A very eventful day. Class 7 kids cooking and rejecting the idea of making one Ragi dish for their community lunch. Ooops! Ashwini came to the rescue and decided to add an extra sweet item accommodating our Ragi mania! This time it was Ragi Panjeeri a 'prasadam' item . I must say roasting large quantities of Ragi is not an easy task! But the end result of good roasted ragi is always yummm. (As a FYI: I learnt from Jalaja a week back about the perils of stomach disorders because of under roasted Ragi )
I saw many kids eyeing the panjiri with suspicion and a few asking for second servings. Can't wait to see the results of the survey conducted by Roshni and Kalyani about Ragi preferences. ;))
Vasantha , Madhu , Laksha and I visited Radha's farm in the morning to get a grip on the actual modalities of farming. Half an acre is no small land and we quickly realised that we won't be able to cultivate on all that land. Laksha has done similar projects before with Srishti School and gave us several useful ideas. Many things got decided such as :
1. We will make three plots and further subdivide them to get 3 class groups working in smaller groups. This is also an excellent way of teaching standard and non standard measurements.We decided to use hands and legs but later Sujit also suggested that we can use sutli/rassi/ twine. Vasantha will arrange for rangoli powder/ sticks/ and twine for marking when we sow next Tuesday.
2. We will sow Ragi in a small area and then transplant it in the three plots at a later stage - according to Laksh this will allow for some hands on excitement and learning around transplantation as opposed to the traditional method of broadcasting seeds.
3. We decided to do mixed cropping -Ragi with legumes/vegetables and marigolds and get children to see why (marigold is a natural pest repellent and legumes improve soil nutrition)
4. In the beginning when the sowing activities are less we will get a group to make a scarecrow. Vinitha is running with this idea and already the kids of class 5 assembled a structure and painted a face. Some discussion of whether it should be a girl or boy also took place ! ;)
There is a lot on the internet about various aspects surrounding the scarecrow : history/ symbolism / culture / mythology . Some good information can be found here:
c. history because its here.
Julia Donaldson -one of my favourite authors- also has a lovely book on this theme that kids can read up on. And then there is 'The Wizard of Oz' , ofcourse !
5. We will use the Poorna garden as a nursery for the farm and encourage children to learn how to transplant marigold and other vegetables. Naveen, another parent who facilitates the school garden and the rain water harvesting, and us will work together on this synergy
6. We have to arrange for Ragi /Tuwar dal seeds - Radha has been buying it from her family farm in Devanahalli but wont be able to arrange for us in this short time- we need 1 KG and Vasantha is willing to explore her own family stock for that ; some garden tools; and compost /wood ash
7. The class 7-8 kids will do the soil test three times. They did it today and then post compost and then post harvest
8. Kids will keep a journal and record other observations too- for example: observation of insects in the soil and researching on who helps the farmer and who doesn't, At Hebbal there is a Government funded research institute of Agriculturally important insects. Perhaps we can pay them a visit to deepen this understanding some time in the year.
9. We decided to use the school rain gauge in the farm and see the rainfall measure. However need to flesh this activity as to when we measure recordings, who measure it and and how. This is a useful website but I think the teachers will know more on this themselves.
10. It is possible to even compare Rice and Ragi water requirements. We still need to figure out how to do this in a practical manner.
After all this discussion of possibilities, kids guided by Laksh did the soil test. We tested for Ph levels, and the Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium(NPK) test) . All the tests showed that the soil had only medium level contents, Laksh said a healthy soil should be high in these elements and when we got back Radha confirmed our finding by saying that she has not been adding any manure to the land for the past two years.
It was fun; but hot and dry and the kids would get interested in other things too- like going after a small beetle; playing around with the garden tools; and err... even throwing sand at each other!
Perhaps we should start next week with making some non negotiable rules for safety especially concerning garden tools and then allow them some time to explore on their own. We also need to remind class 4-5-6 kids to get caps and water when they visit the fields.
Chandru left us stranded due to some misunderstanding (He only dropped us one way in the bus and was waiting for our call to pick us back- none of us had his number etc.) and so we walked back to school. Not a bad walk despite the sun shining above our heads- it took us 10 minutes as the kids knew all the shortcuts and enjoyed running amok a bit. ;)
A really hilarious sight for me was Poorna kids carrying the garden tools on their shoulders and walking on the road leading back to school. The neighbouring school, DPS North, had finished for the day and parents in their cars were coming in to pick up their kids. I got quite a kick in watching this contrast of walking vs driving and the notions of multiple childhoods. See the last picture in this photo set as reference!