*Ravishankar with students

By Sriya Narayanan


A tree is a quiet pillar of endurance, continually infusing life into earth and sustaining thousands of species, many of which are practically invisible to the human eye. But S. Ravishankar sees them all – and wants us to as well. A former math teacher, amateur astronomer, volunteer at Tumkur Science Center, and passionate advocate for the protection of our planet, Ravishankar has spent eighteen long and fruitful years with CPREEC (C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre) turning young children with no prior information about conservation into wide-eyed explorers whose first task is always deceptively simple – just count how many living things they see on a nearby tree.

The task titled ‘Exploring a tree’ always results in the delightful discovery that even a casual, preliminary count could come up to 15-20 kinds of insects, birds and other animals. This serves the dual role of teaching children about the wealth of biodiversities in their own backyards, and fostering empathy for a living being that silently bears the responsibility of nurturing more species than one ever knew existed.




Ravishankar conducts environmental education camps for two age groups – the first group consists of children from Grades 6 to 8 who get to learn basic environmental concepts such as trees, soil, water and leaves with presentations on the above, piquing their curiosity about the world around them. The second group (Grades 9 to 12) gets to go on field trips and also gets the opportunity to become volunteers themselves, conserving nature and helping out with similar camps. Also in the curriculum are nature walks, bird-watching tours, sky watching and learning more about water sources. Students also get to drop seed balls in forest areas just before the monsoon to give tree cover a much-needed boost. As expected, the saplings that resulted are now thriving.

By tailoring the experience to their level of knowledge this way, Ravishankar removes the barrier to learning about conservation, and does so in a way that feels more like fun than an education. He fondly recalls how one such session at Devaraiyana Durga caught the attention of two onlookers who drew closer to the group to listen to what was being taught, even though they were not part of the delegation or even aware of what the camp was about.  Fast forward to the present, and the duo – Ramkrishnappa and Indramma – are permanent resource persons at CPREEC, inspiring other children the way Ravishankar unknowingly inspired them all those years ago.

Ravishankar believes that every child must know of the intricate relationship between humans and the delicate, yet powerful ecosystem that surrounds us. He firmly believes that no educational mobile app can match the thrilling moment that one experiences while seeing so much life buzzing under the surface upon exploring a tiny 50-square-foot area in the real world.

He also demonstrates to children how resilient even a barren patch of land can be, by encouraging them to collect seeds and throw them in areas where nothing grows. He tried the experiment in Siddarapetta and Didigulpetta and was happy to see that two years later, 20-30% of the seeds had sprouted and grown. The farmers in the area believe that it could take a decade to see significant results.



Ravishankar reveals that while he doesn’t have the resources to own or operate farmlands, he hopes that these initiatives encourage his students and shape their choices. He observes that many young people do care deeply about environmental protection but are often at a loss for what exactly to do.  He hopes that his camps and educational programmes are the seeds that lay the foundation of everything they will do next. He’s proud to report that his success rate is fairly high, and that between 3 and 4 students out of every 20 become conservers of nature when they grow up. Even if it feels like a tortuously long wait, as a man who has spent nearly his entire adult life working with Mother Nature, Ravishankar knows that anything worth accomplishing takes good intentions, relentlessness… and most importantly – patience.


Sriya Narayanna is the Senior Editor at Karadi Tales, a children’s publishing house in Chennai, India. https://www.karaditales.com


How you can help

The Centre for Environmental Education
(C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Centre for Environmental Education)
in Chennai, India

– Safeguards water

– Revives tribal arts

– Runs ecological study projects for students

– Restores forest groves – planting trees, improving water sources, and providing places of peace and joy for both wildlife and village people.

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