Shlok, a three year old, turns to his mum and enquiries “Butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, right?” His mum, surprised with his science dosage, nods her head. He adds further “Then why pluck them without a reason?” Absent-mindedly, she shakes her head confused on the inception of these questions. A couple of days later he runs suddenly seeing ants and yells, “Mum, I am going to see what they are bringing home to eat”. Amazed at his new curiosities, his mother started digging to find their source and found Shlok had attended a session with his big sister hosted by Thicket Tales.

Thicket tales stands with cute interactions like these.

Shlok, a three year old kid observing an ant nest at one of our nature trails. Picture credits: Shilpa Swarmin

I am Sai Devi, founder of Thicket Tales. I grew up in a school where we had paradise flycatchers, Grizzled Giant squirrels and peacocks. My mother was a biology teacher and she introduced me to bird watching. I was always the maverick girl in my class, the one running to see snakes and sitting down to admire a butterfly! I soon realised in most households, topics involving nature or wildlife don’t reach the dining table conversations. I believe the first step towards conservation starts with having many conversations with friends, cousins and aunts not much different than discussing favourite movies or books. And these conversations have to start early, with the young! To achieve this, I launched Thicket Tales that introduced kids and families to wildlife in their backyard. As part of the initiative, we took kids on nature trails at public parks and lakes. 

One of our first anecdotes from a mom is still fresh in my mind. She said, “I was running late for my meeting. While packing my laptop, I saw a black butterfly on my windowsill. My first thought was, ‘Wow! Isn’t this the one we spotted yesterday?’. I quickly clicked a picture and hurried to the meeting. Later in the evening, I showed the picture to my son and asked him to look at our recent friend. He was equally elated to see the butterfly and told me this is a common mor (mor translates to curd in Tamil language)”. The butterfly was a common mormon and that became their secret pet name. She called me to thank us for providing a chance to make memories and to many more insider jokes. 

Thicket tales stand for beautiful family bonding times like these.

Family nature trails organized by us at Chennai, India. Picture credits: Sharan V.

As I was interacting with kids and paying close attention to their curriculum and subjects, I realised learning through nature and having outdoor based programs makes learning a natural and fun process. This was my hack into introducing nature through education. At Thicket tales, we design programmes with loads of games, stories and hands-on models to introduce nature and the science behind natural phenomena to kids in a fun way. 

In one of our modules, a group of kids from a school were interacting with an urban wildlife rescuer and rehabilitator, Yashas. We were discussing snakes, their venom, habits and habitats. Next week I called up the founder of the school for further discussions and his anecdote is one of my favourites till date. As the pandemic prevailed, kids were living in their native villages. One of the kid’s grandmother spotted a snake in their backyard and was ready to kill it. Interrupting her search, the little boy declared that rat snakes are non-venomous and feed on rats, thereby actually helping us. He said, “So why should we worry?”. His granny sighed and asked how he could be sure that it was a rat snake without having a good look at the animal. The little boy calmly replied, “Exactly! Why worry when we don’t even know if it’s harmful? The snake is not inside our house or verandah but somewhere outside”. The entire family didn’t bat an eye until the matriarch laughed and hugged him. 

Thicket tales stand for conservational conversation at home like these.

As days passed we started to integrate our programmes into the school curriculum because nature education is not very different from learning science and geography. Learning subjects through nature, observational studies and projects makes the learning process more organic and engaging. Last monsoon, in one of our modules we were exploring the South-west monsoon of India. With technology aid, stories and discussion on virtual programs, kids were able to understand not just biodiversity but the geography, landscape and rainfall. By the end of the program, kids were connecting climate to landscape and to the habitat, and saw the relevance of the subjects taught in their class.

Children of NGO Makkala Jagriti discussing the learnings after a game organized by us. Picture credits: Thicket Tales

Thicket Tales sets up nature clubs for schools that capacitate children to explore and learn from their surroundings through games, experiments and projects. Our programs are curriculum integrated and through them children apply the knowledge of science and social studies in their day-to-day lives.

Sai Devi is the Founder of Thicket Tales. Growing up with an abundant backyard, she always had mother nature and the art of nature appreciation to fall back during difficult times. With a changing and busy lifestyle, she believes nature appreciation could be a secret ingredient to bring families and friends together. With that as her mission, she started Thicket Tales. When not working, she is found lost in the world of books and food, or rather digging something in her backyard!