Education and Public Engagement

Flashcards for beginner naturalists and nature educators

Getting to know common spiders & insects found in Bangalore city and its outskirts

Spider and insect diversity is high even in crowded urbanised cityscapes in India. We often miss or ignore them because they are relatively small and often there is a cognitive dissonance to their presence around us. For many urbanised city folk these are often thought of as “creepy-crawlies” or undesirable. When trained ecologists and naturalists take adults or children for nature walks, the amazing diversity and ubiquity of insects and spiders even in crowded, concretised, fast changing cityscapes always amazes them. While these walks are important and an excellent way to get people interested in nature, they may not suffice for a meaningful or sustained learning experience. To enable people to retain information and then go out and make their own discoveries, having interesting and fun learning and identification tools with them becomes important.

While there are a few nature-related field guides available these days these are usually bulky and not very friendly or easy to use for beginners or for children. Today, there are also various online tools to help people identify what they spot - for example - iNaturalist, India Biodiversity Portal, Google Lens to name a few. While these are useful to help initially identify species and document species they do not give too much information beyond identification and taxonomy. These platforms also do not give insights into the natural history of the group or species, the key features to look for, the types of habitat they are found in, and any interesting/unique behaviour that will give the user much more information and keep them interested.

We are in the process of producing a set of 40-50 flashcards (available in mid-2021) with pictures and illustrations of common insects and spiders that are showcased in their typical habitats, with key descriptions, natural history information and fun facts. They will be produced in English, Hindi and Kannada and designed along the lines of NCF’s Early Bird material on birds. This project is in collaboration with Priya Venkatesh of EcoEdu Consultants Pvt Ltd - Bangalore.

The flashcards will be in the form of a compact roller deck, so that it can be carried around as a unit, where each card is also removable so that it can be used for reference as a teaching aid. This flash card pack can be used in nature groups in schools by educators to promote learning and provoke conversations. This can be used as group games during gatherings with family and like-minded friends and residential complexes.

The design and content of this flashcard set will be made open source so that others may use the information and create/modify it to their context or requirement for educational purposes with credit.