Pratistha Agarwal, Research Associate, Department of Biology, Prayoga, Bengaluru
We Need to Create Our New Normal
The new world and the new normal have been the hardest on the kids. Just books and screens - no outside world. Well, as facilitators, it was difficult for us as well.
To not meet kids for such a long time and having them question literally everything in this world. Such curious minds! Personally speaking, this is a therapy session for me.
To beat the misery, we decided to take them on a voyage to the fun land (Not really a voyage though). In between the boring online life, we took the kids for an outing to our very own PIER (Prayoga Institute of Education Research) campus at Ravugodlu. With all the safety measures of course. (But as soon as we were in the lap of nature, all of us took a deep breath, to fill it all in.) Not just an outing, we had a manoeuvre planned for them as well. The kids called it ‘A Mini Project @Ravugodlu’.
The Purpose is to Have Fun
It is a need for us to know more and more about the world we live in, making it all the more important to learn all about what surrounds us within our physical niche. Ergo, we decided to start our venture to cognize all the plant species at PIER campus with the help of 10 Samvida students (Figure 1). How did they help us you wonder? Visiting the campus for years and practically growing up there, they are familiar with the seasonal changes in those plants, how long it takes for the flowers to bloom, how each fruit would taste and how some of those plants can help us. But yeah, we also used an App called ‘PlantNet’. While the kids observed some physical features of the plants and admired the ultimate beauty, PlantNet helped them identify its scientific name, local name and various other features just by capturing an image of a part of the plant like a flower, fruit or leaf. The identification was done in 2 visits to the campus covering different regions.
Figure 1: Students during the activity at the PIER campus. Dr. Venkata Krishna and myself guiding the students at various instants
On a day so hot under the scorching sun, the kids were super enthusiastic for their ‘voyage’. They started out by numerically labelling the plants, noting down their physical features in a pre-formed template and then scanning various parts of plants through the App in groups of two. Throughout the day, we all kept each other’s morale high. The kids shouting “Akka!” for help and queries from all around the field really made my day. On the first day of the visit, students were able to identify a total of 85 plants. By the second visit, this number reached 200.
Some of the Plants that We Captured (Figures 2-5)
Figure 2 Botanical Name: Elaeocarpus grandiflorus Common Name: Lily of the Valley Properties: Ornamental, leaves, flowers, barks medicinal purposes.
Figure 3 Botanical Name: Neolamarckia cadamba Common Name: Leichhardt pine Properties: Edible, ornamental, folk medicine, used to produce silver nanoparticles for surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy.
Figure 4 Botanical Name: Combretum rotundifolium Common Name: Monkey brush vine Properties: Wild climber, medicinally used to alleviate headaches and against bleeding gums.
Figure 5 Botanical Name:Adenanthera pavonina Common Name: Red Lucky Seed Properties: Leguminous tree, fixes nitrogen, ornamental and medicinal purposes such as treating diarrhoea and inflammation with its antimicrobial properties.
What Gateways Do We Try to Unfurl?
Take a moment here and recall the most memorable episode from your school time. I bet it is the one from a school trip or an event. Here is an example of how field trips open learners’ minds to new things since they are multidimensional . I call it the ‘Law of Exuberance’ (Figure 6).
“Energy spent on playing in the scorching heat during a break on a field trip while performing an already exhausting activity is not energy wasted.”
Figure 6: Law of Exuberance: Hence Proved.
Let us walk through it.
This kind of pedagogy provides access to real-world experiences that are not available at school or at home. It ignites critical thinking skills in students through engagement and reflection . Students are inspired to put their classroom knowledge in actual scenarios.
A gain of perspective is gradually instilled within a learner as such an environment promotes cognitive learning . It has also been backed by many researchers that such practices have a deeper impact on learning as it becomes experiential.
A better chance of social encounter among students and the teachers/facilitators. The better a teacher knows a student, the better the guidance they can provide.
Such excursions provide interdisciplinary learning and multimedia experiences, including travel, food arrangements, social skills, technology, nature or whatsoever available.
Ken Robinson, in his engaging TED talk, ‘How to Escape Education’s Death Valley', says: “If you sit kids down, hour after hour, doing low-grade clerical work, don’t be surprised if they start to fidget.” 
As researchers, it gives us big-time opportunity to explore student learning patterns and behaviour. Speaking of this particular project, we now have a huge pool of (known) plant species at our very own campus. All the more advantage, now we can just go to the backyard and seek what breakthrough it has in store for us.
Inspired by Alon and Tal’s  work, we asked the students to summarize their experience in their own words.
Sachin: I liked the project very much as we learnt using PlantNet software, how to identify leaf characteristics and how to methodically tackle a problem.
Pranav: The activity helped me in knowing a variety of plants and their features. The atmosphere in Ravugodlu was conducive, and studying plants in Ravugodlu was overall a wonderful experience.
Varnika: Amazing! There are lots of different plants at the PIER campus. To be frank, I did not know so much about all those plants earlier. And, the best part was using smartphones and the software. Thank you Prayoga!
Chinmaya: We had a project regarding identifying the plants at Ravugodlu. We identified almost all the plants at the Ravugodlu campus. It was a wonderful experience. I learnt about the characteristics of plants and trees like leaf shape, leaf type and how to identify them. I also learnt how to identify the plants using the PlantNet app. Overall, I learnt a lot during this project.
N. Orion, A Hofstein, The Measurement of Students’ Attitudes Towards Scientific Field Trips, Science Education, 1991, 75(5), 513–523.
Jakubowski, Beyond Book Learning: Cultivating the Pedagogy of Experience through Field Trips, The Journal of Experiential Education, 2003, 26(1): 24-33.
J. H. Falk, Field Trips: A Look at Environmental Effects on Learning, Journal of Biological Education, 1983, 17, 137-141. DOI: 10.1080/00219266.1983.9654522
Ken Robinson, spoke at TED Talks, How to Escape Education’s Death Valley, https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley?language=en , April, 2013.
N. L. Alon, T Tal, Student Self-Reported Learning Outcomes of Field Trips: The Pedagogical Impact, International Journal of Science Education, 2015, 37:8, 1279-1298, DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2015.1034797