Portal in the trees: nature based learning in early childhood education

It’s springtime in the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie and the sun is shining bright over this beautiful abode of Oak trees. This is a perfect weather to do nature walks in the hillside to experience the intricate bond which mother nature shares in each and every corner of this beautiful landscape.

© Children observing the forest floors

So, I decided to go for a nature walk along with the students of early years to explore the seasonal changes and its effects on the ecology. This walk is part of nature based learning and outdoor education activities being conducted from time to time.

© Students curious about various invasives

As we entered the trail, the students instantly started observing the effects of season change on the ecosystem. They started sharing their observations about the leaf fall, flowers which mostly bloom, weathering of soil and rocks and many more. While walking on the trail for a few steps, we came across this big Oak tree with an interesting hollow on its trunk. The tree caught our attention and looking at the appearance, I instantly called it a ‘Portal to another world’ , Portal in the trees and the children were very curious about its presence. They started asking various questions for eg. What if the portal actually existed? What would it be like on the other side of the trees etc. I felt somewhere it tickled their inquisitive minds and children had lots of fun discussing the tree.

©Portal in the big Oak tree

While we were busy discussing, I figured that the main branches coming out of the main trunk of the Oak tree fused together in such a way that it left a little oval hollow. The big Oak tree stands on the hill slope, so one has to climb the tree to actually look through it. The morning sun rays travel through the tree hole and reached the other side. For a moment, I was awestruck at the beautiful sight of the tree. It appeared to me as if, any person, insect, animal or bird who could hop across that little hollow, might enter into another world. While I was walking along the trail, the thought of the imaginary world across the Portal captured my mind.

©Forest trail and the Oak tree

While I was occupied in these thoughts, one of the students asked me about the forest litter. It has not snowed adequately in the hillside this year and the trees will eventually suffer with lack of moisture. Abundant rainfall can only help refilling the aquifers. The global climatic changes have also impacted the hillside with temperatures soaring. The season of forest fire is also around and the situation is grim about the few remaining stretches of the green forests in the vicinity of the hillside.

©Closeup picture of the tree

We also discussed about the various invasive species, foraging, seasonal flowers and many more during our Nature walk. I was happy to come across a wonderful Oak tree and named it as Portal in the trees, even though it’s not real. Now, the sun is slowly going down and it’s time to go back home, but the series of nature based learning and forest education continues.

Thank you

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© 2023 chandrimadebi http://www.chandrimadebi.com


Published by Dr. Chandrima Debi

Hi, I am Chandrima Debi. I am a Doctorate in Forestry and an independent researcher. Ever since childhood, I experienced deep-rooted connection with nature, forest and wildlife. I have written various research articles, case studies based on geology, forests, medicinal plants, biodiversity and conservation. Through this blog I share my experiences with nature and forests around us and aid towards the protection and conservation of biodiversity, wildlife and the values associated.

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