Sunday lessons for a group of school students in Cooch Behar, some 700km away from Calcutta, were all about dragging their feet along the soggy fields, getting their hands muddy to sow paddy and learning life lessons which are rare in classrooms in these technology-dominated times.
The Epic Public School in Cooch Behar came up with a rather unique idea to take its students from Classes IV to VII as well as some parents to a paddy field to sow saplings and give the children a hands-on experience of being at one with nature.
“My first-time experience was simply amazing. I enjoyed every moment,” said Anupam Mondal, a Class V student of the school, which follows the CBSE syllabus.
He did not mind not watching his Sunday TV shows or browsing through his mother’s mobile phone for even a moment, the student admitted shyly.
“It was our dream to introduce urban students to life in rural Bengal and also take them close to nature,” said Sanjukta Saha, the principal of the school.
The school has 815 students on their rolls from nursery to Class VII. “Around 100 students from Class IV to VII participated in the event,” said Saha.
The students were taken to Green Clay Organic Farm, owned by the school’s director Biswajit Jha, situated some 3km away from Cooch Behar town.
“Most youngsters are addicted to mobile phones these days. Their eyes are always glued to some screen or the other. Initiatives such as the one on Sunday will help today's children get close to nature,” said Jha.
The experience was exhilarating not just for students but also the teachers and parents, many of whom had also not tried their hand at paddy sowing till date.
Plabana Nandi, a parent who also works at the block development office, said that paddy sowing was a first-time experience for her too. “I had never done this before. We’ve always seen farmers do it. But today (Sunday), I along with my daughter Purba had great fun,” she said.
The sowing exercise started around 9am and carried on for more than one -and-a-half hours where students, parents and teachers sowed two types of paddy; gobindo bhog and tulsi bhog.
It was not just about sowing. Efforts were also made to provide information on paddy and sowing with Dr Rajat Chatterjee, the joint director of the agriculture department, leading the way.
School principal Saha said that efforts should be made to include agriculture in school syllabus complete with practical training.
“Agriculture is an important sector and it would do children a world of good if the government includes such activities in the syllabus,” the principal said.