Ecological concepts through fieldwork

V Santharam

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

To many of us, “ecology” is a term that can freely be inter-changed and substituted with another term: “environment”. This happens not just with students but also adults. Have we not often seen newspaper headlines saying “Ecology is in danger” or something similar? Of course, there is some truth in this statement. Ecology is in danger because we have chosen to neglect it and are not bothered to even know what this word means! Ecology refers to the study of organisms in relation to their environment both animate and inanimate.

Ecology as a subject usually makes a brief appearance as a chapter or unit in some biology curricula (e.g. ISC). It is also supposed to be taught as a part of the compulsory Environmental Education syllabus. In my opinion, without a proper understanding of ecology, one cannot make conclusions and inferences on environmental issues. Very often ecology is taught superficially and through dry classroom lectures as indeed is the case in most biology courses. Teaching the subject through fieldwork is heading towards extinction. This trend is seen not only in India but also in countries like Great Britain. Many reasons are cited to justify this sad state of affairs: the teachers themselves are not trained in field biology (or ecology), there is very little time allotted for these activities, there are risks involved in taking students out to do field work and both the schools and the teachers are unwilling to take responsibility, there is very little motivation on the part of the teachers since this involves a lot of extra work and so on.

Dr. V Santharam is with the Institute of Bird Studies and Natural History, Rishi Valley Educational Centre, Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. He can be reached at [email protected].

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