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Nature clubs show city kids how to get down to earth

Times of India

1383 days ago   Article ID# 678365
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World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

NEW DELHI , INDIA (Times of India) - It's about discovering heaven on earth for kids who venture out of the city and take the dirt track into the wild. And a growing number of NGOs and agencies are making this possible through camps, nature trails and other excursions into the great outdoors. They know an early appreciation of nature will not only sensitise children to vital issues like ecological balance and the value of biodiversity but will make a child's world view that much richer and more inclusive.

Among the city's more active agents in the field is the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). While BNHS does hold regular events at its Hornbill House headquarters in Colaba, its exploration camps conducted at the Conservation Education Centre (CEC) in Goregaon bring kids up close and personal with nature, opening up to them a whole new world of plants, reptiles and birds unknown to the city. The CEC site fringes the 33-acre deciduous jungle of Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Borivli. Popular routines include the conceived Breakfast With Butterflies, which includes a talk on butterflies, specimen viewing, tips on gardening for butterflies, how to attract them with fruit bait, a quiz and butterfly face-painting-all rounded off with a sumptuous breakfast. Apart from weekend hits like this, where parents and kids turn up in strength, there's growing evidence to show that nature has become a popular destination for longer holidays as well. Isaac Kehimkar, General Manager, Programmes, for BNHS says, "There's a growing demand for our family nature holidays to Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia.''

Another biggie in the field is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a pioneer in the country's Nature Clubs of India movement since 1976. With WWF, budding environmentalists can join trained guides for nature trails, habitat analysis, film shows, zoo visits and poster competitions. Children look forward to receiving issues of Panda Bulletin in English or Nisarg Vartta in Marathi, along with discounts on cool WWF products like sleeping bags, T-shirts and key chains. But for children who've glimpsed the wild, the forest experience itself is infinitely cooler. Education officer Goldin Quadros marvels at how instantly seasonal changes in nature get imprinted on young minds. "They are amazingly receptive to the slightest difference in sights and sounds on the forest floor,'' he says.

Sheathed in gloves and gumboots, families also love to get grubby at CampHarit, a 20-acre organic farm at Vikramgadh in Thane district, run by chartered accountant Vinod Harital. The programnme here includes getting down and dirty in the field, planting herbs (they have 150 varieties), sowing seeds, watering plants, de-weeding, gathering organic waste, plucking produce and drying and segregating harvests. The camp also has naturalist experts at hand to point out to children the range of flora and fauna around.

Another friend of nature is the aptly named SPROUTS (Society for Promotion of Research, Outdoors, Urbanity, Training and Social Welfare) which plans periodic trips on local soil, and slightly beyond, to places like Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary near Alibaug. Here kids absorb little known facts about beach and marine fauna, and spot rare giant squirrels and hornbills darting under the green cover of the northern Western Ghats. Outfits like Countryside Outdoors have come up with canny ways of keeping children hooked to the great outdoors for life.

Under the group's Free Spirit plan, historic fort ramparts, over gentle peaks or trekking to niches of the Sahyadri Hills-children are urged to sketch their outings. Winners of imaginative visuals will another round of adventurous excursions-free! And you thought only the city gave out good bargains.

Copyright 2014 Times of India   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1383 days ago   Article ID# 678365

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