Dr Archana Shukla is a Biology teacher at CM Rise Government Mahatma Gandhi Higher Secondary School, BHEL Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh). She is also an ornithologist. Dr Shukla initiated the ‘Satna Save Seed Campaign’, ‘Sparrow Conservation’ and ‘QR Code’ for trees. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards including ‘Woman Environment Warrior Award 2022’, ‘Global Woman Inspiration Award 2021’, ‘Annual Biodiversity Award 2021’ and ‘Governor Award 2020’ among others...
Q: When and what made you start QR coding of trees?
Following the pandemic, many parents expressed concern about their children's addiction to social media. Additionally, it is evident that the continuous destruction of the environment has led to the emergence of diseases like COVID-19. Another issue I've observed is that during the pandemic, migrant labourers preferred returning to their villages. To address these problems, I have identified these three key areas that require attention: Social media addiction among students. To combat this issue, it is crucial to engage students in such activities where they can utilize their potential significantly; conservation of local biodiversity and the environment. Given the connection between environmental destruction and the emergence of diseases, encouraging participation in local conservation initiatives, such as QR coding of trees, can further develop a sense of responsibility towards the environment, and connect students with nature. Many students today lack familiarity with nature and its elements. To bridge this gap, I propose implementing a system where each tree within the school premises is assigned a unique QR code. By scanning the code with their devices, students will have instant access to information about the tree's species, characteristics and ecological significance. This interactive approach will allow students to connect with nature, expand their knowledge about local flora, and foster a deeper appreciation for the environment.
Q: How did you develop QR coding and for how many tree species?
I started the project with my 9th-grade students, exploring the idea of developing QR codes for the trees in our school. The next day, I received 10 QR codes from the students, which made me realize that we could indeed develop QR codes for the trees. We encountered some initial glitches, but we managed to create QR codes using a Word document and QR code-generating app. However, we soon realized that we needed a centralized place to store all the tree information. Our 11th-grade Biology students developed a blog for this purpose, where we uploaded all the relevant information and generated the QR codes. Each QR code corresponds to a specific tree species and scanning it takes you to an assigned page in the blog. These pages contain comprehensive details and photographs related to each tree. The beauty of these QR codes is that they are editable, allowing us to add new information anytime and from anywhere, using a username and password. Currently, we have successfully developed QR codes for 102 different tree species found in our area. As a next step, we are actively working on creating a website to enhance the accessibility and reach of this project.
Q: How many trees have you coded till now?
We have successfully tagged over 5,000 trees with QR codes representing 102 different tree species. The project began at our government school in Satna, and it gained recognition when an MOU was signed between the municipal corporation of Satna and our students. This collaboration led to the tagging of trees in 71 parks (2989 trees) across the Satna district. Furthermore, we extended our efforts by tagging trees in various prominent locations, such as Government Girls Indira College Satna, Government Degree College in Satna, rest houses in Patna Tiger Reserve, Panna, CM Rise Government Mahatma Gandhi Higher Secondary School in Bhopal etc. This widespread implementation of QR codes has helped us create an awareness among the local community and also conveyed a message to the people that someone is taking care of the tree.
Q: What makes QR coding significant when information is already available on the internet?
Accessing information about trees through traditional means like books, research papers, and newspapers has become less popular among students and local people. Reading entire books or searching extensively for specific tree information is time-consuming and uncertain in terms of finding relevant details. Providing information digitally is a better approach as it offers convenience and attracts people through the appeal of digitalization. QR codes enable easy access to specific information about trees, eliminating the need for extensive searches in books or on the internet. This benefits not only individuals without a scientific background but also students from non-science backgrounds, such as arts or commerce, who want to learn about the trees in our local area. By bringing tree information to people's fingertips, QR codes simplify the process of obtaining accurate and relevant details quickly.
Q: What are main achievements of QR coding?
Working on the QR Coding project with my students was a significant achievement. It allowed me to sensitize them about environmental conservation and harness their technological potential. Rather than wasting time on social media, they engaged in meaningful work. The project had a profound impact on the students involved, boosting their confidence and fostering a deeper connection with nature. Notably, it was the first time in India that 9th and 11th-grade students were involved in QR coding of trees. Furthermore, we made history by signing a contract (MOU) between the government authorities and the students of a government school—an unprecedented collaboration. Our success led to invitations from colleges to tag trees with QR codes. I had the privilege of representing the project at prestigious conferences, including the international conference called ETST (Education Today Society Tomorrow) at Asia Plateau, Panchgani, Maharashtra where teacher from different states and abroad participated. Moreover, I trained 119 teachers from various international, ICSE, CBSE, and state board schools at Vishwa Vidyapeeth Bengaluru (Karnataka). The project which we initiated from a small government school in a small district Satna of Madhya Pradesh has expanded to major cities like Thane, Pune, and Bangalore. It is also thriving in international schools like DLRC. We've received invitations from prestigious institutions like Chattarpur University, Pench Tiger Reserve, and Mukundpur White Tiger Safari. Delhi NGOs and the Uttarakhand Forest Department are also interested. This is a remarkable achievement for our young students. Organizing an online national workshop on QR coding of trees was another notable achievement. We received registrations from 20 different states across India, further spreading awareness about our work. Overall, this project's impact, recognition, and achievements have been significant, both for me and my students, and it has made a positive contribution to environmental conservation in India.
Q: You have also participated in a number of bird and butterfly surveys. How helpful are these in conservation?
Participating in bird surveys like Panna Tiger Reserve, Satpura Tiger Reserve, Naina Devi, and Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary has been a valuable opportunity for me as a teacher. It allows me to explore the forest and venture into its core, an experience not easily accessible to most people. By being an active learner, I enhance my knowledge and understanding, which greatly benefits my teaching. As a Biology teacher, my firsthand encounters with nature provide me with rich knowledge and information. This enables me to connect my students more effectively with the wonders of the natural world. Moreover, these surveys facilitate interactions with like-minded individuals, enabling us to discuss and collaborate on projects. They also offer insights into the workings of the forest department and provide contacts within the department. This helps us navigate government support and funding opportunities for our projects. Overall, these surveys have proven invaluable in making my teaching and projects more impactful and relevant for my students and the larger society. I firmly believe in thinking globally while acting locally, and through these experiences, I am better equipped to instill this mindset in my student.