By Anvita DJ
The Hidden Housemate Activities are a series of nature-themed tasks designed for children by members of the Nature Conservation Foundation to engage with their surroundings and appreciate them, while being in the comfort of their home due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As India entered lockdown once again, I took it upon myself to complete one activity and provide a comprehensive review on it. I have documented every step so that I could take you, the reader, throughout the entire process.
In total there are three activities. In each activity there are nine squares through which one must play a game of Bingo by finding and observing what is written on three squares either down or across. After this, there are creative tasks given for every square. The player can do the tasks given for the squares they have completed. There is also additional material provided for each and every square to give the player an understanding of what exactly they have seen and how it relates to the natural world at large.
I decided to divide the activity into two days. On day one, I would play the Bingo Game and try to find what was described in three squares. I opted to find squares 1, 2 and 3. These were - finding a bird on a pole or wire, a motif or pattern with a nature-theme and mosquitos buzzing about in the evening. On day two I would complete the activities for these squares.
First up was a bird on a pole or wire, so I began to look for one. The instant I looked out of my window to spot a bird, I knew it would not work as there are no poles and wires within sight. I decided to set out with a camera around brunch time. This was not a good time to go birdwatching at all, as it was too hot and there was lots of human activity around. However, I was still able to find a Red-Whiskered Bulbul in a relatively peaceful area of my neighborhood.
The next activity was to find a Nature Motif. I found several within my home. Nature Motifs and patterns are everywhere. This led me to think more carefully about nature found in designs. So much of design is based on flowers, trees, leaves and animals. My wallpaper, bedsheet and curtains yielded nature motifs. So many books, paintings and objects depicted nature as well. I have chosen a part of my bedsheet and a decorative watering-can as examples here. Can you give a quick glance to your surroundings and try to find a nature motif near you? There must be at least one. A walk around your house can get you dozens! Yet, we hardly pay attention to the source of these designs or appreciate how simplest things in nature like flowers and leaves look gorgeous on our furniture.
The next and final square which I needed to spot were mosquitos buzzing about at evening-time. Thanks to the persistent showers we have been receiving as of late, mosquitos could be found almost every hour of the day. I found no issue in finding multiple mosquitoes trying to bite me in the evening. Unfortunately I was unable to click any pictures of them as I was too busy trying to zap them with my mosquito racket. However I do assure you, they were there.
Now that I had finished the Bingo Part of the Hidden Housemates activity, the more engaging and hands-on tasks suggested in the activity sheet followed.
On day two I decided to begin my work on the tasks suggested in the Hidden Bingo Activity Sheet. The first was to describe the bird which I had seen, make note of its behaviour and make an attempt at thinking from the birds point of view. What did the bird see around itself? Did it watch the humans as we watched it?
Next, I had to draw a picture of what this bird would have seen around it. When I read this part of the activity I felt a wave of panic come over me, as art is something I’m definitely not talented at. However, I then realized that it adds to the challenge of Hidden Housemates. This series of activities encourages children to employ a variety of skills, which was something I grew to appreciate. We may not be good at everything, and our outcome may not be up to our standards, but the important fact is that we have attempted it. This sentiment is incredibly common and is always told to children, but rarely do children have the luxury to appreciate their own efforts within an academic setting. It was very refreshing to simply work towards a goal without worrying about additional criteria. Thus, I was able to produce a drawing.
It may be rough and strange, but it was what I could come up with. And it was very enjoyable to do so.
The next activity was to write a story about two nature motifs, draw them and then do a puppet show of them. I wrote about a bear catching a fish from a river and called it ‘Winston’s Hunt’. I found this activity to be my personal favourite, as it held massive potential for different stories. A child could easily repeat this activity over and over again, and they would not get bored.
The last activity was to draw what I thought a mosquito sounded like. This activity took me by surprise in the best way possible. It posed an interesting challenge, and it took some thinking and planning before I began to draw it. I drew a lightbulb with an electrical wire attached to it it, as the buzzing of a mosquito reminded me of electricity.
After finishing the drawing, I was almost done with my first play-through of the Hidden Housemates Activities. I still had to go through the ‘Further Reading’ page included. For each square I did, I visited the links provided. These are fantastic sources which really help in adding depth to each square and activity. I had a lot of fun going through each source, whether it was a video or an article. After doing this, I was now truly at the end. This brings me to the next section of this article - what did I think of this?
My Thoughts on the Hidden Housemates Activities
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed completing the activity. I found every step of it to be engaging, from trying to spot different creatures to completing creative tasks on them to reading more about them. I believe that these activities will encourage children to pay more attention to their surroundings long after they have completed it. The first part - The Bingo game - helps develop children’s observational skills and ability to identify the details within their surroundings. The creative tasks then allow children to look back on what they saw and concoct wild stories, colourful drawings and have meaningful experiences with their friends and family. The extra material then ties the three elements together. These activities are very well designed. They are comprehensive and educational, and provide a wholesome experience. The accessibility of the activity really appealed to me. There is no previous preparation required. Even if you live in a city, you will be able to spot and learn about the nature around you through these activities. I think an activity such as this one will spark interest within children about nature, which they can then progress through on their own. It acts as a stepping-stone. To further catalyse this interest, I believe that more informative activities which can be completed after this one (perhaps as a series) will truly allow children to harness their talents within the world of nature. In terms of any improvements which I believe will benefit these activities - I think more variety will interest children more. While the contents of each activity is different, the structure is not. Instead of a game of Bingo, there could be another type of puzzle which children can solve. This way, each activity will feel more unique, and it can motivate children to finish all three activities to gain the ultimate Hidden Housemates Experience.
To conclude, completing a Hidden Housemates activity was thoroughly enjoyable and it has been a wonderful learning experience. These activities provide a balance between learning about the biology and ecology of children’s surroundings and having fun by unleashing their creativity. In my own free time, I will definitely be completing the remaining two activities, and I look forward to seeing what the team at the Nature Conservation Foundation will design next!
About the author: I’m Anvita, a high school student at Legacy School Bangalore. I’m very fond of biology and chemistry, and I plan to pursue them in the future. Apart from that, my hobbies include video gaming and music. I play the bass