shielarcastillo

Children need trees

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Field work at Chickabompalli, learning from the community. Photo by Shaiju Chacko

An amazing thing (among many!), at least for me, happened during the field work our group had for The Workshop 2015 (19th Praxis Commune for Participatory Development). The facilitators wanted at least each of the four foreign participants to join different groups. I was luckily made part of this awesome group composed of Shaiju, Nidhi, Nancy, Nitin and Afsar. Shaiju proposed for the group to be named Phil-Indies, marrying the names of the two countries represented.

Our focus was Education and we were assigned to a tiny village of 25 families named Chickkabompalli, literally meaning small village. However, arriving there, our plans just quickly flew out the window. We had to listen and sense what we should do. It helped that we established ourselves to the community as learners, so our small, soft, but frantic meetings were perfectly understandable.

I will not completely share everything that happened on that remarkable day, lest I bore you with my fanatic gushing. To sum it up, we did learn a lot from the people. The community was very generous to us, and gracious in accepting whatever misgivings we had as a group of learners.

Anyway, the most unforgettable thing for me, which quickly affirmed what I believed and has been trying to spread to my network is this: children need nature. And in this specific example, they need it in the form of trees. It was my first time to work with kids and I found them intelligent and candid. They knew exactly what they wanted and were quite persuasive about them. They identified 19 indicators of what they think a good school should have, and the top 5 was trees. I was struck by it. It was something that could only come from a child. Parents, as well as teachers and so-called education experts, could never even think or come up with it. For kids, a good school should have trees. Plain and simple.Children know what they want in a school. Photo by Shaiju Chacko

Children know what they want in a school. Photo by Shaiju Chacko

I consider myself a student of Richard Louv on his seminal work on Child and Nature Reunion. Since I read the book Last Child in the Woods several years ago, I have been following his blog and facebook posts. For me, what came from the kids was a clear affirmation of what Richard Louv has been saying all along, coming straight from the mouth of babes. But even better, it came from the real experts, the children who see that trees are important in their life, in their school. As a primary data, what could be valid than that?
They also identified toys as important to have in schools. The parents protested and said there should be no toys in schools but the kids insisted. It was lovely watching the dynamics of that negotiation. But the kids won, and that is another story altogether.
The Field Group Phil-Indies with the beautiful people of Chickabompalli. Photo by Shaiju Chacko

The Field Group Phil-Indies with the beautiful people of Chickabompalli. Photo by Shaiju Chacko

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