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Rewilding Humans: Nature Education At The Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary

Webinar Overview

Final session of the Interdisciplinary Action Research: Conversations with Emerging Leaders on 29th Oct 2020

In this webinar, three educators from Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary shared their personal stories and experiences. We heard about the School in the Forest programme (residential immersive one week to 3 months),  the Landscapes and Life skills Course (3-5 months), as well as the recent Apprenticeship in Ecological Nurturance (10 months). All these are collaborative programmes with different educators/schools and students.

About Nature Education at Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary

The Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary is a forest garden and conservation centre in Wayanad Kerala. It is founded on a  premise that humans are participant members in nature’s community. The philosophy and practice, as well as world view and politics of the sanctuary arise out of this. As the world gets more and more fragmented and hierarchized, even more driven by capitalistic interests and a technocracy, the nonhuman-human web of life at the sanctuary provides an opportunity to learn about and experience ways of being alive in radically different ways. Nature education here is not just an option, an extracurricular pursuit within the dominant cultural paradigm.  Attention, care, play and learning in the company of myriad plant and animal species,  immersing self, body, senses and mind in beauty and community is intrinsic to daily life at the sanctuary.  Rewilding the land and rewilding humans go together. Day tours are offered to thousands of people from northern Kerala, to learn about plants of the Western Ghats and horticulture. Immersive residential programmes ranging from a few days to several months, are organized in collaboration with different schools for urban youth, The sanctuary is part of a neighbourhood  of different cultures, from Paniya and Kurchiya peoples to settler migrant farmers as well as a wider community of urban born educators, artists, naturalists and conservationists. This rich milieu of facilitators draw upon decades, if not millenia of forest experience to educate young people and adults, from all walks of life.


Nikita Rao is the youngest of the educational team, and has lived and apprenticed at the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary since 2017. She is interested in conservation and nature education. She assisted with the residential education programs for the last 3 seasons, taking children and adults through various aspects of the sanctuary. She has also worked in the conservation garden and community kitchen. She has been in Chennai since the lockdown, running nature workshops for children.

Lorenzo Castellari is interested to bring about a saner education in various schools and settings. He has worked for many years at Brockwood Park School in the UK, run by the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust, and also taught high school physics and maths at his native canton of Ticino in Switzerland. Lorenzo has contributed to the educational programmes at Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary since 1993, particularly in creating a forest-based curriculum, with elements of body-in-nature, exploring self and world, nature study, community work, immersive living-in-nature

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Sajji Velli is of the Paniya peoples, and  lives a couple of kilometers from GBS. His family for generations, perhaps hundreds if not thousands of years have lived in these forests. He and his relatives have had a long association with GBS, through paddy, honey, fish and music. Sajji has been part of the Green Phoenix mission of GBS for some years now and has found his own educational vision with the people who visit. He (along with the other GP members) takes groups to the forest.  His insights into forest nature and human nature and desire to bring about a forest mind, are both ancient and newly creative.  

Shirly Joseph,  a member of the GBS community and a founding member of Kanavu, a school for tribal children in Wayanad,  will translate for Sajji.

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More information at:



Rewilding Humans

Visiting student painting plants in the garden at GBS
Sneha and Navya from Centre for Learning nimbly climb a strangler fig
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Exploring plant diversity through adult courses.

4 thoughts on “Rewilding Humans: Nature Education At The Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary

  • Devika Rani

    Great school for training children. Good luckAs an environmentalist. The concepts are better understood when you live with nature.

  • P R Parameswaran

    Happy to learn about the programmes. Wishing to visit the place again. Last time I was there some 32 years back.

  • Rajan Warrier

    Very interesting concept👍 Are you currently running these programs?


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