Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Hello Himalayas

The International Baccalaureate (IB) learner profile describes a wide range of human capacities and responsibilities that go beyond academic success. They imply a commitment to help all members of the school community learn to respect themselves, others and the world around them. The profile aims to develop learners who are: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.
Having worked with many international schools for their outbound programmes, teachers sometimes struggle to ensure that children imbibe these values. Outbound programme is one such opportunity for students to explore themselves and the values that IB encourages them to have.
Trailblazers organised an adventure programme in the scenic environs of Lower Himalayas for a group of students from MYP 4, 5 and DP in February 2017. Students enjoyed their stay in tents and did wide range of activities including valley crossing, jummaring, bridge slithering, hiking, kayaking, local village interaction and rafting. The teachers on this programme ensured that students were away from technology for four days and that made all the difference.  Away from their gadgets, it was nice to see students communicating with each other, playing and observing. Their evening reflection sessions turned very interesting where Trailblazers experts gently nudged the students to reflect and introspect on the day’s activities through discussions, sketches and writing down their thoughts about their experience.
Trailblazers wishes that more schools would undertake such focused outdoor programmes instead of visiting ten places in four days under the garb of ‘Educational tours.’ A focused outdoor programme can be designed to give more meaningful experiences and specific learning outcomes for our young generation. Do email us on to design an outdoor programme for your school.

Friday, 30 June 2017

On the Brink - The Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti)

The Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti) is a small 23 cm owlet endemic to Central India. This species was once known to be almost extinct until recent sighting in the forest of Central India in Melghat in 1997. Regular sightings of this owlet are documented from Melghat near Nagpur, Tansa near Mumbai, Nashik and Toranmal regions in Maharashtra and some parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states. It is listed as Schedule I species of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972, the highest protection possible for an owl species in India. This is also listed as Critically Endangered in IUCN Red List and also listed under CITES Appendix I.
The owlet prefers deciduous forest habitat especially dominated by teak trees. They are mostly diurnal but active during early morning and late evening hours. Due to its shy nature, these owlets are quite difficult to be sighted and generally they go unrecorded. An estimated global population of this species is 300-400 all around Central India. The threats to this species include habitat destruction, cutting of teak wood for commercial purpose and forest fires. Conservation efforts include an awareness and education programme among villagers on the significance of saving the forest owlet, avoiding forest fires and saving teak forests.
Photo courtesy: Rajneesh Suvarna
On the Brink is our regular column on endangered species in Ecotrail our bimonthly magazine on Environment and Education Visit

Friday, 16 December 2016

Blowing in the Wind....

So many questions and we are looking all around…….. the answer my friend…. is blowing in the wind. Last month the Nobel Committee on literature in Sweden awarded the Nobel prize for literature to the uncivil but iconic figure of the 21st century, Bob Dylan. A rebel with many causes. Bob Dylan came by at a unique time where the world was undergoing changes. Industrial revolution was taking shape in Europe and America.The world was just about settling down after being battered by two world wars and the first use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The world was broadly drawn apart by two primary political ideologies. The Communist thought, practiced and led by Russia and China, large parts of Eastern Europe, many Latin American countries besides many African and Asia countries and the other called themselves Free world democracies where the people decided who would lead them through elections like Western Europe, India, Japan, USA, Australia etc. The world was bipolar one led by Russia and the other by America. Two bloody wars for world primacy was being fought in Vietnam & Cambodia and the other in Korea by USA and Soviet Union. The youth in Europe and America took up cudgels with the then government, against the war which was not connected to them- and the Rock & Roll culture was born. The youth world over did not want to fight battles. They wanted love and peace thereby the famous sign of Peace, love etc. Hippie culture was on the rise as a sign against any form of rules which were seen by the youth as unjust laws, be it in schools, university or work place. “Woodstock” a rock show over three days still remains a milestone in the growing liberal movement. Drugs, smoking, rock music, modern art, free love and political opposition was the norm. Hijacks, Police brutality and army excess anywhere in the world was rebelled against. One such rebel was Bob Dylan. There will be many a debate on nominating and awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel prize. Was it appropriate, mainly from Purists, who will readily acclaim García Márquez or Salman Rushdie or Rabindranath Tagore as worthy of such a prize. The truth is Bob Dylan is an amazing poet and musician who poignantly brought out the pain and suffering of the youth and the inequalities that existed then. He constantly was against the establishment forcing them to right their wrong. He spoke about the unjust wars, the mass destruction of forests, the exploitation of labour and pollution. He was intolerant to the world and the United Nations for being tolerant to apartheid in South Africa and the sins of politicians. He expressed love for all humanity in his writing and practiced in his life. His famous song and lilting lyrics of “Blowing in the wind”, “Like a rolling stone”, “Knocking on heavens door” are a landmark both in music and poetry that connected with the youth of the sixties to the eighties. But they apply to our lives today even more, since the inequalities still exist, planet earth is on self-destruction mode, gender bias, religion, caste and colour divide still exist. Congratulations Bob Dylan on receiving the award and just like you, playing difficult to reach and a truant to the Nobel awards committee who just can’t reach you ……. They should have known better. The answer my friend is Blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind…

Thursday, 15 December 2016

On the Brink - Indian Sarus Crane (Grus antigone antigone)

The Indian Sarus Crane or Grus antigone antigone is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List. It is the only resident breeding crane found in India. It is the state bird of Uttar Pradesh which has the highest concentration of these birds in the world (over 6000 individuals). This crane is native to India, Australia, Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam. It is the tallest flying bird in the world standing 152-156 cm tall with a wingspan of 240 cm. Their nests are constructed on water in natural wetlands or in flooded paddy fields The Indian Sarus Crane is omnivorous, feeding on wide range of food items such as aquatic plants including sedge tubers, rice, seeds and other grains, snails and crustaceans. It is suspected to have suffered a rapid population decline, which is projected to continue, as a result of widespread reductions in the extent and quality of its wetland habitats, the effects of pollutants, agricultural intensification and altered rainfall patterns. Public awareness programmes, creation of Sarus watch groups, protection of wetlands, direct reward for the protection of biodiversity, agricultural areas as multifunctional systems to produce food for humans and retain wildlife, encouraging ecotourism are some of the strategies that have been adopted to save Sarus Cranes. The International Crane Foundation works worldwide to conserve cranes, their ecosystems, watersheds, and their flyways.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

On the Brink

The Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) is a critically endangered bustard species found in two disjunct populations, one in the Indian subcontinent and the other in South East Asia. The former occurs from Uttar Pradesh through the terai of Nepal, to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and to Bangladesh. It has declined dramatically and only survives in small, highly fragmented populations. The size of a large duck it is the only member of the genus Houbaropsis. Its population is estimated to be fewer than 1,000, perhaps as few as 500 adult birds only. The most significant threat to this bird is the loss and alteration of its grassland habitat. Grasslands throughout its range are threatened by conversion to agriculture, overgrazing, heavy flooding, and inappropriate cutting and burning. Poaching continues to be a problem in Southeast Asia. In India, it is protected under Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

Monday, 22 August 2016

Move your Classroom Outdoors

Not more than a century ago an eminent poet Sir Rabindranath Tagore created a storm in Macaulay’s world by taking the classroom “Outdoors”. This happened in Bengal at Shantiniketan and the story goes on. The only replication of it is done by Trailblazers which calls itself “The Outdoor School”. Last year when we concluded another stunning outdoor workshop series on Environment, for over 500 B.Ed. students, I had asked if they had any question - a young girl got up and said she had a prediction.

I was not sure what was coming. She said she wanted to join Trailblazers and then she predicted that the schools of the future would be such, which was being addressed by Trailblazers at the outdoor workshop! That the classroom will move outdoors. That there will be no rooms suffixed to class!

The thought  led me to think  and I wondered why should classrooms be fenced off by walls, in a way fencing off children’s minds. My team of outdoor teachers and me, have been successfully conducting classes, teaching Chemistry, Physics, Math, Statistics, Environment, Economics, Wild life, History, Geography, Sociology, all in the outdoors. The sky is our roof, earth our playground and nature our biggest teacher. What more can one ask for? These have all been truly remarkable experiences for all the accompanying school teachers, students and us. The idea is worth taking ahead.

What outdoor learning does is to fundamentally gear the senses in action thereby making the process of learning stronger. It also makes the children ask questions which sharpens the enquiry process. Many put up hypothesis and see if that applies and works thereby getting a chance to construct an idea and see its results. Many just observe and many still are dreaming. Outdoor learning evokes curiosity and wonder in children. The more fresh air they breathe, the more they play in mud, the more they dance in the rain, they become independent thinkers. These are just some of the several obvious benefits. There are different pedagogies to help them learn.

Nature in front of you is your living laboratory. It is your art class, it has History to tell you and you need not even change your geography! The light and heat have a story in Physics, the soil and water, Chemistry. You look up and see the birds fly and you look down on the carpet of grass, you sit down, you’ve just got Botany and Zoology covered. Bored? Let’s play football or meditate, do yoga! Want to do Math, the Fibonacci sequence is there to see in the way the floral designs are laid out or even in the curve of a seashell! Sociology is observing the people, for Economics you just visit the local market and in India, Political Science is everywhere. Artists take inspiration from the sunrise, Literature is inspired by emotions all around and the fragrance of the wet mud and flowers in the outdoors makes the possibilities heady!
Trailblazers, The Outdoor School’s admissions are open… join our Camp.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Why are we worse of today then yesterday?

Sometimes we need to call to attention the amount of funds , human power and resources es are being used by hundreds of thousands of organisation to alleviate the down trodden and the marginalised.
There is a need for a global audit. You see it every where the United Nations, Asian development, European Union, Red cross, green crescent, every national government Like in India we have the NAREGA like schemes and hundreds more under different heads of health, food, shelter, education, women welfare, environment,legal aid, medicine sans borders  etc.Then we have similar funds available under the state government and the district level and Zilla Pradesh level. This is similar in almost every country as almost all these nations were under the European rule except for countries ruled by dictators. 

Then you have funding from large NGO international and national and local , then there are religious organisations funding at the international , national and local level and then there are do gooders. In India now we have the Corporate Social Responsibility  funds from the corp orate houses. 

Any natural clalmity and you have billions relased by USA, European union, United nations not orgetting the various National and state funding and the donations collected in the name of the calamity. 

The total funds available for all causes year after year  even if given to the right government body or distributed to the target audience the target audience would all be living in villas and driving a Peugeot if not a Mercedes Benz. 

I just want to know the math and understand the economics and politics of this do gooding business a part of which I am too.

My simple question to myself and my foundation is why are the numbers suffering or issues or events not even reducing forget the increase. Is it that globally the strife is increasing, Economist say that the rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. Sounds all good for the speaker but I heard this same argument put forth by my Dad nearly 30 years ago. So nothing seems to have changed. Or is this all a smoke screen for something larger. The moment the government introduced CSR the number of NGOs have increased 100 fold. The same companies who we went to begging for support have now come with a complicated system to release funds and now want all sorts of documentary proof. Intent to do good is not good enough. documentary and physical proof is required. But all are chipping in all the same and good handsome amount and therefore the increase in registering the NGO.

Today there is more funds, more specialised people more do gooders and even then there are questions in my mind. This is just another money making and distribution scheme where employment is generated enough number of people are travelling for conference, seminars, even more are doing data collection, and still more are analysing the data and then all come together in numerous fora to tell us that we are all worse of today then we were yesterday, and that enough funding is not there. Almost all ministries in the government of India are dishing out huge amount of money for the alleviation of all the malaise. Even so farmers are commiting suicide. The math just does not add up.

But the moot point is why is the world even today worse of than yesterday?