The pandemic challenged all of us in myriad ways forcing us to re-examine the way we live and transact our lives. It forced educators to reach out to one another, hold hands on digital platforms and figure out creative and compassionate ways of engaging with children.
Educators, Jayshree Murali and Smitha Nair met and bonded during a poetry writing course and discovered to their joy that they shared the same passion for stories and poems, nature and the arts and began exchanging learning resources.
Enter My Friend Dugong, an audio book during the lockdown. A pro bono effort of three educators in the virtual world, My Friend Dugong is a story of a young boy in the Andaman and his efforts to save the endangered state animal, the dugong.
The writer, Chanchal Singha Roy is a president award winner and teaches in the government school in Kadamtala, Andaman Islands. The producer of the book is the environment organization SPROUTS headed by Anand Pendharkar, a celebrated wildlife biologist. Self-funded and Self-published, the original was written in Bengali and later translated into English. The read aloud in English interspersed with Hindi has been done by Jayshree Murali, educator, poet and certified storyteller( TISS).
Here are some links to the project:
- All 8 episodes of My Friend Dugong are uploaded on Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/show/4vC4xpj9sqZ5e8HE3HZzWm.
- Sound made by dugongs (shared by dugong researcher, Elrika D’ Souza)
- PDF of the book.
Journey of the audio book: In early 2021, when Jayshree shared this audio book with Smitha, she took it to her Marigold Creative Reading Club, and also shared it with the SEED Project (read ahead to know what this is), Bhavans Vidyamandir, Kochi and Delhi World Public School, Bangalore.
The Marigold Creative Reading Club: The Reading Club had taken up man-animal conflict as the overarching theme and My Friend Dugong found its place in the marine segment. Seven to Eleven-year-olds listened to the story with rapt attention, the audio book being a first-time exposure. Dugong – a word unheard of, generated curiosity and questions flew back and forth – What does a dugong look like? What sound does it make? Has anybody seen it? Is it a mystery animal? This led to exploration of uncommon sea creatures. The clubbers also read a couple of other books on marine life and to their excitement they encountered the word, “dugong” that they had heard only recently. Their enthusiasm knew no bounds when they had a live interaction with Sanjana Hariprasad, artist/ animal lover and budding entrepreneur who had just returned from the Andaman. Her scuba diving experience among the coral reefs of the Andaman led to rich conversations. Visit the Marigold Fb page, Marigold Creative – Home | Facebook, to know more.
A message from the scuba diver-to treat the sea well.
The SEED Project, Bhavans School, Elamakkara, Kochi: The SEED Project is a part of the Mathrubhumi Group’s Student Empowerment for Environment Development Project and students from the school participate actively in this initiative. As a part of their summer reading program, the co-ordinator, Tessy John, took up this audio book with grades 6 to 9.
The teachers designed a quiz in the form of a digital flip-book. Take a look at it here
The Delhi World Public School, Tumkur Road, Bangalore: As a part of the World Environment Day, the principal, Vidhya Nagaraj, introduced her students (grades 5 to 9) to the audio book. They created their own podcast and this is what they had to say:
Vidyadhiraja High School, Bhandup, Mumbai -Thanks to the principal, Lekshmi Surjith Nair, grade 8 students listened to the audio book and their imagination found expression via poetry and art.
Government Kadamthala, Andaman: The teacher-writer, Chanchal Singha Roy, introduced his children to the audio book and their expressions are shared below:
This learning opportunity for the students and teachers once again validated the power of a story to open up conversations and experiences, dialogues and debates about the awe and wonder of nature and how one could be more mindful of the life around us.