the street observing different plants, some students started observing grass growing on the roadside. On closer observation they also found tiny flowers on it. They were so surprised that they carried a few to the class and showed their friends with excitement. We are now convinced that grasses are plants, they said.
More interesting ideas and observations kept coming. Someone noticed how tiny tamarind plants were present in the street around a big tamarind tree. A lot of students silently noted their observations in the form of drawings, words or collections. Interestingly, a few students made a leaf-scrapbook out of their leaf collections while some made a drawing notebook. Although the nature walk ended in 80 mins (2 periods), their observations and questions have not stopped. In the following weeks, teachers told us that students keep bringing something interesting to show and discuss in class. Suddenly, the mundane, regular street has become a source of exciting observations for them.