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Covid hit zoo visits, virtual not enough, say teachers in Kolkata schools

Have you seen an elephant? Kids say ‘no’

Jhinuk Mazumdar | Published 26.07.22, 05:51 AM
A giraffe with her calf at the Alipore zoo.

A giraffe with her calf at the Alipore zoo.

File picture

Children in pre-primary classes are often taught lessons with references to animals and nature but many of them have never seen a live animal or have no recollection of one after over two years of being confined to their homes, teachers said.

Visits to the zoo were restricted for most of the last two years. A virtual tour is not the same because children do not understand the dimensions of animals — how big an elephant is or how long the neck of a giraffe is, for example, the teachers said.

Family holidays that would give children opportunities to experience nature also took a hit in the last two years.

A kindergarten teacher in a school, while reciting a rhyme, asked her class how many of them had seen an elephant and not many hands were raised.

“When children see something in front of them, they understand its size and are sometimes left awestruck. But on a screen, it is two-dimensional. They do not understand the concept of size,” said Nupur Ghosh, vice principal, Mahadevi Birla World Academy.

Before the pandemic, schools would take children to the zoo or on field trips, all of which were replaced by virtual tours in the last two years.

A kindergarten child asked her mother how an elephant looks.

“I felt bad because I realised I had not taken her to the zoo or a sanctuary in the last 2.5 years. We had gone for a holiday when she visited a zoo but that was when she was two and she has no recollection of it,” said the mother.

Alipore zoo director Asis Kumar Samanta said before the pandemic, during the winter vacation, at least two or three schools would visit the zoo every week.

“Now again we are encouraging children to visit. When children come for visits, we organise activities like sit and draw and essay competitions. We are seeing more students coming in now,” he said.

Teachers said because of the pandemic, even when things started opening up, a section of parents were still afraid their children would contract the virus.

“In a virtual tour, they can neither feel nor touch nor gain any experience... When they go to a zoo they can see how animals are being fed and what they are being fed, all of which is part of a learning experience,” said Pratima Nayar, junior school principal, Calcutta International School.

“In a virtual world, the child is only a viewer and not part of the experience,” she said.

Suman Sood of the Early Childhood Association, a forum of pre-primary schools, said that parents were being encouraged to take children to zoos and parks to enhance their experience of the real world.

“Children learn through senses. Many of them have not seen butterflies or birds in the last two years. We need to initiate live experiences because they soak in what they see,” said Sood, director of BD Memorial.

Last updated on 26.07.22, 05:51 AM
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