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10 { Shilpy Arora / FG }

Practical Science

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S ocial

7-13 February 2014

rijesh, a student of Class 7 at the Government Senior Secondary Model School, Sector 4, pulls apart the model of a brain into two pieces and identifies the Medulla Oblongata. Her classmates join in and remove the lungs and heart and then identify the parts of the digestive system. The children are very excited, as they are viewing a three-dimensional model of body parts for the first time – at the new Science Centre. “We have seen pictures in our textbook, but we never imagined that our body (inside) actually looks like this,” smiles Brijesh. As children enter the Science Centre, which is full of gadgets and apparatus, their excitement very soon transforms into eagerness, and a desire to learn and explore. Brijesh and her friends are the first batch in the school to benefit from the Science Centre, which was launched by the Agastya International Foundation. Based on the ‘thinklearn-practice’ concept, the Science Centre focuses on the practical application of scientific experiments, to kindle curiosity among children. Education in government schools generally lacks practical exposure. Students often have to juggle studies with home chores and sometimes even work, to supplement their family incomes. In this scenario, the installation of a state-of-art Science Centre in this School is a big Event. The Laboratory will help children in their skill-development, through practical and gamebased learning. “This Science Centre will empower students as well as teachers, through experiential learning. It will promote scientific experimentation and the understanding of Science through live experiments,” feels Prabhat Shaw, Project Manager, Agastya International Foundation. It is a Bangalore-based non-profit educational trust, which seeks to stimulate and transform the thinking of the economically disadvantaged children. The NGO aims to help bring innovative science education to all the government schools across the country. The Science Kits available at the Centre comprise simple

prakhar PANDEY

tools, aimed at making Science accessible to children who come from underprivileged backgrounds. A Mobile Planetarium, three-dimensional models of the Human Body and a Chemistry Laboratory are the major attractions. The Laboratory also has: a live Optics demonstration, explaining concepts such as reflection and refraction; a spiral rotating Periodic Table that teaches children about the elements in Chemistry; a model of the Solar System; and some interesting Biology specimens. Teachers in a school are consulted before installing the various models in the Lab, to make sure that they (the models) relate to the lessons in the prescribed textbooks. “Earlier the children did not even know what a laboratory was. Now they conduct experiments and understand Science in a better man-

ner. They can touch, hear and understand many scientific concepts,” says a teacher. The new Centre will not only help students in understanding the basic concepts of Science, but also lead to an improvement in the students’ academic performance - and hopefully a higher chance of their opting for Science courses later. “We have many success stories in other States. Over a period of four or five years, the students become proficient in Science. The practical exposure also helps them to score good marks in the examinations. We have seen an increase of over 10 to 20 per cent in the marks of Std. X students, due to practical knowledge they acquire at the Science Centres,” says Prabhat. Agastya Foundation set up a ‘public laboratory’ in 2001, which gradually grew into one of the largest hands-on science programmes in the world. Since then the Foundation has been providing Science Centres at

various government schools in the country. Going forward, the Science Centre will not only showcase experiments, but will also focus on a Science on Wheels Programme called Mobile Lab. It will conduct Science Fairs, Teachers’ Training Pro-

grammes, Young Instructors’ Programmes (where children teach other children), Ecology & Development and Arts learning programmes - and also conduct Summer Camps. Further, the Science Centre will function as a Hub, where experiments will be exhibited for the students and teachers from nearby localities. The Foundation believes that hands-on learning can increase retention, awaken a student’s innate critical thinking skills and trigger the self-belief needed to propel an individual forward. Interestingly, some of the students join the Foundation’s YIL programme, and then help in teaching other students. “YIL programmes have transformed several children from passive to active learners, and from followers to leaders,” smiles Prabhat. In many villages the impact of Agastya’s programmes has been life-alter-

ing - many school dropouts have been mainstreamed; several students have taken up jobs in reputed organisations. The Foundation has had a brilliant track record of helping ‘their’ students win the prestigious Initiative for Research and Innovation in Science (IRIS) – where the children from government schools compete with students from some of the wealthiest schools in the country. “Practical exposure helps our students win every time. The Foundation has been able to achieve this by keeping the ideas simple and the costs low,” informs Prabhat. Last year a group of students, who were part of Agastya’s Science training programme, came up with the idea of generating energy from banana leaves. “They saw banana plants in their village being burnt and thought they could be used as a cheap energy source. They discovered that it costs just Rs.2.86 a kg to produce banana briquettes, which ignite faster than firewood and also produce less smoke. The group won an award for this experiment. We now want to replicate our success in Haryana!” he says. The Science Centre at Sector 4 Government School should now help foster curiosity, critical thinking and creativity, and perhaps even help reduce the high dropout rates prevalent in most government schools. It should definitely improve the content and quality of teaching, as the Foundation also provides comprehensive training programmes for teachers..u

Friday gurgaon 7 13 feb, 2014 the change you want to see