A few days back the Times of India carried the story of a survey that was recently conducted in Mumbai. Two thousand children, aged between 3 and 4 years, participated in this brand recognition study. According to the news article, 85 percent of these children were able to distinguish the logos of different chocolate brands; similarly 85 percent were again able to identify the logos of cartoon television channels. Further, almost all the children could recognize the brand logos of fast food and pizza joints. But then comes the shocker! When the survey shifted to birds and animals, 70 percent could not recognize the picture of a sparrow, and 1 in every 5 kids surveyed could not identify a cow!
Reading this story, my mind went back to the session on 'Green Cover' which we did with the schools in Mumbai about a year back. As a fun exercise during that session, we showed pictures of trees to the students and asked them to identify the same. Well, we had quite some interesting answers, like the Banyan tree being thought to be a ‘tomato tree’ and the (false) Ashoka being mistaken for a ‘grape tree’! And close to none of the students were able to name the Rain Tree or the Copper Pod, although almost every street in Mumbai is lined with these trees! And yes, these students were not 3 or 4 year olds, they were all at least 10 years older.
Obviously there is an increasing disconnect between children and nature today. Discussions on this issue are dispassionately put to rest with the rhetorical question: “but how do you expect children to connect with nature in a concrete jungle like Mumbai?” That, again, is a clear sign of the disconnect, because although Mumbai has degenerated into a concrete chaos, it still continues to be home to an amazing variety of trees, birds and insects. For example, I was fascinated to know that Mumbai has about 160 species of butterflies!
If kids can easily recognize cartoon channel and fast food logos, it’s because they've been exposed to those brands. I guess our kids need a lot more exposure to cows and birds and butterflies!