Students of a school in Behala have been helping in growing vegetables on the terrace of their institution, hands-on training of what they read in textbooks.
The girls at Children’s Welfare Association High School for Girls (HS) grow seasonal vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, mushroom.
The produce is used to prepare vegetables for their midday meal at least once a week.
Many of the girls come from low-income families and their school is trying to teach them organic farming and the importance of sustainability beyond classroom teaching and textbooks.
The girls plant, water, dig the soil and also give manure to see the vegetables grow.
Class IX student Supriya Mondal said that initially she did not know how to dig the soil. “I would see my seniors do it but now I can do it and also teach to my juniors,” said the teenager.
Students from Classes V to XII are engaged in this project. “It all started when we wanted to give them fresh vegetables to eat. Since we have many students we are not able to give them farm-fresh vegetables more than once a week. However, this terrace garden has become an important source of learning for them,” said Sarbari Sengupta, headmistress of the state-affiliated school.
In another rooftop, the school grows water lilies and lotuses and the girls had been given the responsibility of finding out the names of the varieties and create tags.
Sengupta said her girls were learning to love and appreciate nature by coming “close to nature “ and understanding that the earth is for everybody and each one is part of the ecosystem.
The lesson does not end with growing plants but also by doing rainwater harvesting and using it to water the plants.
They also have a compost pit. “The leftover from our meal every day goes into the compost pit,” said Noshin Nauwar Khatoon, a student of Class IX.
Green activists said there was no better way to make children more conscious of protecting the environment but to engage them directly.
“When they grow vegetables they start believing there is magic in their hands and they would go all out to keep planting and growing. Such activities go a long way in creating green agents,” said Ramesh Chandran, founder of an organisation that works for the environment and engages schoolchildren