Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Science Programme Training in Uttarakhand

(Gyan is a Management Fellow with the Pratham Education Fellowship. He is currently managing the program in Uttarakhand.)

Haridwar, Uttarakhand
31st December 2013 to  2nd January 2014

I’m involved with Pratham's Science Programme working in the Chamoli district, where some of the Learn, Out of The Box schools overlap with the science programme schools. I had a natural inclination for this program given the context and impact on children. The sheer involvement of children during the science fair/workshop leaves you in awe. Children, who have likely never opened up during their normal classroom studies, immersed themselves into their self-designed models. They eagerly voiced the concepts of science behind working of these models.

The Science programme held a training for its Pratham District Centre Coordinators (PDCs), Vigyan Mitras (Science Friends - staff from the Pratham Science team who work at the district level), and for the Uttarakhand State team. I participated in this training, and a day by day summary of the training is given below:

Day 1
There was a brief introduction of all the PDCs, Vigyan Mitras and the Science Team. All the PDCs of Uttarakhand and some from Punjab were present there. From the science team - Vinod, Mahesh, Abrar and Ninad were present. Along with them, the state Team of Uttarakhand was also there.

The session started with basic feedback from Vigyan Mitra and PDCs regarding the impact of Science Fairs on the schools and children’s inclinations in general.

The second half of the session gave a basic concept of simple machines. The broad categorization was defined in which these simple machines fell. (I never knew that the screw is actually as form of inclined plane).
Day 2
The day started with the distribution of tools used for making specific science models. It ranged from clamps, knives and cutters,hammer, manual driller, saw, screwdrivers etc. Many of the tools which were distributed were new to me. The trainers somehow knew this and they were kind enough to introduce one tool at a time with a brief description of these tools.

The whole group was divided into teams and was given assignments to create certain models using these tools. The aim was to make a person familiar with the tools and for which purpose should one use it for. A particular tool had to be used specifically for a purpose. The real challenge was to find out this process during the process of model making.

Teams were given a task of creating – 
  1. Pencil Box (to be later converted to a toy car) 
  2. Hunting Knife 
  3. Tongs
The best part was to create these objects with wood logs and plywood using the tools provided to us.
Day 3
This was my last day at the training. Teams were given task of creating a pulley system again from the wood logs and plywood using the tools. By this time however, we had mostly figured out how to use the tools in more effective manner. But still, it took us a whole day to create the object.

Learning from Training
It would look rather very simple to create a object for a person who has never been involved in model making from raw materials. Even for me, until I actually tried these things, the tasks seemed pretty easy. But, as a matter of fact, the model making actually required more effort than I had imagined.

From cutting of logs using a saw, to using of hammers for nails, requires scientific precision, patience and hard work. You need to have clear visualization, accurate measurements and practicability of the model. Apart from these, you need to keep in mind the economy of resource, time and openness in thought to integrate the ideas of your team members. The scientific concepts behind these models are to be known so that these models actually work in real life. It should not end up only as a showpiece.

In summing up, the training gave me insights on various aspects of learning science and on life in general. I greatly appreciate the work of a carpenter, who works in a neighborhood shop for example. Moreover, the impact of these activities on a child can actually change the way science is learned in the schools. Studying the concepts of physics during making a model is definitely better than learning those concepts from a book, sitting in a classroom.Students can actually see the impact of scientific concepts in real time.

As an added feature, I am sure that these activities enhance scientific creativity, and mould the scientific temper in an early age.