This 55-year-old headmaster has created a biodiversity park within his school to blend studies with the gifts of nature. Here's how it was inspired

MB Prasad, a teacher who won the National Award this year, talks about his naturally aesthetic school environment that constantly engages kids
GLPS Varavoor | Pic: Express
GLPS Varavoor | Pic: Express

An aquaponic reservoir, a mini-bird sanctuary, a pond, a butterfly garden and a biodiversity park. No, we are not talking about a zoo or a wildlife park. You can find all these at a primary school in Varavoor of Thrissur district. No kidding. And the credit goes to the headmaster MB Prasad, a 55-year-old veteran of school education. He has been at the forefront of all such initiatives since he joined the school back in 2017. In these four years, he and the school have come a long way to becoming recognised at the national level when he was awarded the National Award to Teachers earlier this month.

Talking about the inspiration behind a biodiversity campus at school, Prasad was enamoured by the idea of a hybrid atmosphere. He says, "Actually, you would know that in olden times there used to be the gurukul system of imparting knowledge to disciples by the guru. This would often take place in a natural environment setting among wildlife and forestry. What I wanted to do was recreate this system among the kids but also make it hybrid so as to incorporate smart classroom elements as well. This would enable the modern way of learning but simultaneously place the children close to nature, so that they learn in an organic way. It also helped with the beautification of the campus."

Prasad's mantra is to keep his students fully engaged at all times, even during virtual classes. "We have encouraged children to engage more with their grandparents at home and to learn folk songs and stories from them through conversations. We have also transformed our co-curricular activity classes in kalari, karate, yoga, music and musical instruments to the online medium. We have initiated a mobile library system wherein we would go to the students' houses and lend them books to read. We also ask the children to send videos of them doing activities at home like dance and music performances. So, as you can understand, we really want students to be busy with themselves at all times." Prasad also emphasises the role this has in keeping away mental stress.

Talking about the role COVID has had in disrupting events at school, the headmaster says, "Teachers really miss interacting with children in person. That disappointment is very evident. But on the plus side, there has been a greater understanding between teachers and parents due to the interactions taking place on the screen. Earlier, they would only meet during parent-teacher meetings that happened only once in a while." 

Prasad has plans for his life after retirement, which include small-scale farming at his residence and conducting classes for other schools to promote the unification of nature with the school curriculum. "I believe that such an education really has an effect on the nature of children. They grow up to be sensitive individuals. Nature truly has a positive impact on their psyche. I want to promote this idea within as many people as possible after my career as a school teacher ends next year," MB Prasad conveys.

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