As part of our service initiative, Sharat Kumar, a market researcher and analyst at Yuvabe, volunteers as an EVS teacher at Auroville’s outreach school, Isai Ambalam. Our teaching volunteers always aim to bring as much practical learning to our students as possible and as an Environmental Science teacher, Sharat feels it is important that students are taken on frequent field trips to inculcate in them an appreciation of and connection with the natural world around them.
Recently, he along with Praveen, a UX Designer at Yuvabe, who also volunteers as a STEM teacher in Udavi School, took the students grade 4th to 8th of Isai Ambalam School to the Panai Kanavu or ‘Palm Dream’ festival in Panangadu, Villupuram, one hour away from Auroville.
The two-day palm festival was organized by the Panangaadu Trust, to celebrate the Palm tree and raise awareness about its importance. The palm is the state tree of Tamil Nadu. All around Auroville, one can spot the palm tree, growing tall and strong, lining the rivers, the seas, and dotting the landscape. Our teaching volunteers wanted the young students to be re-introduced to the wonderful native tree whose importance might slowly be getting forgotten.
As more and more land is being cleared off of palm trees for farming purposes, the environmental ramifications can be being felt across the state. The palm trees hold the soil and act as wind barriers during storms and cyclones. As a native, indigenous species, it grows into a strong sturdy tree without much human intervention. They are also shelters and habitats for a vast variety of local bird and animal species. With less palm trees, large parts of the land are losing top soil, there is loss of biodiversity, and it may possibly be lead to a loss in groundwater recharge.
During the festival the students learnt about the importance of indigenous palm tree species and visited stalls showcasing native palm seeds, wild honey, palm sugar, palm jaggery, ice apples and many palm leaf handicrafts. Traditionally in Tamil Nadu, palm leaves have been widely used to create a variety of household goods. On display during the festival were a variety of such handcrafted products and accessories, as well as a palm leaf firecracker, Maavali, show.
After the festival, the students showed interest in making all the palm leaf crafts themselves. Seeing the students enthusiasm, Sharat and Praveen invited two craftspeople from the festival, to hold a week long workshop on palm crafts at Isai Ambalam School. Over the week, students learnt to use this native tree to create all kinds of accessories and decorative items.
Any environmental change starts with education. Through this field trip and workshop, Sharat and Praveen hope to have instilled an appreciation for the palm trees and helped the young students become more connected to their native, natural environment.