On December 27th, 2009, Sadhana Forest India started a 2.7-acre project called Children’s Land, inspired by an initiative that was born in Peru (http://mundodeania.org/). Children’s Land is based on the philosophy and values of child-led learning, which believes that with trust and careful observation from adults, children should have the choice of what they would like to learn, without adult imposition or direction. Children’s Land embodies this philosophy as a safe place for local children to freely explore their passions allowing them to make positive change in their lives.

In Children’s Land we provide a natural environment for the children to appreciate nature and discover, on their own, reasons for conservation and sustainability. In this way the children are empowered to think creativity, independently, and collaboratively. Activities are offered based on the children’s interests and children have the freedom to choose how they would like to spend their time. They often choose to water the gardens, paint, draw, cook, build, play games and plant trees. Since 2009 we have designed the land with the children, which includes planting trees and a small garden, and building a compost toilet and a small recycling station.

Why Is This Project Needed

In our area of Tamil Nadu, many children have limited opportunities to work on their own projects, further their own dreams, and learn about things that they do not have much access to in school. Examples include: sustainable practices, ecology, music, non-competitive games, art, design and physical activity. By giving the children access to a piece of land where they have the freedom to explore these topics, we are providing an experience they can learn from that will broaden their overall education and style of learning. By having time and space to discover how they learn, Children’s Land provides opportunities for the children to dream, create and to believe in their abilities. We often see that through this experience the children develop self-confidence, thrive from our trust, bolster their self-esteem, and develop a healthy respect for the environment. Children’s Land also provides children from a range of different backgrounds and ages the opportunity to mix and learn from one another.

The Present And Future

Currently there are six different groups of children experiencing Children’s Land on a regular, weekly basis. They are local children from the nearby villages of Edayanchavadi, Kuilapalayam, Kottakarai and Pondicherry, and their ages range from three to fifteen years old. The children come once a week for 2 hours at a time. The children arrive excited to start their day. They run to climb the jackfruit tree, catch up with our volunteers, and water the gardens, checking on what they recently planted.

We have also begun facilitating, based on the children’s interests, training and experiential learning workshops with specialists from different fields such as forest ecology, sustainable gardening, architecture and natural building techniques, renewable energy, and making and playing musical instruments. We also have a small kitchen so the children can enjoy cooking fruit salads, chappatis, and laddus! And we are working with dentists from the Auroville Dental Centre Education Research Rural Action (ADCERRA) to provide free dental care to all of the children who visit Children’s Land.

We plan to continue giving children opportunities to explore their passions through a natural environment!