Reflecting on the Tiru Nature Camp 2021
Our first nature Camp was an exciting experience for us the hosts as well as for the children. The core focus of the camp was to promote the idea of learning from nature.
Our days began with prayer and circle time. Prayer allows us to center our minds and come into the space with all our being. We set an intention which guided how we spent the day together. We either had a visit from an expert or we went out for the rest of the morning. We were always hungry so had some snacks and free play time. Before we ended the day, we had a closing circle to help us reflect on the day that we created.
First day we had Amsa, a local teacher, share her knowledge about the plants in our backyard which we fail to recognise or notice but have many uses and benefits. The leaf (nochi leaf) which kept the mosquitoes at bay was a big hit with the children. We ate some flowers, leaves, and were hungry for more knowledge. But alas the time went by so quick that we had to save some plants for another session. The scrap book helped us capture the names of the leaves, their uses, as well as a sample for future reference.
The second day was an exciting day to move and bring the animal energies out. Vijay, an experienced theatre educator came to share his gifts with us. We made animal noises, passed the message around, listened to some stories, made up some stories and laughed so hard. We danced to some music and moved like animals. We made masks as we listened to the story of animals of Ramansramam. Overall, it was a great day.
Third day we went to a local park, played a nature-based scavenger hunt, went on a small trek, and learnt all about cacti. We shared a picnic lunch. We shared our food and our hearts. We became a little closer to one another. We tried making new friends. We fell and hurt ourselves, dipping our feet in cold waters. We continued to identify some wild plants and were quite happy to be out and about.
On the fourth day we got waste from our homes, and tried to build things with it. We had Ramesh, a local artist, with us who taught us how to use coconut shells and convert them into beautiful things. We made pendants, chopsticks (with bamboo), built fountains with toilet rolls, a home for jellyfish, and a bird’s nest. We did not even want a snack break because we were so engrossed in manifesting our creations.
On the final day we hiked to Skandasramam. The walk up the mountain path was slightly difficult but extremely fun. We had a look at the Annamalaiyar temple from the top and got completely spell bound by its magnificence. We created mandalas with the things we found around us in nature, said a prayer of loving kindness, and shared our gratitude for each other.
Some of the key learnings from this time spent together are
- When given the space and resources, children are capable of creating their own realities with minimal guidance and input. The less restricted they are, the more wider their imaginations.
- Nature as a central theme brought us together and helped us anchor our learning. We were able to connect our lived realities to the resources present in the learning space. Since we are a part of nature, it was quite easy to let ourselves be part of it and learn from it.
- Children are more than capable of understanding the need for wellbeing. They have their own ways of centring themselves, meditating, and looking within for answers. If we had the time and mental space, we can nurture their spirits well.
It is important to have a conviction. As adults our values and beliefs manifested in our behaviours – and things we were convinced of, did not need much convincing for the children to practice. In all, teaching is nothing but living the lesson on a daily basis.