Childhood has moved indoors, taking a mental and physical toll on today’s kids. The negative impact of decreased time outdoors includes declining creativity, concentration and social skills.We all have those memories from childhood: running around the garden or nearby park, intently watching ants on the march or spending hours just laying back and looking at clouds. And whether we realized it or not, those moments in the outdoors helped shaped our views on the world around us. But those kinds of memories are fading fast for many young people today and the statistics are alarming. Helping parents to make their kids reconnect to nature is Archana Londhe of Team Dirty Feet by organizing these cool and fun outdoor trips for children in Hyderabad.
Archana Londhe getting her feet dirty with the kids on one of the trips called Rice stories!
In this interview with KidEngage, Archana explains how helpful these outdoor trips are for the holistic growth of kids:
Q1. Do children get a better grounding in life among the wide open spaces of the countryside or from the constant stimulus of city life?
Archana: What the term “grounding in life” means? It means a foundation or a means of attachment to world around you. Both the places offer different learning opportunities. It all depends upon parents what exposure they want to give to their kids, what attitude they want to develop in their kids towards nature, people and their relationships. The only difference is in countryside you get more opportunities to understand different facets of nature and to connect with a community whose life style is very different from yours. Therefore, there is no comparison as such.
Q2. For urban kids, whose experience with animals is limited to the two-dimensional kind in picture books? How do the trips organized by Dirty Feet help in changing this?
Archana: We can show lots of pictures and videos of animals to kids, it surely improves the information but not necessarily the knowledge. When the kids hold the animals in their arms, when they feed them or give them a bath, one can actually observe a certain kind of peace on their faces.
When kids get first-hand experience of interacting with animals, they understand the concept of food chain or extinction of species or ecological conservation even better. Dirty Feet through its trips is just giving a convenient opportunity to kids for this interaction.
Q3.“In our generation, most of us had a grandparent’s or a family friend’s farm we could go to. For this generation, they’re so far removed from the land. What kind of opportunities does “Dirty Feet” provide to these kids to experience a farm life?
Archana: Dirty Feet doesn’t own any farm or any artificially created environment. We take the kids to farms owned by farmers, where they spend a whole day working with the farmer, doing the same things. They can talk to each other directly, without interference of adults and it’s a rare opportunity. They ask questions about income, availability of water and electricity in the village, their working hours. This communication doesn’t come easily. For that kids need to spend considerable amount of time in the village setting to absorb. Hence the experience is not just about understanding the intricacies of farming or but how does it affects life of a farmer. Similarly depending upon the trip, they get to know life of a fisherman, weaver or a potter.
Kids in a potato field
Q4. How can these trips help to build an understanding of agriculture and food production and the importance of the role that farming plays in our lives?
Archana: When a kid spends hours under the sun working with soil, water and plants, she gets to understand the hard work and the complexity of relations between all these components. The learning is not just about the scientific aspect of farming but also the social and environmental. When the kids sit to have lunch, it’s easy for them to understand why they should not waste food. It is a simple process.
Once a kid whose father works at a software company attended our Veggie farm trip. After the trip, he said,” I used to think only my dad works hard, but the farmers work harder. And they work in this heat”. In our trips, we do not bombard kids with loads of information but we aim for the kids to absorb these subtle points.
Q5. Can your trips also help these kids to develop an understanding about the quality of life and career opportunities available in the rural sector?
Archana: Most of the kids are already aware of pollution, traffic and lack of space and the cumulative impact on their lives. We don’t have to highlight the ‘quality” aspects of rural life. They tell us themselves why they like villages. In terms of career opportunities, they tell us that they would want to become farming engineer and Veterinary doctors. Thought they understand the craft of a bamboo weaver and potter, the career part of life is still dominated by Engineering and Medicine. It’s perfectly alright that they want to apply it in rural sector.
Q6. Which trips do you organize for the younger kids? What activities are involved for this age group? Are parents allowed to accompany these kids?
Archana: The most popular trips for 3-6 years old are Animal Farm trip and Following The Fish. In Animal Farm trip, kids feed the animals, hold them and clean their sheds. At The Farm trip is all about fun games and activities played by village kids such as marbles, scare crow making, planting seeds and tractor ride. Following The Fish is about catching fish, theppa ride ( catamaran made up of therpcol) and playing in the lake water. For 3-6 years old, parents have to accompany kids for the trip. For bigger kids, its optional but more or less we prefer kids travelling independently with us.
Kids and Team Dirty Feet on an animal farm
Q7. Do you organize family trips? Do you organize trips for a child’s birthday?
Archana: We do allow both the parents to travel with kids but we don’t organize Family trips per se. We organize trips for birthday parties. The only difference between a birthday party and our regular trip is cutting of the cake.
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