Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Teaching Indian children science the Agastya way !

The Agastya science mobile van is in Mumbai for 15 days, and is visiting various schools, to teach children science "hands-on". I visited them at B D Somani School today - and was very impressed by the great job they are doing.

All children are naturally curious, until schools and examinations kill their inquisitiveness. The great thing about Agastya is that it allows children to learn stuff for themselves, using simple inexpensive items.

What really impressed me is the fact that the teaching is done by the children themselves ! The Agastya staff train the students of the school - whom they call Young Instructors" - to actually perform the experiment themselves. Once they have understood the science behind the model land can demonstrate it themselves, the Agastya staff then allows the students to become teachers. Not only does this allow the children to become confident; it also encourages the other students to ask "stupid" questions ( which they are often reluctant to do in class).

For example, in one of the models, the Young Instructor rolls 2 balls down 2 different slopes - one of which is curved; and the other is straight ; and he asks the students to guess which ball will reach the ground first. Everyone clamours to guess the right answer - and then the Young Instructor lets the balls go - and then explains why the one on the curved track reaches the base faster. Once students see this in real-life, intangible concepts such as potential energy and kinetic energy come to life. Enthusiastic students will then race balls of different weights down the same tracks, to see what happens - thus creating their own experiments - and becoming young scientists !

I do wish every school would invest in these inexpensive teaching models, so they could have a Science Lab in a Box or their own schools, and not have to depend upon Agastya to inspire their children !

I wish they'd upload these demos to youtube - along with the questions children ask - and their answers !

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