Out of the Classroom and into Wild Weekends

Dr. Caesar Sengupta, a microbiologist and photographer, holds photo workshops to inspire India’s next generation of conservationists.

Dr. Sengupta collaborates with workshop participants in the field.
Photo by Yogesh Chavan

Activity: Wild Weekends
Subject: Photography & Biodiversity
Grades: Students and Adults
Location: Mumbai, India

Photography and outdoor education are the core of “Wild Weekends”, a program aimed at promoting environmental stewardship in communities across India.

Wild Weekends kicks off at schools with a photo slideshow of local biodiversity. After a quick introduction to the flora and fauna on-site, students split into groups, go on a series of nature hikes, and are given cameras to record their findings along the way.

In addition to photographing the world around them, participants learn how to take field notes. We encourage them to use iNaturalist or the Great Nature Project platforms. Similar to BioBlitz, we try to make this learning experience as fun as possible—teams can win prizes for the number of species they record.

Over the course of 11 days, we conducted 36 photo walks in India and Bangladesh in support of the Great Nature Project, thanks to the passionate Wild Weekends team of more than 60-plus members!

Many team members are also involved with DCP Expeditions, Wild Weekend’s parent organization that provides photography training for adults. Wild Weekends wouldn’t be possible without the expertise of DCP Expeditions, and their programming provides continued learning opportunities for passionate students.

Dr. Sengupta gives a photography workshop to students in Mumbai.
Photo by Sonal Patil

How long did this activity take and what preparations were needed?

Wild Weekends is an ongoing program that takes a lot of planning and work. There are presentation and workshop components, but a successful weekend also requires knowledge of local geography and biodiversity.

Flamingoes, Airoli Creek, Mumbai
Flamingoes crowd Airoli Creek, while the Mumbai skyline looms in the background.
Photo by Caesar Sengupta

Describe the student impact of this lesson. How has this changed the communities they live in?

People are pleasantly surprised when they find active ecosystem in India’s urban spaces, and we want as many students as possible to have that experience. The interactive elements of this program are invaluable and the students can’t believe their eyes when they start photographing wildlife on their own.

We have our very own online community where students can share photos they take alongside the uploads from other Wild Weekends expeditions. This serves as a great platform for discussion and continued learning.

Keelback snake in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, India. Photo by Caesar Sengupta.
This keelback snake slithers through the waterways in in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai.
Photo by Caesar Sengupta

Who or what inspired you to teach?

As a microbiologist and photographer, I frequently collaborate with fellow scientists. Dr. S D Biju, an amphibian researcher, inspired me to become more involved in the conservation of Indian biodiversity. I am indebted to him for naming a species after me—Hylarana caesari (Maharashtra golden-backed frog).

The Educator of the Week series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.

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