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The shortest shore walk with loads of learnings

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Today was the much awaited shore walk at the Kottivakkam beach in Chennai. We usually go on shore walks & nature walks with the kids. We make some observations, jot them down, come back, google more information and sometimes try and reach out to experts who might be able to help us get a better understanding. But this shore walk was different. It was a guided walk with Charlotte, an aspiring marine biologist and on a route we hadn’t taken before.

The kids were on time to start our walk at 6.30 in the morning. Charlotte began with the cardinal directions, the various ocean zones from the shore and the kind of ecosystems they support, the marine diversity, the artisanal fishing zone and how trawlers are not allowed to fish within 12 nautical miles. We then began our walk towards the kuppam, for that would be a place to find many sea treasures and play the beach bingo that was given to us by Charlotte.

We picked a few wedge clam shells, saw our friendly horn eyed ghost crabs who are the guys usually welcoming us at the beach. We spoke about them being scavengers of the beach, thus helping us keep the beaches clean and how their behaviour of throwing out sand from their burrows is an indicator of danger and an upcoming bad weather. As we walked, we saw many fisherfolk on their boats returning from the sea with their catch. This led to a bit of discussion about how they set out to fish based on the direction of the wind and how by standing at the shore they are able to predict rough seas.

Amidst this, a few curious boys; Vikash, Gautam and Sari from the fisherfolk spotted us, wondering what we were trying to do as a group. They saw the Coastal Guides in our hands and were immediately intrigued and excited. They started listing which ones they had seen and quickly ran to pick some from the nets of the catches that had just arrived a little while ago. They showed us a variety of hermit crabs, sand star fish, leopard carb, three spotted swimmer crab and more. Vikash ran to the shore and dug out wedge clams for us. He kept asking us if we wanted to see more. They were so keen to show us all that they could, accompanied with which ones they ate and how it was cooked. The boys stole the show.

Charlotte spoke further about how beaches are formed, nature of trade winds, movement of sand and the role played by sand in ensuring our ground water is sweet and doesn’t get salty. We finally wrapped up with a small game of touch and guess the species. It was 8.30 am and it was getting pretty hot. We began walking back home. It was then did I realise that we hadn’t really walked much, probably 100 mts but the learning in those few steps was immense. Walks like these ought to happen frequently. It’s the same beach but no two days are the same.

At the heart of Sunnyside is to bring children such experiences that involve the life around them. When we visit places, interact with the local people and hear their stories, we get more context to learning. Things become more relatable to kids. We are not sure of the immediate impacts and learning outcomes, but these definitely add up to an enriched life, one that is exposed to diversity in every essence.

The little boys kept asking us when we would be coming again. I wanted to tell them that the eagerness is mutual.

All educational materials used in this walk have been curated by Madras Naturalists Society and Palluyir Trust.

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