‘Stories spark discussions’

By Radha Gopalan

There is a large variety of living organisms on this planet: plants, animals, insects, fungi, microorganisms etc. and they are found in a wide range of conditions. I have used PARI stories to teach middle and high school students Biology and Environmental Science. But these stories could also be used effectively in teaching Classification in Biology and Biodiversity.

The term used in biology for variety is diversity and the assemblage of diverse living organisms is termed Biological Diversity or Biodiversity. Biological classification is the basis for identifying and understanding diversity of life on Earth. 

PARI stories can illustrate the importance of Biodiversity and why we need to understand it. “As forests shrank, elephants awoke” by Parth M.N can be used to talk about loss of diversity, livelihoods and the impact of climate change on communities. 

Watch video: Teaching with PARI – Radha Gopalan on Classification in Biology and Biodiversity

Stories spark discussions, which can build an appreciation for the role of classification in identification and grouping of living organisms and connection to  Biodiversity. 

Stories ask questions, such as: What happens when you cut down trees? How does that relate to Biodiversity? ‘We believe 15,000 trees have already been cut’ by Chitrangada Choudhary can be introduced as a response. 

India is one of the mega-diverse nations in the world with more than 50,000 species of plants and 40,000 species of animals. This is because we have diverse geographical conditions: from extreme cold to extreme heat, coastal areas to rain forests, tropical jungles to mangrove belts and deserts. A fungus is financing families in Pithoragarh by Arpita Chakraborty highlights habitat loss and fragmentation of habitats. It can be used to demonstrate how people identify plants and animals, develop their own classification systems and how this knowledge shows their relationship with their environment.

These stories highlight the factors that influence biodiversity: topography, places to shelter and escape from predators, sources of food, temperature, moisture, sunlight – all used in classification by scientists and geographers. 

Classification using morphology is one of the simplest ways to track Biodiversity – the way in which living organisms live and interact with each other on Earth. This module shares simple activities through which students can find their own ways of classifying. Why not start by encouraging students to bring samples of leaves and dead insects, examine them and wonder what their stories are? Who are they? Where did they come from? How do we know about them? 

About the teacher

Radha Gopalan is an environmental scientist, with a PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay. After close to two decades in environmental consulting, Radha decided to learn and teach environmental science with high school students at Rishi Valley Education Centre. Here she engaged actively on challenges of rural livelihoods with small and marginal farmers. She is Visiting Faculty at the School of Development, Azim Premji University, an Editor at i wonder, the science magazine published by Azim Premji University, and a member of the Kudali Intergenerational Learning Centre in Telangana.

PARI Education has reached over 180 organisations across India.

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