…𝒆𝒙𝒑𝒍𝒐𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒈𝒐𝒑𝒂𝒏𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒆𝒏𝒗𝒊𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒍 𝒂𝒘𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒑𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒂𝒏𝒕 𝒎𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒔
In Kharungla, under Trashigang dzongkhag, an artistic nature camp known as the “Winter Youth Tragopans Illustration and Story Writing Programme” took place. The camp, organized by Sonam Dorji, aimed to foster a deep understanding of the environmental, natural, and cultural significance of Tragopans, locally known as Bramlapos, in the famed Pheasant Mountains of Bhutan.
Running from January 5 to January 20, 2024, the camp specifically catered to students from the Yonphula and Kanglung areas. Tshewang Norbu, a freelance tourist guide and birder, guided the participants through birding and art sessions. Tandin Wangdi, a dedicated teacher from Trashi Yangtse Primary School, highlighted the camp’s objectives, stating that it aimed to educate students from Kanglung and Yonphula about the environmental, natural, and cultural significance of Tragopans.
Strategically selecting the location, Tandin explained, “Khangma was ideal as it was easily accessible for students from Kanglung and Yonphula. Furthermore, Kezang Choden, a generous shop owner, provided us with space for free, which was crucial for the success of the camp.”
The camp was hosted at a library in Yonphula, where bird watching classes were frequently held. Fifteen students from Yonphula and Kanglung areas, along with two students from Trashi Yangtse, participated in illustration lessons facilitated by Tshewang Rinzin, an artist and member of Voluntary Artists Studio, Thimphu (VAST) Bhutan.
Reflecting on the experience, Tshewang Rinzin expressed his joy at collaborating with the team, stating, “Through this initiative, I am able to help rural students open their eyes to the art world as a medium to express their understanding of the world and sensibilities.” He further emphasized the value of gaining insights into Tragopans and the rich biodiversity of Bhutan, adding, “This new knowledge and experience gave me strong motivation to work on similar educational programmes in the future.”
Tandin Wangdi, responsible for storytelling and writing, added, “The illustrations were based on the storytelling and writing done by me.”
Over the course of the 15-day camp, students engaged in hands-on lessons on drawing and painting fundamentals, along with nature story writing, illustration classes, Haiku poem writing, and birdwatching activities. Tandin emphasized, “We focused our art camp on nature conservation and education, somehow neglected in most Bhutanese schools now. Art camp is one powerful platform for crucial awareness and educational purposes.” The secondary focus of the camp centered around educating students about the Tragopan species found in the Kharungla mountains.
Tandin explained, “Satyr Tragopan, Blyth’s Tragopan, and Temmnick’s Tragopans are found in the jungles of Kharungla. Our participants are in close proximity to The Pheasant Mountains of Bhutan, the holy grails of birders around the world.”
Tshering Yuden, from Yonphula LSS, shared her experience of the camp, stating, “Through this programme, I learned the basics of drawing and painting. The step-by-step guide helped me a lot in improving my skills. Everything was new to me, from pencil grading to watercolors and multiple-points perspective. These techniques were helpful.”
Chimi Selden, from Jampeling Central School, Kanglung, said, “From the art camp, I learned that there are various types of birds in our community, and we need to protect them by conserving our mother nature. We also completed a picture book, which was a very new experience for me and was very memorable. I also learned that education is not only the things we learn in school successfully, but we can also live this life by starting a business, such as selling art products. I gained experience about the knowledge of pencils and watercolor and the advantages of watercolor, such as in screensaver, which was useful knowledge and skills in my life that I can use in my daily life and earn money.”
Another student, Jamba Tsheten, from Baylling Central School, expressed, “An important lesson I learned from the trip and the art camp is that the artwork that we are doing is not just art, but it’s a treasure that we, as students, have to know. The trip gave me an important feeling, starting that with friends and teachers. A new thing was communication skills. I gained communication skills and new friends. And the main theme is to save Bram Lapo and learn about them.”
Reflecting on the challenges faced during the camp, Tandin noted, “We didn’t have many challenges besides the cold winter weather of Yonphula. Most participants were regular students who participated during summer classes in birdwatching and bird art classes.”
Programs focusing on art and nature education, according to Tandin, hold immense benefits for students, local culture, and environmental conservation. He highlighted, “Students gain environmental awareness, develop creativity and critical thinking, and learn cultural values through firsthand experience and artistic expression. Moreover, these programs contribute to strengthening cultural identity, preserving traditional knowledge, and potentially boosting local economies through increased tourism.”
Summing up the impact of the “Tshewang and the Bram Lapos” project, Tandin said, “Art and nature education programs offer a powerful bridge between people and their surroundings, leading to a future of appreciation, responsibility, and beauty.”
The culmination of the camp will soon result in a storybook that captures the essence of Pheasant Mountain, where the unique coexistence of three Tragopan species was observed. The artist fees for this endeavor were generously sponsored by Ping Lau from America, marking a collaborative effort to bring the storybook to fruition.
In a gesture of appreciation, the coordinator acknowledged Tshewang Norbu’s instrumental role in the early stages of setting up the library, stating, “The storybook is dedicated to his effort. He was instrumental in the early stages of the library setting and making the kids interested in wildlife, especially birds.”
The success of this winter youth engagement program in a rural area demonstrates the potential of such initiatives to create positive, lasting effects on individuals and communities alike.