Ecotrail February March 2021

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Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers in India under serial No MAHENG/2015/65640

February March 2021

Vol. No. 6 Issue No. 3


Price Rs.10

Gap Experience Working together to plan a gap year

beat the summer heat Summer activity holidays



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FROM THE EDITOR Getting back to Living


Shiva's Pigmy Trishula -Dhaneesh Bhaskar



Martian Moment


educator's column

Debate Centered Instructions - Robert E Litan



Gap Experience Working together to plan a gap experience - Stefan Wathan


Travel to discover yourself - Oliver Sandreuter


Sustainability starts in your stomach - Sadhana Forest




LOOK FOR US ON Trailblazers.TheOutdoorSchool

Printed, Published and Edited by RANJAN BISWAS on behalf of TRAILBLAZERS ADVENTURE TRAVEL PVT. LTD. Edenwoods, Bay House, Ground Floor A, Gladys Alwares Marg, Off Pokhran Road No. 2, Thane (West) 400 610


: Ranjan Biswas

Associate Editor

: Sachin Sata


: Dhrupad Bhide, Himani Kende

Trailblazers - The Outdoor School Download softcopy from Call us to participate in our camps/activities: 022 21739737 or 022 21739732 OR email us on:




EDITORIAL Dear Readers, It is wonderful to connect with you all once again. As we face the second wave of Covid19, I am sure the vaccination push by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will ease the pressures on all of us and urge the worldwide community to go back to its routine. The best way to overcome this pandemic is to open up schools and universities keeping in mind the caution. There is no need to go to crowded places yet and as far as possible don’t go to movies, theatres, crowded malls or shopping areas. It is important to get back to living. That includes schooling and going to lectures and laboratories. This issue of the Ecotrail brings to you different stories from the world of outdoors, nature and some new plans for students and adults to do better in either their academics or work place. One of the heartening stories, is the discovery of a new species of grasshopper from the high altitude shola forest of Eravikulam National Park. The species is named Tettilobus trishula for its trident shaped protrusion in the pronotum resembling Lord Shiva’s three pronged spear. In the Strides in Science, read about the extraordinary Martian movement of Perseverance rover. There is an interesting thought by Robert Litan using debates to make learning more participatory. I have my reservations as it limits itself to good communicators and is not all-inclusive but keeping that aside it can be tried out from time to time. I would like you all to read about the Gap year proposition. All meaningful experiences in school and university, including the gap experience should you undertake one, adds to develop one's personality, skills and gives one a better world view. I would recommend students of senior classes to discuss this along with their parents, and should they like to join in this year’s Gap experience, look up and register pronto on Trailblazers' website I would urge you to read, write back and contribute your articles. There is much more in this issue, it is time to be a Trailblazers and join our landmark safe treks. Ranjan Biswas Editor- Ecotrail Managing Director, Trailblazers Adventure Travel Pvt Ltd Trustee- Trailblazers Foundation





shiva's pigmy trishula

The Martian Moment!

Tettilobus trishula Information and Dhaneesh Bhaskar



A new species of pygmy grasshopper discovered from the high altitude Shola-forests of Eravikulam National Park and on the basis of a 100-year-old undescribed specimen found in a Natural History Museum, Madrid (MNCN) in Spain has been named Tettilobus trishula for its trident-shaped protrusion in the pronotum resembling Lord Shiva’s three-pronged spear. This new species has been described by a team of researchers comprising Dhaneesh Bhaskar, regional vice-chair for Asia, IUCN SSC Grasshopper Specialist Group, Switzerland, wildlife expert P S Easa and researchers Sara Stermsek, Damjan Franjevic and Josip Skejo from department of Biology of the University of Zagreb, Croatia. The researchers had found an old specimen collected more than 100 years ago from the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu during their visit to MNCN. Though it was recognized already by Ignacio Bolívar as a new species, and labelled “Potua suspecta” (París 1994), it was never published as a new species. The new species inhabits dense rainforests of the Western Ghats and it can be found on tree trunks where it probably feeds on mosses and detritus. It is a bark dwelling species and not a leaf-litter species like Deltonotus subcucullatus and D. gibbiceps. According to researchers, pygmy grasshoppers exhibit great diversity in India and Sri Lanka due to the heterogeneity of Indian biogeographic zones and there are around 200 pygmy grasshopper species in Indian subcontinent alone. The species is restricted to small geographical area, as they are unable to fly and spread and comprehensive research is needed to document the diversity before it is lost. 4


On February 18, 2021, the Perseverance rover – formerly called Mars 2020 – became the first artificial object to land on Mars since the Insight Mars lander in 2018. It was the first rover to land since Curiosity touched down in 2012. Perseverance is the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world. It traveled 293 million miles (472 million km) – over 203 days – to get to Mars. Confirmation of the successful touchdown was announced at mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California. Perseverance set down in Jezero Crater, just north of Mars’ equator. Landing on Mars is hard. Space engineers refer to it as seven minutes of terror. But the rover hit the Martian atmosphere traveling at almost 12,000 miles per hour (19,000 kmh), streaking across the sky as its protective heat shield helped to slow it down. Then, at an altitude of about 1 mile (1.5 km), the

descent module fired its engines, while a new terrain relative navigation system kicked in to identify a safe landing spot. Essentially, it scanned and analyzed the terrain below, then matched it up with maps in its database to prepare for touchdown. A 70-foot (21-meter) diameter parachute deployed to sl­­­ ow the craft further, bringing its descent to a crawl. Finally, the hovering-landing sky crane system began its task of lowering the rover the rest of the way to the ground for a soft, gentle landing. Touchdown! Source:

the innovative village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale was named the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2020, in partnership with UNESCO. He transformed the the lives of young girls at the Zilla Parishad Primary School, Paritewadi, Solapur, Maharashtra, India. In his winner’s speech, Disale said he would share half the prize money with his nine fellow finalists, meaning they would receive about $55,000 each. He started teaching at the school in 2009, when it was in a rundown building next to a cattle shed, according to organizers. School attendance was low and teenage marriages were common. The curriculum was not even in the girls’ main language, Kannada. Disale moved to the village, learned the language and translated the class text books. He also introduced digital learning tools and came up with personalized programmes for each student. His system of QR Coded Textbooks is now used across India. School attendance is now 100 per cent, and one girl from the village has graduated from university, the organizers said. Disale also initiated environmental projects in the drought-prone district, while his “Let’s Cross the Borders” project connects young people from Inida, Pakistan, Palestine, Israel, Iraq,Iran, United State and North Korea to promote world peace.


Debate centered instruction Constructive form of learning The Covid pandemic not only has been and continues to be a human tragedy, but it has wreaked havoc with education at all levels. Things would have been far worse without video-conferencing -where it has been available. But everyone agrees that remote learning, at best, is only a temporary, second-best solution. In the meantime, students around the world have not only fallen behind in their learning but have been disengaged from learning at all – both physically, if they lack an Internet connection and a device for participating in virtual classes, and psychologically by losing interest in schooling. Fortunately, there is one way for schools to re-engage students once COVID vaccination is widespread and students are back in classrooms full-time: teach through debate. Competitive debating is common throughout the world, but generally attracts only a tiny fraction of highly motivated students, and in

some formats, is conducted at speeds that are difficult for ordinary listeners to comprehend. In the U.S. in recent years, second generation students of immigrants from India have been especially successful in competitive debate. The basic skills of competitive debating – effective oral advocacy in a civil manner, critical thinking on one’s feet, organization and research -- nonetheless can be extremely useful for exciting the masses of students in all middle and high school classrooms, in all subjects, even Science and Math, without any change in teaching materials. Students of all ages love to talk and express themselves, at least among their friends. The key is to harness that energy in a constructive way that advances their learning. This already is being done in some form in a small number of schools in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world through what I call “debate centered instruction” or DCI. It is generally practiced by constructing classrooms around debatable topics or claims, asking students themselves to find evidence for or against the claims, to explain

the reasoning linking the evidence to arguments, and then rebutting critiques. Students do all this, guided by the teacher, first in small groups, and then later before their full classes. In this way DCI actively engages students in the material, ensures that they are likely to remember and understand it better than simply listening to teachers lecture and occasionally asking students a few questions – and perhaps most important, makes learning both fun and relevant. I am now working with others to expand DCI in the U.S., by teaching and mentoring teachers how to use the technique, especially for low-income students who may be able to profit the most from this highly participatory form of learning. One Web-based platform,, which is exploding in interest around the world, can help students and teachers make written lists of arguments. That is a huge start. But students learn best when learn to orally advance the best arguments in a persuasive fashion, and the skills to do so cannot be automated and are the ones that will be most valued in 21st century workplaces around the world.

Robert Litan is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. This essay is based on his new book, Resolved: Debate Can Revolutionize Education and Help Save our Democracy (Brookings Press, 2020). Mr. Robert Litan was formerly the director of research at Brookings, the Kauffman Foundation, and Bloomberg Government, and he has also served in high-level appointed positions in the Clinton Administration.




Visapur FORT TREk Breaking Monotony On the wintery morning of 29th November, we climbed the majestic Visapur fort, located in Pune district, Maharashtra. At an elevation of 1084 meters above sea level, it is approximately 50 mts taller than the nearby Lohgadh fort. As we reached the meeting point at the base of the fort, we were greeted by our very cheerful and friendly Trailblazers experts. They checked our temperature and oxygen levels as a part of standard operating procedure for Covid. After the safety briefing, introduction and warm up session, we began the hike around 9 am. As we hiked, the Trailblazers experts shared information on fauna and flora of the Sahyadris. During the climb, we were mesmerized by the splendid views of the valley and



surrounding region. As we reached the top, we could see the Pawna lake and surrounding forts - a beautiful experience indeed. While exploring the fort area, we were greeted by a troop of monkeys. After observing them for a while, we proceeded to a nice, shaded place for lunch. Once we settled, we enjoyed lunch, played games and had fun. We initiated descend around 3:30 pm and reached the base by 5 pm. All in all, it was a perfect break from the monotonous routine at home. A break with nature and no phone was precisely what we needed to feel rejuvenated. I highly recommend trekking in Sahyadris at least once every month. Thank you to Trailblazers experts for this wonderful experience.

Nefretti de Cunha is completing her Third Year in Bachelor of Vocational Studies in Travel and Tourism Management in Jai Hind College, Churchgate. She is a nature lover, adventurer, loves trekking, outdoors and trying out new things. She likes to express herself through art and music.


here i come himalayas To Beat the Summer Heat!

Throbbing heights with fresh air, rugged rivers and scenic beauty pleases one and all at every step of camping in Himalayas. A unique camping holiday in Himalayas brings an opportunity for adventure, trekking, bird watching, safaris, and many more. It helps one to soothe and unwind in the pristine environs of nature. The months of May and September are ideal for enjoying beautiful mountain views. In May, the climate is just about ideal: the long daylight hours, the Rhododendrons still in bloom, the passage of the shepherds as they tend their flocks to the summer pastures, make it highly attractive. It is true that in some areas the Himalayas are dense and scarcely

populated, but in most, there is an incredible diversity of cultures that have adapted to survive in an environment that can be particularly hostile as well as incredibly beautiful. Himalayas are also the convergence point for three of the world's great religions: Islam in the west, Hinduism to the south, and Tibetan Buddhism to the north. Before porters and trekkers brought plastic to the Himalayas, the inhabitants of the mountain made everything they needed from materials found in nature. One can still see signs of ingenuity today in the foothills, giant bamboo stalks are transformed into water pipes and utensils, and lengths of dwarf bamboo are beaten flat and woven into the walls for houses and the

fibre is used to weave baskets. Himalayan treks are a great way to build mental, physical, and spiritual fortitude. There are always challenging moments on a trek but striving together with fellow trekkers and the right trek leader, one can overcome them. One manages to put in efforts in an environment that is totally out of one's comfort zone. Motivating each other, young and old, develops bonding and endurance, which has far reaching assertive results and makes one grow into a resilient being. Visit for unique Summer Activity Holidays and Wildlife Vacations in Himalayas.




Parents and Children: Working together to plan a gap year Plan a gap year for a purposeful travel & transformational experience

The Covid virus that has caused a global pandemic is presenting the human population with many challenges. Amongst these is how to educate children in environments that are safe for them and staff. Whilst not every climate is conducive, outdoor classrooms are seen as least part of the answer. Not to simply replicate the curriculum at desk outdoors, but to use parks, woodland, meadows and shorelines as places to explore science, maths, literature or art. It is not a new idea, save the need to do so on a much larger scale than ever before and of course the outdoors has always been a source of inspiration for these and other subjects. This may be one blessing arising from the tragedy that will help move industrialised nations closer to nature, not to exploit it, but live more in harmony with it…..and recognise that we too, are nature. This is something that staff and alumni of Traiblazers will have taken to their hearts and which has been there for many years. It’s fantastic that there is also now, so much more interest in using the outdoors for education and in the opportunities for young people to take a gap year or a break from what society often expects of them. That is, school, university, a job, a family and retirement if you are lucky in your 7th or more likely for todays younger generation, 8th decade. As you may interpret from my linked in profile (should you have an urge to view it), I have, what a job-interviewer once called ‘a non-prescriptional career background’. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing until he offered me a job, but I soon found out that he had been looking for someone, who had a good range of work and life experience, who could apply some creative and lateral thinking, who had vision for the work that extended beyond his own and whom he didn’t have to manage too closely. Luckily he hasn’t been the only employer to think like that and I give most of the credit for making me employable in these ways, to the outdoor education experiences I was lucky enough to have as a young adult. Adapting to new environments, new



people, taking responsibility and managing risk and being resilient might be what we call soft skills, but these are often best learnt through challenging experiences for which the outdoors is perhaps the best classroom and one I’ve always felt most at home in. I still have friends who accompanied me on those adventures, who have forged their own career paths. They are the people I still trust to this day because I know them. I know how they react to pressure, to physical exhaustion, lack of sleep, to the heat or to the cold, and to their lack of experience when taking on a new challenge. Young people on gap year adventure, work and volunteering programme will also face testing situations…. and they will only come out the better for them, not least because of the friendships they will make along the way. But what is the role of a parent… in ensuring their son or daughter makes the most of a gap year? Well, firstly, I never forget that I owe a debt of gratitude to my parents who enabled me to take those opportunities, usually by making their own sacrifice of time or money but more importantly by taking a leap of faith, that walking in mountains, kayaking, caving, doing conservation work or volunteering in a school, would add value to all the learning that took place at school and in the home. This act of faith also meant I was lucky enough to travel independently, to volunteer for causes that meant something to me rather than take a paid job that didn’t; to study and study again even though my peers were already working full time; and to support me in my choice of careers even when they didn’t really understand what the hell it was, I was doing.

Secondly, we know that parents always have concerns about what their children will be doing next... this is what our internal dialogue spends most of its time deliberating…. and it’s no different for a gap year. • We worry that our son or daughter might come back less motivated to study at university, or that they will prefer to daydream, than to find work • We worry about the additional cost of a gap year which of course delays university entrance. • We worry about safety – everythingand we sometimes fear letting go. • And we worry that perhaps university and employers will view a gap year as something unimportant or frivolous, adding no value to the individual or institution concerned.

Whilst these are all legitimate concerns, there is plenty of evidence to show that the vast majority of young people, benefit greatly from a gap year. Something you will read more about in other articles no doubt, but which include, increased confidence, self-efficacy, motivation, commitment to studies, leadership skills, understanding themselves and their direction in life. Where benefits are less identifiable it is usually because there hasn’t been enough attention paid to understanding why they are taking a gap year and subsequently not putting in the effort to plan for it. Not a military, 100 point plan, but something that has direction, a purpose, with some flexibility built in to allow for unforeseen changes as well to accommodate the maturing and developing mind of the individual. Thirdly, young people may feel a gap year is right for them for several reasons and it’s worth parents having a conversation with their children about these. They are likely to have more than one motivation including a simple desire to gain some independence, to take a break from study, to see new places and meet new people.

From a learning perspective young people considering a gap year may feel: • over exerted, wanting perspective • feeling purpose driven and wanting to act on that purpose • feeling they need to start university/ work with renewed energy and focus • feeling that school hasn’t shown their true potential and they will learn more and demonstrate their worth, in a new environment • feeling that they have been less engaged with life and need an opportunity to grow and find what motivates them. If you are a parent, your child will appreciate it most if you listen to them and are generally supportive of their ideas. Ask more open questions as they might not like to be interrogated too much. Afterall they may not, and nor should they, be able to answer all your questions in any depth. Helping them to explore their ideas and being content with their lack of clarity will be appreciated. Likewise if you are thinking of a gap year and are talking to your parents, you should do them the courtesy of sharing some thoughts and feelings about what you hope a gap year will offer you and the commitment your are willing to make to ensure it meets your definition of success.

Finally, both parent and student should expect a gap year and purposeful travel to be transformational and both should make every effort to ensure it will be. You might wish to consider the following in your gap year conversations to inform the decisions you take: • A productive gap year requires intentionality, use this time wisely. • Extended time out & travel should spark burning questions that matter to you and matter to the world. • People, places and challenges should leave you curious and wanting to know more. • Use the experience to deepen knowledge in those areas of life you feel most passionate about. • Be sure to get out of your comfort zone and challenge your assumption with a critical lens. • Seek learning opportunities rooted in authentic engagements with real people, facing real challenges, in the real world. • Share and process the experiences, reflections, and emotions raised. • Your future world of work and study can be as rich and diverse as you wish it to be, so consider how you can open up and extend yourself into these opportunities after your gap year. If you are excited by the thought of taking a gap year, be sure to access teachers, advisors, friends and family in preparing for your gap year and again on completion. Afterall it is only when you reflect on your gap year that you will truly understand the impact it has had. Your future university or employer is not going to be impressed simply because you took a gap year, they will be most interested, in why you took one, what you did, what you have learned and why it is that having had a gap year, you have chosen this course, this job, this university or this company and you should be ready to state what you will bring to it and what you hope to achieve for yourself and for others. Oh, and if you could remind them that the outdoors is the greatest of all classrooms, presents the best of personal challenges and is its own reward, that would be good too. Stefan Wathan is CEO of Year Out Group a not-forprofit industry network of Gap & Adventure Travel organisations.



TRAvEL to discover yourself A transformative experience

My first gap year came when I was 18 years old. Plans for university, study, and work were already solidified in my life but something still didn’t sit right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew I was craving something more than the fasttrack I had placed myself on. Without being too sure about what I was getting into, I signed up for a 9-month gap year program traveling across the world. Years later, I have made it a priority to incorporate gap experiences throughout my life. Ranging from working on an Eco farm in Spain, attending a meditation retreat in India, to teaching in Peru, these times and more grant me the opportunity to take a step back from the rapid pace of day-to-day living and evaluate whether I am on a track that leads somewhere I am excited and inspired to be moving toward. Traveling spurs growth. Through the good times and the bad, situations and stimulus come across your path you never would have imagined back home. These experiences push the boundaries of comfort zones and shatter ideas once thought as foundational building blocks. You’re left changed. As my gap experiences have entirely separated me from my accustomed

social norms, I’ve instead faced a blank slate to fill with whatever parts of myself I feel like exploring. At first you have no idea what to do with all of this space. Oftentimes, I still don’t know. But the important part is having the space; the navigation of a map filled with ambiguity and uncharted paths. When faced with this, at times I’ve found myself using the same strategies and navigation techniques I use in environments back home. Other times, I try radically new routes and experiment with different ideas toward living. Regardless, I see it play out on the blank map in front of me and recognize it as a portrait of my own choices devoid of socially influenced excuses — this is what I’ve made for myself in this experience, whether I like it or not. This is the perspective so often referenced in travel and gap experiences. Not necessarily the perspective on other peoples, other cultures or other places, but the perspective on yourself. A perspective of what you really look like when left to your own devices. The more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve become familiar with this viewpoint. Oftentimes, it can be a difficult one to

look at. I question myself, my actions, my motivations, and try to make sense of it all. This practice of introspection is inherent to travel. Certain times you feel it more directly than others, but it’s always there. One of the earliest pioneers in modern travel writing, Rolf Potts, once said, “Travel should always be a privately motivated undertaking. Try as you might, you simply cannot make the social rewards of travel match up to the private discoveries, and, therefore, remember to keep your stories short and keep the best bits for yourself.” Travel for yourself. Travel to learn more about who you are and what you want. Whether you’re in school, working, retired, or at any other stage of life, this is the most valuable and transformative information you can find. Travel gives clarity to the next steps in life and teaches how to chart your own path. No matter where it leads, it will be self-defined. In a world so cluttered with external voices and preset destinations, this value is pinnacle. It will drive success throughout education, results in the workplace, and most importantly, a sense of meaning, fulfillment, and purpose in a life filled with adventure. A Gap Year program graduate, Oliver Sandreuter has since spent his time continuing to explore and advocate for experiential education and travel. His studies through the US-based Vanderbilt University took him across Peru, Nepal, Jordan, and Chile pursuing a degree in education policy. Completing university, Oliver joined the 2020 US presidential campaign trail in his home state of Georgia. He now lives in St. John in the US Virgin Islands. Author of Bridging the Gap: Incorporating Travel into Education, Work, and a Meaningful Life, Oliver believes that travel and experiential education will always be a key component of his path moving forward.


Sustainability Starts In Your Stomach

Transition to sustainable plant based diet

If you could do only one thing to help the environment, what would have the most impact? It may surprise you to learn that you don’t need to protest on the streets to consider yourself an eco-warrior. Healing the Earth starts closer to home - in fact, it starts with what’s on our plate. The meat and dairy industries account for a large portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the vast majority of the world’s arable land area currently in use. With the demand for meat and dairy still on the rise, animal agriculture is the number one reason for deforestation around the world, including the fires in the Amazon rainforest. This deforestation not only leads to habitat destruction for endangered species, but also cuts down on our planet’s ability to regulate climate patterns, leading to more extreme weather phenomena such as droughts, cyclones, and snowstorms. In addition to land use, animals are living beings that require food and water to survive. On average, it takes more than 15,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef, and more than 4000 litres for 1kg of chicken meat. This is many times more than an equivalent amount of vegetables, for example 214 litres of water to produce 1kg of tomatoes, or 287 litres for 1kg of potatoes. As cities in India come closer to running out of water, a change in our diets will go much further to help prevent future water crises than merely taking shorter or fewer showers. What’s more, animals are very inefficient at converting food into edible meat, since their life’s biological processes take up most of the calories they ingest over the course of their lifetime. For beef this can mean as little as 2% of total calories consumed by the cow ending up on your plate. Imagine the abundance of food we could have if the other 98% of calories were used to feed people instead of animals! If you’d like to reduce your environmental footprint on the planet, here are a few simple tips for transitioning to a sustainable plant-based diet: 1. Add plant foods rather than eliminating animal foods. This way you won’t feel as though you are missing out or giving up what you are used to - you’ll just be adding more plant foods that you enjoy. 2. Make easy exchanges: nowadays there are so many tasty alternatives to try, including cashew cheese, tofu omelette, coconut bacon, and soya chaap. 3. Learn to love legumes such as beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. These high-protein foods will help you feel full and fill you with energy! To experience living in a sustainable, plant-based community, you can volunteer at Sadhana Forest - an ecological project that focuses on indigenous reforestation, water conservation, permaculture, and low-impact living.

Sadhana Forest is a volunteer based organization focused on reforestation and food security in arid areas.


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Printed, Published and Edited by RANJAN BISWAS on behalf of TRAILBLAZERS ADVENTURE TRAVEL PVT. LTD. Edenwoods, Bay House, Ground Floor A, Gladys Alwares Marg, Off Pokhran Road No. 2, Thane (West) 400 610 Download softcopy from Call us to participate in our camps/activities: 022 21739732 or 022 21739737

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