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? !
Yaayyyy, The Ragi has sprouted! The kids first spotted it and I was sligtly envious- I wanted to sight it first! , "I am bending closer to the plant, Pallavi" ! said an eleven year old who was helping weed and mulch! True, true , kiddo!. And am so proud ! Roshni tells me there were groans and moans a day before when she announced the plans to go to the farm the next day. We didn't give them a choice this time and took them all. We made some quick plans and roped in Swetha to do an hour of art with the kids. Could they sketch something? Could they make some postcards? Let's do a postcard from the farm workshop! Last minute message to parents to send a reminder for pencils and clipboards; I had some extra art paper; Swetha said yes and we all got excited. Apart from this our one hour work was cut out: we had to set up the scarecrows too; weed or not weed(!) and apply Jeevamruta.
The farm looked lovely and green. And now the scarecrows are up , the ragi is sprouting, the tuwar /arhar plants stand tall, and the heart is full. We made it so far! And we'll make it to the harvest!
I had been having on and off conversations with Indira at the university about the project. In one such, I was letting Indira know about plans in school to make the liquid organic manure called Jeevamrutam and apply it on the farm land. Indira also had the know how and was willing to help out . She also hadn’t visited the farm till now so we decided to have her this Wednesday .
Laksh had suggested we weed out some of the grass growing in between the rows. There were some weeds growing around Tuwar too and we would have liked older kids getting their hands on to cutting and sorting the tall grass and bushes. This time, Indira, Vasantha , and Samhitha joined class 6 students. The sun was harsh and the soil wasn’t soft. But we spread around and pulled out the bunches of grass by hand. Of course we had to explain what needed to be pulled out first! The older kids (class 9) learning the home science subject on that day also joined us. It was their first time at the farm. And so I found myself repeating some basic instructions- walk barefoot if you can, walk around the plants, look where you step, you are crushing that Ragi plant! come on, talk less -work more!, use your hands - it is okay to get them dirty etc etc Phew… who knew that working with smaller kids was err…. faster and errr… easier? ;)))
There was some confusion about leaving the weeds in or not - should we have let the weeds grow along side? We discussed natural farming methods amongst us with indira telling us some permaculture principles but then we decided to farm one way this time. However we used the weeded out grass to mulch around the ragi plants to trap the moisture.
We decided to measure the tallest ragi plant but had forgotten to bring the scale so used a long stick instead. Again, we didn’t work around creating space and procedures around recording our observations systematically in a notebook. This has been a glaring gap since the project has started and none of us are able to find the time and space to crack this.
(Alongside this project, the class 7/8 kids of Poorna are involved in the Daily Dump project of growing food under the Hebbal flyover. I often see the clear instructions and clear expectations given to the kids and feel that this is how we should have run the project. Ours seems to be a dynamic one- ever changing-- ! ):)
Indira before heading back to school asked the children to gather around and asked them about what they observed. At first stating the obvious- ragi/beans/ soil/farm, slowly the kids started sharing interesting things that they observed. One had observed 6 different types of insects; one had observed a strange looking flower on the weeds, etc etc.
I thought it was a good idea to get a wrap up before the kids head back to school- something we should also start doing more.
Later Indira sent me a nice link about some perspective around weeding ,
"No weeding means that weeds are not removed either by herbicides or by cultivation. Fukuoka observed that weeds play an important part in the building of soil fertility and in balancing the biological community. So control, rather than elimination is the approach used in Fukuoka farming. This involves using straw mulch, a ground cover of white clover inter-planted with the crops, and also temporarily flooding his fields to effectively control weeds." from the link http://www.wildernesscollege.com/fukuoka-farming.html explaining Fukuoka farming principles.
Indira then met us all at school and we discussed possible new goal posts around the project. Some of them include:
We let a week go by after transplanting since the rain gods had smiled at us and every other day it was a rainy evening,
We visited the farm with some compost that Vasantha arranged for us from FRLHT , Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions ( http://envis.frlht.org/frlht.php) and decided to give our little plants an organic boost.
We line up near the main gate right before we go to the farm. While the children line up, the teachers run around collecting our equipment- tools, bucket and usually each other. We should get better and better at this but somehow we don't .
There were some groans and "oh nos!" from some of the kids. 3-4 boys of Class 6 had revolted earlier as well and said they didn't want to come. We decided to give the kids who felt "feverish" and "had sudden stomach aches" an option and stay back but do something constructive with their time. I quipped - let's make them do 20 Maths word problems!
To both actions- Indira, my colleague at APU and the founder of the school , had something to say when I later discussed this with her. She hinted that we should have more time to talk it out with children who refuse to participate in a school activity before we take their 'Nos' at face value and she chided me about demonising Maths as an inferior /harder alternative. hmmm.
Laksh was able to come this time. The farm looked happy and green. The adjoining space also had got tilled (by the tractor) and Ragi and beans were sown by a seasoned farmer that Radha had contracted her land to. We had to walk with care around the plot and leave our shoes behind. He was amused at our efforts and was enthusiastic to talk with us about the varieties of Ragi seeds. Jalaja decided to ask him to come to school and talk to us about his farming experience. She also quickly noted down the cost of farming conventionally which I thought was very useful for our future discussions( the tractor/ the seeds/ urea/ water /labour)
Together we all mixed the compost with the soil (the kids were very enthusiastic about the mix) and filled smaller buckets . We used hands to shovel some of the mix and spread it around the plants row by row. After Seena's intervention, we always stop and look more carefully at the diverse insect population that plays peekaboo with us. All this took us less than an hour to do so. We decided not to water this time as the rains were plenty and also as Radha and Laksh both reassured us- "Ragi doesn't need too much water. Now it will survive!"
As I walked back with Laksh while the students and teachers went to school , Laksh confessed, " I didn't think you guys would make it so far. I doubted the seed quality, your watering was erratic, and the soil needed nutrients. But look at the farm now! Now it will grow and you will surely harvest some Ragi!" And then he went on to mention: "The teachers in the group knew what they were doing.. You didn't need me at all actually!" Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!
Again, I remembered Narayan Reddy's words to Roshni over the phone which were something like -- 'you are doing it all wrong but may God be with you! '
When we had returned from transplanting last week , random conversations in the staff room were about the rural-urban divide. Madhu had poignantly remarked, " Never in my 26 years of existence , somebody even mentioned to me that agriculture is important.. my success in life was all about getting away from my rural farmer identity... "
Sreeja remembered how practices like releasing ducks in paddy were common in her farm when she was growing up, The connections between this gift economy- pastoral communities letting loose their ducks in villagers farms in exchange of a few days of shelter benefited all- their dung added free compost; the ducks got to eat worms, and the farmers' children got duck eggs to eat and if they were lucky got to keep a duckling or two who had strayed behind !
These gently ways then are only romantic ideas now. Or are they? Can we not take the good of the past based on gentle , frugal, sustainable lifestyles and reinvent it in these times? If you have watched "The Story of Stuff", http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/ you might remember the hope that the anchor, Annie Leonard, gives at the end...
"Some people say it’s unrealistic, idealistic, that it can’t happen. But I say the ones who are unrealistic are those that want to continue on the old path. That’s dreaming. Remember that old way didn’t just happen by itself. It’s not like gravity that we just gotta live with. People created it. And we’re people too. So let’s create something new."
I am not alone in this world .
You are bound to me and I am to you.
I am also bound to the people in my community .
And we are linked to each neighbouring community
Together we form the world
Like oceanic circles , or the rooting branches of the great banyan tree .
We are all bound to each other and to the land.
Therefore , the sweetness you pour into our relationship will nourish my life.
Just as the bitterness I spill will harm your life.
We are under one sky .
We breathe a common air.
We draw water from a common ground.
We eat the produce of the same earth that sustains you and me
We are all the children of Mother Earth
This give and take ties us together in a net of mutuality
This is called Anubandh
Let us acknowledge this bond between us
The world is sustained by the sum of all our correlated actions.
This beautiful piece by Ela Bhatt is on the back cover of her new book , "Anubandh, Building hundred mile communities ", 2015 . I received it on email via my university colleague , when I came back to school after an exhilarating morning of transplanting Ragi.
These words put all our emotions in context. It had been a difficult week planning for the transplantation. We needed more time and we were worried we won't manage with the given timetable. We needed all hands on deck and were worried we will not have all the support we wanted. It had been raining on and off and the ground had some moisture. But we needed to make sure it was wet enough so we could transplant by hand. How do we do it? Will Vasantha get time to water the land a day before? Where will the water come from? Will it rain the day after ? The whatsapp group messages were not flowing fast enough to make decisions. And whatever I read on the internet was not giving me hope. I read up on ecological ways of transplanting and found we had done nothing right! :(
I tried asking around but everyone had more information about transplanting Paddy over Ragi. Do we need to till the land? Do we need to water it first? Everyone had differing opinions and my heart was sinking with each piece of well meaning advice.
A call to the school principal, Banu, the weekend before helped in securing a chunk of time (half a day ) for transplanting. But this small victory came at a cost . That very Wednesday when the school agreed, Laksh, our farming consultant , said he couldn't make it! Oh No! With Laksh away this seemed tougher!
The teachers had a meeting a day before and one of them strongly felt we weren't prepared enough to transplant ; dipping our morale even further. At night when Roshni and I exchanged messages, we were surely nervous . But then we thought, how bad can it be??!! The worst case: we will do it all wrong and the Ragi wouldn't grow. And then we had so many teachers amongst us who were daughters of farmers. Again, how bad could it be?
With this new found courage and hope, I got into the school bus on Wedneday morning. We had divided our duties. We had to get seeds of marigold and beans to inter crop ; we had to pick up the school nursery saplings; , we had to arrange for water and wet the land before hand. We needed a team to pull out the saplings and a team to transplant. We needed a team to make rows and holes in the ground at equal distances. We needed monitors, facilitators and workers. And of course the photographers! ;)
Vasantha had paid a tanker and watered the plots the evening before so the soil was usefully wet. Roshni had invited extra hands- volunteers from parents and we had three extra set of hands. Sreeja , Madhu, and Jalaja were given duties to pull the Ragi saplings out. Sreeja had an interesting rhythm to pull the saplings out and soon little bunches of ragi plants were sitting pretty behind them. Sharief helped in making rows and kids helped him in drawing lines by the garden plough. Ashwini and Vasantha demonstrated and monitored the planting.
It was action from the word "Go". The soil was soft. The spirits were high. And row after row the plots transformed into lines of green proud standing plants.
At some point, Roshni exclaimed to her class: "Alpha, look behind you- look how your plot is shaping up!" All the kids were like worker bees. Busy, bending their bodies close to the land. touching the soil, and walking barefoot around rows. It was a heart touching sight. We were all in it together and were so close to nature, touching it, turning it, patting it, and shrieking every now and then if we spotted a farmer friendly insect!
The clouds covered the sun, the cool wind blew and within 3 hours we had 3 proud plots of Ragi saplings!
Came back to school and found Ragi payasam on the menu :)
Came back home and the skies opened. :)
We had been planning to visit Narayan Reddy's farm for weeks ever since Laksh (Agastya Foundation) told us about the ecological ways with which this 82 year old farmer grows food and takes care of his farm soil. Before requesting him to visit his farm in Srinivaspura we read about him and saw his interviews online to arm ourselves with information around natural farming. Here are links to some nice information around him: The short video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BqUXLsWkL4&t=206s and the newspaper article about him: http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/views/a-farmer-called-narayana-reddy/articleshow/59223419.cms?
When Roshni called him to request for a visit, he was excited to know that school kids were growing Ragi but said we had sowed too early! ("Now is the season" and then he said kindly, "I hope god will help you"! Words of faith that will come to reassure us many times later.
With this reassurance and with a bit of excitement we were all looking forward to meeting this wise old tatha! Vasantha and Jalaja took pictures of our farm with them to show him. We decided we will not coerce all kids to attend- only those who wanted to. Over 25 kids from 3 classes signed up. Two parents asked to join and they did. School teachers (Roshni, Jalaja, Vasantha, Sreeja, Reena, Madhu) and Sumathi and I - we all got ready on Saturday morning for the ride. It was a beautiful Bangalore morning - the harsh sun had gone down and it had rained the night before. With help from Googlemaps and phone calls back and forth, we managed to reach his farm in the bus arranged by the school.
We disembarked on the main road and walked on a kaccha path - just a short walk fbut very rejuvenating after sitting in the city traffic for an hour or so.
Narayan Reddy's farm greeted us with moos , baas, and quacks. The cattle shed right up in front yard and ducklings and goats were very nonchalant to this little group of visitors. perhaps used to many visitors!
He offered the kids the visitor rooms on the farm for a wash and asked them to gather around him under a shady tree. We saw avacados around us and were very tempted but sat still quietly to listen to him (under his instructions- wow, a rare experience for Poorna kids!!!). He spoke for about 45 minutes in Kannada and English and he basically told us the following:
1. Grow your own food and eat local as much as possible
2. Don't listen to the agriculture experts sitting in universities. Observe nature closely and learn from nature.
3. Keep your soil covered. Use tree cover to protect upto 72 nutrients (not only NPK!) that the soil has.
4. Don't till the soil deep. Tractors spoil 50 years of free labour that the earthworm has done for your farm. Many hands went up to ask about insects as soon as he relaxed his hold on a monologue and the Boochi talk by kids and questions came tumbling out. Seena's experience with kids had definitely piqued their interest about the whole food chain and role of insects in the soil!
5. An acre should have atleast 120 fruit trees! Trees bring rain and make the soil fertile. (Oh no! We all thought about our barren Ragi farm as he spoke!)
6. Each gram of healthy soil can accommodate one million microorganisms. Our whole effort should be to make the top soil healthy.
7. Multi crop! Don't go after mono cropping. In his farm later when we walked around, we saw fruit trees, cotton, chikoo, avacado, coconut, sitaphal, ramphal, pepper, cattle feed, hulisappu, guavas, all growing in harmony with each other.
After that he took us for a walk in his farm and like a gentle ajoba/ grandfather/tatha/ he allowed the kids to pick on the guavas and encouraged us to pluck huli sappu. We all had our laps full of this and came back to a simple lunch. Narayan Reddy himself served a piece or two of jackfruit to each kid and I heard him say to kids who had protested, It is good for you,don't say no to good healthy things .
As the day ended and we walked back, we saw the adjacent fields getting ready for sowing,The farm labour was spreading urea and tilling their land with tractors. What a pity. to not use the wealth of information on ecological farming next door !
Here is the day in pictures:
Oh! what a day! what a day! A part of last week was spent frantically figuring out who could come help us with identifying insects on the farm. I spread the word on my Facebook page and got a few names but actually I should have just explored my ATREE connections first. By Sunday, we had Seena! A friend who is also an entomologist with ATREE and an expert on dung beetles. Here is more about her work( http://www.atree.org/user/100)
Roshni and I designed and quickly put up a poster by Monday- 2 days before the visit and Roshni and Jalaja drummed up the excitement and energy level amongst the kids.
As usual , every farm visit, before 9 AM we scramble for last minute arrangements. The buses get in by 8:30 and the rest of the half hour is spent collecting items to carry. Everyone runs around and I keep observing how hard teachers work to make sure things move. Once in a while we should all sit down and congratulate ourselves on keeping things together and still having sane minds!
Anyhow, we are getting better at this and in this trip we had almost everything we needed.
We only had class 5 kids with us. Laksh decided to stay back this week and Roshni, Sreeja, Seena and I reached the farm by 9 AM. We had an hour, lots of enthusiasm, and some gardening tools, and plastic buckets for watering with us. Seena had carried vials with spirits, her sweepnets for a show and tell with kids, a small spade, and forceps. I had briefed her on what the visit would be about. Largely focusing on role of insects in a farm and indirectly in our lives.
Seena gets introduced on the way to the farm, but the kids already know thanks to the poster and Roshni informing them. Seena asks what all they have observed already on the farm- termites, ants, beetle . As if on cue a beetle appears digging its way through on the sand and Seena bends down to pick one up and show the kids. What do they see? where are its wings? what is it preying on? who eats the beetle? the role of food chain?
Then Seena sends the kids on different trails in groups offering her equipment of Petri dish, forceps and telling them where to look and what to look for. every other minute we heard shouts of "I found something! ", "Come , Seena, take a look" from groups of children. We saw several kinds of beetles, earthworms, shirt horned grasshoppers and even spiders.
It was fantastic! The kids went from "ewww", to "soooo cute", to "awesome" in the beginning to searching for them under rocks and in dung cakes, learning the names of the species, holding them with care, capturing them to observe and marvelling at their role in nature. All in one hour!
Seena generously gave away her spirit filled vials to kids to take back some of the insects.
Roshni had already thought how this learning will get documented in class. She got them to write and draw their observations.
Seena later helps me list down all what the kids discovered and saw:
1) 5 types of butterflies: Common Jezebel, Common Rose, Crimson Rose, Lesser Glass Blue and Tawny Coster
2) Two species of Ground beetle (Family: Carabidae including the yellow and black beetle that was collected)-
3) Darkling beetle (Family: Tenebrionidae)- Many individuals of 2 species.
4) Tiny wasp carrying a moth larva - who dropped his larva when we crowded around it.
5) Two species of short horned grasshoppers
6) Four species of ants and a trail of ants carrying larvae
9) Hairy caterpillar of a moth
10 ) Three species of millipedes
11) Four species of spiders
12) A dwarf honey bee
13) A mating pair of robberfly. They were flying together from leaf to leaf!
14) And the Mexican beetle ; also called the invasive beetle , introduced to India from Mexico for the biological control of the invasive weed Parthenium
I couldn't stay back in school to sample the Ragi Ladoos cooked in the community lunch. But kudos to Ashwini and Jalaja who held the fort on ragi dishes! I only got to feast on the picture! But I hear they were YUMMM.
The kids of class 5 have been asking Roshni about why we are doing Ragi and how little of farming are they actually doing. A seed here, a hole punch there, some digging, a bit of watering and that's all. Worrying about this lack of razzmatazz in farming and the lull in a group activity, I got down the school bus on Wednesday slightly apprehensive about what the day would bring. Not to mention , it continues to be very bright and sunny . Not a cloud in sight.
But, to my delight, the next one hour turns out to be very engaging. Sreeja, Vasantha, Indu, Jalaja, Roshni, and Ashwini come along. We bring over the leaves that Vasantha has stored at school the night before ( Neem and Pongamia leaves (honge in kannada- which have a very sweet smell) in the school bus and gather at the farm to MULCH.
Vasantha explains why we mulch- to improve soil nutrition and retain water. Here is some more detail on why and how we mulch: https://permaculturenews.org/2016/01/22/mulching-with-purpose-and-precision/.
An excerpt : "Mulching is a top priority for a healthy garden. It does so much work that it’s hard to oversell the importance. A proper mulch maintains the integrity of the soil beneath it, protecting the earth from drying out under the sun and/or washing away when the rains come and/or blowing away in the wind. It creates water retention, mulched gardens credited with requiring as little as ten percent of the watering that other gardens do. Mulching prevents weeds, provides habitats for useful insects and microorganisms, and moderates soil temperatures. The right type even feeds the soil as it decomposes. In other words, it’s a good idea."
We discuss the lack of rain. And what people/ governments do to entice rain( sing songs/ pray/ seed clouds!) Later we pick up rain and the lack of it as the month's theme for classroom activities that teachers might do with students.
(Indira later in the week sends me some facts from the recently published newspaper article : http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/news/state/another-drought-year/articleshow/59851744.cms indicating that Karnataka faces a severe water crises in the next few months. We expereince it visually every week when we go to the farm. Laskh reassures me later that Tuwar and Ragi will survive. They are draught resistant, hardy crops . But the farm caretakers are not watering enough.The drip can is not prepped well and so the water woes of being completely dependent on rainfall continue)
Kids have a go at spreading the leaves around the Tuwar plant. Jalaja quips that the care shown to Tuwar more than Ragi makes her think this is the Tuwar project. HAHA! Yes, Ragi looked like a stepchild indeed. It had only grown to 13 cms. -growth measured and quickly noted down by kids in their books.
I looked around to see who was not having fun. I saw kids collecting the seeds from the honge branches and thinking of making a craft out of them. I saw kids making a green tunnel of leaves ably supported by Vasantha and Sreeja; some running to get water to fill in the can, some digging insects out, some making tall claims about kind of insects they or their dads (!) have eaten ; some going ewww about many claims( "I once ate a scorpion, my dad once ate termites etc, etc!")
It wasn't that bad! Everyone was engaged even if it was to trace out the termites and follow the line of ants and being on the farm was nice and open despite it being sunny.
Sreeja and Vasantha have another go at fixing the drip pipe to the water can. the m-seal around the hole still leaks because we didn't give it time to dry. Chandru feels we didn't cut the hole properly. We might have to redo this but for now Sreeja ingenuously decides to make a small tunnel for the leaky water to go. Vasantha volunteers to do it as she lives nearby.
We came back and talked of how hot it was and that the real farmer would never have worked on her field at this time. By this time s/he would be napping after a thindi of ragi mudde and perhaps buttermilk?
This week was also a discussion amongst all of us involved around visiting Narayan Reddy's farm to see how farming can be done ecologically . Laksh had pointed this possibility out and I think it would be good if students can "see " a farm.
All this talk of insects prompts me and Roshni to explore farm based insects as a next week topic. Perhaps only one class can go and we can give others a break.
At lunch time, a quick meeting with the teachers was very very useful to plan a bit for the coming months. Here is what we decided:
1. Vasantha: will refix a new can.
2. Roshni : will check dates for Narayan Reddy’s farm visit ( 5th /12th); also will update notice board with outputs of other classes.
3. Roshni +sreeja: will make a DIY instrument for making music accompanying rain songs
4. Ashwini: tackles her topic on monsoon/ sawan, explains nature/animal/farming through nagapanchmi,. talks a bit about monsoon and limits to diet and prepares two students who will talk about monsoon and limits to Vasantha’s class who will then use this to prepare their rain related performance next month.
5. Madhu will prepare a script for a drama around rain/appeasement to rain god.
6. Jalaja will focus on 2 rain songs or prayer songs for rain- explain context of water woes and farm
7. Madhu will remember to get a " Frog wedding " organised when kids visit her family farm to give a sense of how culture deals with nature , especially rain.
8. Dipika is already doing rain guage so all 3 ragi groups need to get that data and talk abt lack of rain. Maybe Dipika can come and talk in class about her results?
8. Madhu will set up a system whereby we systematically have conversations with kids saround the why of Ragi project.
To me , as a coordinator of this project, this was a fantastic meet! These bright,enthusiastic and very involved teachers coming together to think of ways and what to teach around the theme of food!
Oh, And I almost forgot, Asha's class was cooking and the small kids made Ragi Payasam. Almost like chocolate pudding. Almost. I saw some kids going ewww and some asking for second helpings.