Never a missed opportunity, we had two of the Poorna teachers , who dressed up as ... guess what?... on Halloween keeping the farm theme alive!
Asha and Deepa decided to take the little ones( Class 3) to the farm this Thursday. This was their first visit to the farm! They were all prepared with their water bottles and caps! Roshni, Sammitha, Vasantha , and I tagged along. We hadn't seen the farm for so long!
Asha decided to do a session on "weeds", What are these useful plants that we dismiss as weeds? We learnt about the Catnip ( https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-how-does-catnip-work-on-cats/) and its effect on the cats(we tried to smell it too!); Nella nelli that helps strengthen the liver and is useful for jaundice. And a few more which I promptly forgot. Between Laksh, Vasantha, and Asha, traditional and botanical names were being tossed around and after a while with no pen and paper around me I soon lost track.
Laksh had came along to check whether we are ready to harvest yet or not. Nope One more month!
We still got to pluck some remaining beans. Should have put sticks on these climbers. They were right now spreading all over the ground...but the marigold was blooming. and the butterflies and ladybugs were everywhere! We also saw a dead stiff cricket/ grasshopper (?) and Laksh said it was dead because of the urea application in the neighbouring plot. hmmm.
While we foraged for interesting produce and species on our plots, Asha explained like a 'Vaidya' uses of each plant , as she pulled them out one after another. It was incredible. All this knowledge- if we only knew how to use what grows right under our noses!
Vasantha carried back flowers of legumes to show to her science class. We carried back the beans. Asha carried the Nella Nelli and made a concoction/kashyam out of it. All students were subjected to one spoon each of that kashyam made in buttermilk in the coming week!
Everyone is back from their school trips and the Ragi farm awaits. It has been a very rainy October in Bangalore and after all this water scarcity the worries soon turned to waterlogging at the farm. Luckily the rains have stopped now and the October sun shines with all its force. Hopefully there has been not too much damage to the crop although the scarecrows are all droopy.
Vasantha who stays closer to the farm visits the farm before all of us can . We get to see pictures on social media and are all excited. The Ragi and Tuwar are flowering, butterflies are visiting, and the beans are ready. Between text messages , Roshni and I are wondering if we can encourage the kids to pluck the beans and get them to taste them raw at the farm itself. A rare treat from an organic farm sort of behaviour.
While we are busy mulling over this, news comes in that Vasantha and Sammitha have already gone ahead in enthusiasm and plucked all the beans that were ready! They show it to everyone, even the kids... almost 2 kgs of produce!!!
It is hilarious as I try imagining this hardworking duo - all on their own - in this hot forenoon sun ,harvesting beans themselves. We argue in jest- "we also wanted to go and pluck beans- hope you left some for us?!!" but their enthusiasm comes in handy. Next day is community lunch and there is no Ragi dish this time on the menu. The school is just coming back to its rhythm after the trips and having fresh beans to cook is a blessing.
And so, the kids ended up having delicious beans palya for their community lunch.
Farm to Table anyone?
It was the first week of October. The 'Gandhi week' so to speak. What better way to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti that falls on October 2nd than to discuss Gandhi's ideas on school education?! Nai Talim. The Ragi Project in one way is the New/ Nai, Nai Talim- an attempt to reinvent Gandhi's core ideas for our times.
Before we harvested the crop, we wanted classes other than class 4, 5, and 6 to visit the farm. In projects like this where we explore the connect between schooling and society there is a whole lot that we can do with senior kids. They can be nurtured into being young change agents and the school can serve as a learning centre ( in this case, for anyone interested in organic farming) .
Imagine if older kids form a club and help nearby farmers by testing their soil? Or suggest ways to enhance soil quality? Prepare and offer their school made Jeevamruta? Write downloadable content around how to farm ecologically? Build their own seed bank?
There is so much more scope and so many skills to learn in these small scale community projects that the senior students can lead.
Sujit, my senior colleague at the University, keeps egging me on to rethink schooling and often points me to that famous Bernard Shaw's quote, "You see things , and say why ? But I dream things that never were , and I say why not ? "
Yes! why not?!!! :)
Anyways to come back to what we have now; the school has its own rhythm and timetable. The teachers and kids were all leaving on their annual trips for different places on the weekend (some even before). Yet, Reena and Rachita managed to take some time out and convert their history lesson for class 9 to a lesson around 'Aims of education'. It tied in well as these students were also about to visit a NGO run tribal school in Orissa as part of their annual trip.
They also encouraged these senior kids to interview 5 students involved in growing Ragi to understand how the Ragi farming project helped them in their studies/education. The class together came up with a questionnaire for the same .
Later I overheard a few interview answers and found this peer to peer evaluation fascinating. What a great idea that was! Reena asked me in later weeks to come speak to these kids in the classroom on the 'why' of the project and we ended up talking about all kind of things related to ecology of food. I was pleasantly surprised to find many kids talking about the presence of millets and red rice in their everyday diets! I later reflected on this classroom discussion in my own classroom with the undergraduates and felt how deeply political is this act of growing your own food which has a low carbon footprint . Gandhi! the champion of subversive politics? !