Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wild campus in the big city

Before we moved to Bangalore, people who had been here said, upon learning that we'd be living on the IISc campus, "Oh, it's a lovely campus! Very green and wild". That sounded pretty nice to me, but I wasn't really sure how wild a college campus in a city of nearly 7 million could be.

The answer, it turns out, is surprisingly so! First of all, the IISc campus actually has woods on it- green space accessible only by foot. These areas are truly lovely, and often remote enough from the world outside the walls that even the constant honking of car horns can't be heard, which makes them very peaceful as well.

The campus is also home to a huge number of different plants and animals. Since nearly all of them are unfamiliar to us, we bought two gorgeous books at the campus bookstore so that we could learn about the organisms that share this space with us.

The first book, Secret Lives, is about the animals on campus. If you've ever met my children or read my blog you'll know why we bought that one first! It was written by a woman who did her PhD here at IISc, and she took all the pictures (which are spectacular) as well. We learned that the birds we'd been seeing everywhere were black-tailed kites, that the monkeys on our road were bonneted macaques, that there were mongooses living at the air field, and many other things besides. We've been using Secret Lives as a kind of field guide to the campus as we tromp around looking for different animals.

The second book we just bought yesterday. We'd have bought it sooner, but as these books are so huge and full of amazing photographs they're a bit pricey, and we kept forgetting to bring enough cash when we were over by the bookstore. It's called Indian Institute of Science Campus: A Botanist's Delight, and I can tell it's going to be great for helping us learn to identify plants around here! We've already figured out what some of the ones we were most curious about are, and the kids love flipping through it and telling me where different plants are found, what family they belong to, when they flower, and if we'll be here when they do. They are going to be the backbone of our homeschooling science curriculum for the rest of the time we're here in India!

In addition to being fantastic science resources for us, the books have sparked the kids' imaginations as well.

For instance, there are some really beautiful flowers in the botany book called blood flowers. They're pretty cool looking-- like big pink puffballs-- and Zion was quite taken with them. The information section on them said that they grow at the Director's Bungalow.

We pass by the Director's Bungalow nearly every day. It is the only building we see regularly that is totally gated and has a guard to determine who is allowed entry. It also has has a "No horns" sign right outside it, which the kids approve of. In short, the Director's Bungalow is rather mysterious and interesting to them, and now they know it to be the one place on campus where blood flowers grow, which upped its cool factor even further. They wondered how the photographer got access to this gated fortress. Did he have permission to come on any time and take pictures? Or did he see the blood flowers, and ask to come in for that one event?

A little while after reading about the blood flowers Zion told me a story about a second, largely unseen, IISc that co-exists in the same space as the one that we live in. This other IISc is for animals. He tells me that the director of the animal IISc is barred forest owl, and lives in a bungalow in the best tree in the forst at Jubliee Park. All of the animals have jobs, and the animals with the most education, who are also  kind and hardworking, have the highest positions, such as director and registrar. There was a brief sibling squabble about bats, because Zion assigned them to be night path finders, which Liel felt was not a very important job. But she cheered up when the director invited a short nosed fruit bat and a yellow wattled lap wing to tea at his bungalow, which goes to show how much good will you can buy with some chai and a snack.


Joanne Young said...

I admire the fact that you are using books the kids are interested in, to teach from. I also enjoy hearing about their love of learning. You are giving them a gift that they will have all their lives.

Kristofer Young said...

Looks like an Indian adventure to me!

Rika said...

I agree with your Mom. You guys are embracing the place your in and getting so much out of it. I hope you can access the bungalow!! xo