Friday, January 23, 2009

Treetop academy

Tree houses have always been an attraction for tourists visiting Kerala. But now, a school in Wayanad district of the State, is holding classes for students in a tree house built on a giant tree in the school courtyard.

Tree houses, which have traditionally been the watch towers for village farmers of hilly regions for protecting their crops from wild animals and thieves, have already become a big attraction for domestic and foreign travellers in Kerala. But now, a school in Wayanad district of the State is holding classes for the students inside a tree house built on a giant tree in the school courtyard.

According to EP Sivadas, headmaster of ANM Upper Primary School, Mayilampady in Wayanad, the tree house class sessions are not just a novel way of preparing atmosphere for academic activities. For him, it is also an important act in melding the times with the tradition.

The tree house houses a classroom, which can hold up to 50 students at a time and is built at a height of about 25 feet from ground atop a giant Vaaka tree in front of the school in its courtyard. The tree house can indeed hold furniture for students but furniture are not allowed for safety reasons. Students of all classes in the school do get chance to study in the tree house on a regular basis as per turns.

The concept of the tree top classroom is the brainchild of headmaster Sivadas, and the idea was welcomed by all teachers in the school, the Parent-Teacher Association and the village development committee. The tree top classroom was built at a cost of Rs 1.5 lakh and the fund was raised from the grants for the school and the Ayalkoottam and the PTA fund.

The money spent for building the tree top classroom has not been a waste as the idea is to give the tree house on rent to tourists from abroad on school holidays. PTA office-bearers said they were getting lots of enquiries for accommodation at the school tree house.

A PTA office-bearer said tourism need not be just a business to make money but it could also be used for making the children here familiar with the lifestyles of the visitors from other lands. “The children can understand the differences in their languages and food habits and the students can get to know about the cultures of the countries of the tourists,” he said.

The school had taken particular care to make the tree house classroom attractive for the looks and cozy for the tourists from abroad. Unlike the usual steep and hanging ladders found in the traditional tree houses, the tree top classroom of Mayilampady is accessed through a beautiful crafted wooden staircase to make it easy for the children to climb.

Tree houses in Wayanad had become a craze among the foreign tourists reaching here in search of a tranquil stay away from the commotions of modern civilisation. The best known tree houses in Wayanad district meant for tourists are among the Vythiri forests.

Different tourism-oriented tree houses in Wayanad provide varying facilities, but all of them give special care not to disturb the environment. There is no power connection, no fuel-powered mechanical devices in these ‘heavenly’ abodes. Some of the tree houses use hydraulics in improvised elevators using baskets, buckets and ropes. Others are operated using the all-pervading force available in the nature, gravitation.

Quite appropriately, the children of Mayilampady school call their tree house ‘a hanging castle.’ They make it a point to sweep away the motes and dead leaves that wind brings to their castle everyday, to dust the windows and the sparse furniture inside everyday, and actually everyday sees a contest among them to get the chance to do this cleaning job, so that they can be inside the ‘castle’.


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