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Kashmir’s first 'Nature School' opens up in Saffron town Pampore

Post by on Tuesday, August 17, 2021

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In a first of its kind, Kashmir will soon witness “The Nature School '' in a saffron town Pampore.
A unique concept called Nature Education Program, conceived by environmental lawyer and activist Nadeem Qadri, The Nature School has a practical mode of teaching without any involvement of books, pen and paper.
“The concept is to connect the children with nature. Unlike the traditional set up of teaching, here children will be practically taught the meaning of A for Apple by actually giving the fruit in their hands to feel it, eat it and plant its seeds,” Qadri said.
“Similarly, we have brought different types of animals so that if a student for example will be taught R for rabbit, they will actually be going to see real rabbits in the classroom to play with and experience their presence,” he said.
Qadri said the concept was developed after a lot of research involving educational institutes across the globe.
“We shared the idea with organizations like earth.org, century foundation and after a thorough study and discussion on our proposal, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with them,” he said.   
The school, which has a big farm attached to it, is spread on around 50 kanals of land, will have all the types of animals, plants, trees, birds, and moreover all the study material will be related to nature.
“It is a mud school. Everything in it will be organic like for drinking water we have installed a claypot. For matting we are using traditional Wagiw,” Qadri said.
Qadri said they are starting the first batch with 30 students.
“It is a self funded school. We have collaborated with Chinar International Faculty which will be paying the staff,” he said.
However, unlike other schools, there will be no principal or teachers, or grades of classes. It will be a student’s driven institution.
“We have hired only one teacher. Basically she is a lead educator who will be guiding the students. There will be no teacher’s faculty or a principal like in other schools,” Qadri said.
The school has roped in teachers and professors from across the world who will be giving special classes through virtual mode to the students.
“We have brought educationists from England, Saudi Arabia, who will interact with students and teach them about the nature,” Qadri said
“Similarly, for science classes like to learn the process of pollination or water cycle, students will actually be doing it practically rather than studying it from the books,” he said. "Moreover, children will engage in drawing landscapes, waterscapes, and skyscapes which will later be published in leading environment magazines in India."
Qadri said they are planning to build around 10 Nature Schools in the valley with each school having a roll of 30 students.
“We have identified the spot at Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg as of now. The pattern of the teaching will be the same in all the schools,” he said.
There will be no age bar for the admission in the school and all students interested in experiencing nature would be eligible to apply.
“We are receiving a lot of queries. Many parents are excited to enroll their children in the school to give them firsthand experience of nature,” Qadri said. “It is a good beginning”
What Exactly Is The Nature School Concept?
Nature school is an inspiring model that provides an environment in which active learning methods are applied in the forest or outdoors, where all students can develop confidence and self-esteem. The concept of the nature school was coined in the USA in 1927. Then first nature schools were established in Laona, Wabeno and Crandon. In the 1950s, this concept started to appear in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian Peninsula. The first school established in this context in Europe is considered to be Flatau’s Walking Kindergarten. By the 2000s, nature schools were quickly established in Scotland, Ireland and the UK (Dilek, 2019) while establishment of forest schools has gradually gained momentum recently in Turkey and as a result of some initiatives in this area, the philosophy of forest school has begun to spread.
Nature schools are long term programmes within a natural space, lead by a qualified practitioner. They focus on developing personal, social and emotional life skills through learner led, nature-based learning. Each session includes basic learning in counting, alphabet, story-telling, question-answer, ecology, building rudimentary tools, and organised games. Children are taught to interact with elements of a forest and with each other in constructive and conscious ways. They are taught the values of interdependence, mutual respect, confidence through problem-solving, dialogue, and trust. (Emine Bal & Gökhan Kaya 2020).
Learning processes that take place in outside areas such as school playgrounds, meadows, and forests are included in the scope of outdoor education. Outdoor education which is also called education outside the classroom, education out of doors, learning out of doors, outdoor learning, authentic learning in landscapes in the literature refers to an approach directed to learning based on concrete experiences. One of the out-of-class education models that are becoming increasingly popular in today’s world is “Forest School." Forest school is defined as an open-air school where children and young people are engaged in activities in the forest and forest areas and develop their personal, social, and technical skills.
With the forest school emphasis on real-life learning for early years students, which is later supplemented by a wide variety of co-curricular activities including adventure training and expeditions, young people will be prepared not only to engage with a rapidly changing world, but to challenge it and, where necessary, work against conformity to become the potential leaders, entrepreneurs and critical thinkers that the rapidly developing 21st century needs.

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