Shiv Nadar University hosts school students at 6-day residential Winter School

The winter school provided students from Class 7 to Class 12 with a holistic experience to nurture both academic growth and personal development. Students stepped out of their comfort zones and ventured into uncharted territories, broadening their horizons and discovering new passions. This winter school saw participants from 12 schools and representation from 7 cities.

The Immersions in Nature (IiN) was held as part of the Winter School between 2nd to 7th January 2024. The main idea of this program was to help children reconnect with nature and their environment through experiential learning.

In all we had 35 learners from grades 7-12 participate in this program. The program was designed around learning about the biodiversity on the SNU campus, keeping in mind seasonality in the habitats and wildlife that inhabit these spaces.

Over 6 days we recorded 73 species of birds on campus out of which about 13 species are migratory birds from Central Asia that have come down for the winter. Learning to identify birds, observe their behaviour and understand their ecology was an important component of the IiN.

The Winter School also had 34 sessions spanning Virtual Reality, nature journaling, bird watching, bioblitz, nature photography, nature exploration, and sustainability, among other subjects like Entrepreneurship, Archaeology, Creative Writing, Design, Maths introduced to students.

The participants were exposed to the wonders of the natural world, learning about its intricate ecosystems, the importance of biodiversity, and the challenges of

environmental conservation.

The program also oriented the students on the impact of human activities on the planet and highlighted the urgency of adopting sustainable living practices. Through engaging sessions and hands-on activities, students understood how individual choices can make a significant difference in preserving the Earth's resources for future generations.

Program themes, structure and flow

The sessions were carried out each morning from 10 am - 8 pm. Each session began with a check-in circle and a short warm-up activity for the mind, body and senses. This allowed the learners not only to get ready to step outside more attuned to their surroundings but also to get comfortable with one another.

The day was divided in to 3 parts Morning-10-1 Nature Immersions 2-5- Academic sessions

6-8- Sports & Extracurricular activities

The first half everyday was Immersions in Nature by Spider n Sea Trainers. Learners were divided into two equal groups. Each group did a different activity that was then rotated the following day. The sessions began with a basic introductory session to learn what nature meant to the learners and what about their surroundings interested them. We then layered each day’s session onto this, starting with guided activities that eventually culminated in a learner-led independent project.

The activities conducted ranged from ornithology 101, a masterclass about going beyond the identification of wildlife, a learner-led bird bio blitz, basics and ethics of nature photography, citizen science and understanding the connections and interdependencies across ecosystems.

Each session ended with nature journaling which helped children assimilate, process and express their learnings and experiences for the day creatively. It also encourages learners to practise slowing down and find moments of silence and peace in nature. Learners were encouraged to share their journal entries during a sharing circle at the end of the session.

Every day, second half of the program seamlessly integrated various disciplines, enabling students to witness the interconnection between nature, science, social dynamics, and sustainable practices.Combining elements of biology, ecology, engineering, social sciences, management and more, the 6-day session empowered students to think critically, solve problems holistically, and envision a harmonious future for the planet. The multidisciplinary approach helped participants with a

well-rounded perspective to foster a collaborative spirit essential for addressing complex global challenges. They visited the labs, attended lectures by Professors, worked on case studies and much more.

They also went for a field trip to Moolgyan Organic Farm where they got a chance to harvest vegetables and interact with the farmers and also taste strawberries, carrots organically grown on the farm. Their interaction with Ms. Prachi Pandit was informative as she explained the importance of healthy home grown fruits & vegetables.

Participants Feedback

“I realised that age doesn’t matter in learning and also that we don’t make an earnest effort to know the things around us. All it needs is a little focus. It is these small things around us that go unnoticed which constitute the essential elements to make our life happier, it creates a deep bond of love,” says 14-year-old Mahi Garg, studying at DPS World School.

Mahi’s reaction after attending the five-day residential Winter School at Shiv Nadar University campus at Delhi-NCR sums up the idea behind the programme – cultivate a deep appreciation for nature and the environment.

“I had come here with an open mind. What I loved was observing the different bird species, their habitat, and their calls. It was a special experience to observe the Indian white-eye. I always knew birds are afraid of humans by the Starlings were a real surprise, they came very close to us and weren't afraid. It was at bio-diversity park on the campus that I saw for the first time a tree that had patterns like

snowflakes,” says Priyanshi Garg a Grade 11 student.

“All the projects we were assigned involved teamwork, this helped me in understanding new ideas and even about how to put those ideas across with clarity,” says Avni a Grade 10 student from KR Mangalam School.

Shaurya Sehgal, a Class 11 student from DPS Dwarka found it amazing to learn so many new things in every session and activity he participated in. “Observing why and how birds go on with their activities and what we can learn from that was very

interesting,” said Sehgal.

“Besides what I learned through activities, it was memorable to be with so many people in a beautiful place. My interaction with friends, faculty, and staff taught me so many new things. Everyone was so inspiring, friendly, and knowledgeable. Everyone in the programme was so curious,” said Asrivan from Shiv Nadar School.

"It was great to be back at SNU campus" said Pratul who came from Asian School, Dehradun and Chaitanya from Jaypee Public School who came back to YTF. They had attended the summer school previously.

Besides knowledge and partnerships, new friendships and camaraderie were built. Leaving the campus, Kartik Nair a Grade 7 student from Gyanshree School, and his roommate for five days Prakrit Chandra from Apeejay School were seen promising each other to meet again for the Summer School.

Some of the thoughts shared by the learners.

  • An experience that helped them open their eyes to nature and wildlife that was right around them
  • They believed birds to be uninteresting before but now they realise how diverse birds are, the fascinating behaviours they exhibit and the scope to learn so much more about their lives such as flight mechanics, social

behaviour, habitat choice, vocalisations etc.

  • An improvement in their public speaking and communication skills
  • An opportunity to meet new people and build friendships


Bahar Dutt, Curator For Nature Immersive Lab and Associate Professor at SNU

We spent months trying to design a curriculum for for the nature immersive lab at SNU. The idea was to introduce the more practical aspects of environment

education, by awakening students to the biodiversity around them , from spiders to moths to water birds ! Students were outdoors inspite of the Delhi winter chill and could rattle off bird species quite easily by the end of the winter school. We ended with a masterclass on sustainability so the students could go back with practical ideas on how to save the planet !

We enlisted the help of John and Chetana -better known as Spiders and the Sea- for conducting the nature based curriculum who came in from Bengaluru and led the workshops. The syllabus was designed by them keeping in mind the age group of students and the biodiversity on campus.

Vinnie Mathur, Chair, Young Thinkers Forum and GM-External Relations at SNU

"All our initiatives foster a dynamic learning environment where collaboration and teamwork are highly encouraged. Students form teams and collaborate on interdisciplinary projects that transcend different themes, honing their

problem-solving skills and cultivating a holistic understanding of the interconnectedness of various subjects."

Trainer observations by Spider n Sea- Chetna & John

  • We found that the students, given an opportunity were very expressive and imaginative. IExpressing your thoughts and emotions after a day of learning is a great way to both cement your learning and develop communication skills.
  • The learning experiences were conversational and allowed for a truly immersive and personal learning experience - made possible with a

facilitator-to-learner ratio of roughly 1:15.

  • 5-6 days was an ideal timeframe to sow and nurture curiosity, and it translated into each learner going through their own unique transformation of

Learning outcomes

At the end of 6 days, the learners achieved some incredible learning outcomes.

  • Gained a heightened awareness of their natural environment
  • Acquired basic naturalist skills
  • Learnt to use identification tools and techniques to observe birds in different habitats
  • Gained an overall appreciation and respect for nature and wildlife
  • Career guidance
  • Exposure to multidisciplinarity on campus
  • Interacted with students and faculty on campus
  • Excellent academic experience
  • Enhanced understanding of life at SNU
  • Skills to navigate the undergraduate experience
  • Showcase the rich academic framework at the university
  • Glimpse of campus life & student engagement

Future scope

During the winter school we had the opportunity to explore the gorgeous SNU campus in addition to conducting the various sessions. We feel there is immense potential for a variety of nature immersion programs for children and adults, right here on campus. These programs will continue to help learners reconnect with

nature and find ways to convert their learning into actionable steps in their daily lives.

While birds were the protagonists of the winter school, the warmer summer months will also present the campus’ smaller wild wonders like insects and spiders.