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Making science and nature easy for children through art

An upcoming art workshop in Bengaluru will break down nature-related concepts and familiarize children with conservation through art activities

Children will learn about seed dispersal through zine-making activity.
Children will learn about seed dispersal through zine-making activity. (Wonder Yonder)

Children have a natural curiosity about the world they live in. From why the moon is following them to what birds eat – they have endless questions. 

However, they often end up learning about their environment in jargon-heavy terms, with barely any space for imagination. Now, an upcoming workshop in Bengaluru hopes to change that by simplifying nature and familiarizing children with conservation through art activities.

The workshop, Simplifying Nature through Art, will be conducted in collaboration between the visual design studio Wonder Yonder, and Current Conversation magazine at Bengaluru’s Chamapaca Bookstore. “The idea is to build an awareness about nature, climate change, and ecological conservation which are imperative for kids to think about it. We want to do this in a way that engages children, without them feeling the heaviness of it,” Nikitaa Sivaakumar, founder of Wonder Yonder, says during an interview.

Also read: A new board game brings you closer to the birds of Bengaluru

It’s not a new territory for Wonder Yonder, which has conducted quite a few workshops on simplifying science-related concepts. For this hands-on workshop, the organisers have come up with the idea of making zines to get kids to think more about ecological conservation and learn to communicate it through art. “They will be given half-made zines so that it isn’t burdening for them and they have to complete it,” adds Sivaakumar.

For the zine-making activity, the topic will be ‘seed dispersal’ and how it was the inspiration for Velcro, the hook-and-loop fastener for clothes and other objects. “It’s something not many people know about. It’s also a good way to introduce biomimicry to the children,” says Sivaakumar. Biomimicry refers to the practice of learning and mimicking nature’s strategies and processes to create more sustainable designs and products.

One of the advantages of making zines is that they are self-published artworks and can be made accessible to a larger audience without much cost. Current Conversation has conducted several zine-making workshops, led by Shivangi Pant, managing editor of art and design, at Current Conservation. However, this will be the first time they will focus on children. “We are focusing on how to use art and design concepts to communicate a certain nature-based idea. Children will engage in storytelling through the zine and explain them to their peers and hopefully, in the process, they will learn more about seed dispersal,” Pant says.

There is an urgency to start conversations around the many crises that the world is facing, with biodiversity and climate crises being overarching issues. “Even though they might seem intimidating, it is crucial to engage everyone, including the children, in these conversations. By making this workshop hands-on, we are breaking down the concepts to make it easier to understand, and engage with, and it’s not something that feels abstract,” says Devathi Parashuram, executive editor, Current Conservation.

For instance, the workshop will explore how people’s backyard can impact climate, understand various nature-related concepts and get children to engage with urban biodiversity. “We are trying to combine awareness and action,” Parashuram adds.

Importantly, children need to be sensitized about biodiversity loss, climate change, and changing environments from an early age, says Sivaakumar. “They will carry these ideas throughout when they grow up, and it will dictate the choices that they make on a daily basis and hopefully translate into action in their later lives. This will hopefully also result in them becoming responsible citizens,” she adds.

A second activity at the workshop will be led by Current Conversation and it will be inspired by their social media project – Backyard Blunders – which explores whether people can unknowingly harm nature when they are trying to help. The project explores many common questions people have when they interact with the environment. For instance: Should we pick up a baby bird? Is feeding wild animals a bad thing? Can flying kites be fatal for the birds?

For this hands-on workshop, they will be sharing these questions and answers with the children through zines, which they can take back home. “We also want to start a discussion about what the children know and how they think about these topics. We could maybe guide them to start questioning things. Mostly, we want to empower them to be able to do their research as well,” adds Parashuram.

The workshop will end with a call to action, which will be a way for the children to start conversations about nature with their family and friends. It might be, for example, in the form of postcards that the children can give to their peers to share what they learned through the workshop.

Sivaakumar points out that there is a need for awareness to go beyond textbooks where climate action is often limited to planting a tree. Right knowledge is important for even a tree planting drive to be successful, she says. “People have to know what tree to plant where as well as how to plant. There is a need to have access to more information that is often not available in textbooks. This can happen through conversations with people. Art is one way to break the barrier and start such talks. Even with heavy topics, art is a simple but effective way to communicate a message,” she explains.

Art also evokes emotions and helps create a stronger connection with nature, Pant adds. “Since it’s the age for children to understand and develop emotions, workshops like this can be a good introduction to the concepts,” she says. “It also shows how art is a powerful tool to make a difference.”

Often, knowledge about biodiversity and climate change remains out of reach for many, Parashuram says. She adds: “A lot of the research sits in the form of scientific literature which very few people have access to, and even fewer people want to read. It’s crucial to simplify it and put it in a way that reaches more people by taking out the jargon, using art, explainers, or interactive activities.”

Simplifying Nature through Art was scheduled for 17 February but has been postponed to April. Further details can be found on Instagram accounts @wonder.yonder and @currentconversation.

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