Earth Science School 2010

Bhumi Vigyan: Building Community through Love and Laughter

Bhumi Vigyan kicked off on May 31st as children aged 9 - 15 from the farming villages of Jhivan Redi, Ramgarh, and Naya Gaon arrived through the fields, foot paths, and orchards of Bija Vidyapeeth by foot, auto-rickshaw, and cycle. They arrived as willing participants in an experimental learning community (aka summer camp) designed to provide a loving and safe learning environment in which they might view their home, land, and future through a new lens. Beauty is a language, Alice Waters teaches in her Edible Schoolyard programs. Through art, science, spoken word, and friendship we encouraged the children to appreciate simple and sustainable practices intrinsic to village and farming life.

With signature Navdanya style, we drew together and reinvigorated Gandhian philosophy, principles of Earth Democracy, Eco-literacy, and the Young Ecologist Initiative. After introductory games on the first day, the children made notebooks from recycled materials in which to document their journey to come – seed identification games, throwing and spinning pottery with the village potter, pit-composting, planting the rice nursery, a village council-type meeting that represented all members of the natural community and culminated in a ‘Charter of the Living’, and water-testing and analysis. Short assignments such as family tree making, ‘make your own flag’, biodiversity collages, herbal remedies, family recipes, family folk-tales, and reflections were also taken down in the hand-crafted diaries.

Watching the children in a context – the farm -- that was altogether familiar yet foreign – the farm as a classroom -- was fantastic. Infusing the seemingly mundane with novelty was perhaps our group’s biggest achievement as the children brought life and laughter to every activity, whether playing Co-Co tag and listening to forest sounds in the southerly jungle or taking water samples from local hand pumps, wells, and rain gutters for lab analysis. We pushed them to think past the obvious and question notions of ‘progress’. We were often surprised by their knowledge of earth and reverence for the past while at other times stunned at the pervasiveness of consumer culture. The vast majority already had an incredible wealth of agrarian knowledge.

Building community via a sense of place, Waters iterates, is at the heart of sustainability. All in all, we were able to include our neighbors in the Bija Vidyapeeth community and Navdanya family; to plant seeds in young hearts to take paths less traveled on the long road ahead. It will depend on our attentive care to make sure these seeds flourish. And hey, we only filled two small rubbish bins in the course of 5 weeks of frenetic learning. Not Bad.

 Geeta Bhasin

Director, Bhumi Vigyan- Earth Science School 2010 (Navdanya)

Volunteer, Intern, and Activities Coordinator, Bija Vidyapeeth (Navdanya)

 Image Captions:

1. The Children Commander the cycle rickshaw during their lunch break (Photo by Edwin Toone)

2. Folk-Tale and Drawing by Sazid Ansari, Ramgarh, 14 years old

3. Herbs and their uses by Nisha Kumar, Jiva Reddy, 15 years old

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About Navdanya

Navdanya means “nine seeds” (symbolizing protection of biological and cultural diversity) and also the “new gift” (for seed as commons, based on the right to save and share seeds In today’s context of biological and ecological destruction, seed savers are the true givers of seed. This gift or “dana” of Navadhanyas (nine seeds) is the ultimate gift – it is a gift of life, of heritage and continuity. Conserving seed is conserving biodiversity, conserving knowledge of the seed and its utilization, conserving culture, conserving sustainability.

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