Making science popular

Kishor Kulkarni

When teaching science the chalk and talk method is not very useful. The best approach to science is always through activities. A passive science classroom does not do much for the learner as does a noisy yet active one. Without the active participation of students “science learning” is meaningless.

Curiosity, quest for knowledge, honesty, truthfulness, courage to question, systematic reasoning, acceptance after proof, open mindedness and team spirit are some basic values that we hope to teach through science.

To generate interest among my students towards the subject and to help them inculcate the values of science I conduct various activities in my classroom. My students’ active participation in these activities inspires me to share them with you. I hope you will try them as well with your students.

Science through drama
Choose a topic and see how you can dramatize it. I got my class 5 students to enact a skit on “community sanitation”. Similarly class 6 students presented a play on “water pollution” to show how people pollute water and that 60 per cent of the diseases are caused due to polluted water. Drama is an effective medium to convey lessons. All the students understood the importance of community sanitation and water pollution.

Milk testing
These days, on and off, we hear that synthetic milk is being sold. Synthetic milk is prepared using soap and chemicals. Is it possible to distinguish natural milk from synthetic milk so that we can avoid consuming it?

My students and I made a few trips to Ekalvya (NGO), which runs the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme. There, in the science club some students were trained to check whether milk is synthetic or pure. The next day I found that a number of students had brought milk from home to test.

This activity led the students to inquire how we are ingesting more chemicals these days, what the harmful effects of this are, why such products are being released into the market and whether we can avoid them. A spirit of inquiry was generated.

scientist Celebrating science day
28 February is National Science Day, it being the birthday of the great scientist and Nobel prize winner, C.V. Raman. On this day we organize a science quiz, programmes and speeches to celebrate science. These activities are an occasion to learn about scientists in India.

A doctor in school
I have had doctors visit the school and give lectures on various topics in science. Since students get to directly interact with people practicing science there is a lot of enthusiasm and interest among students for such activities. Of course learning happens naturally.

Plantation by students
The effects of deforestation, how it affects human life, how nature becomes imbalanced. No doubt students know all these things but they will truly internalize this information only when they plant trees themselves. So I got students to plant trees not only in the school but also in their own gardens, or spaces available outside their homes.

Drug abuse
I invited social workers to visit the school. They talked to the students about the adverse effects of smoking cigarette, using tobacco, etc. Some charts depicting these adverse effects were also shown. It was wonderful to see parents come to school and tell us how their children told them about what tobacco is doing to their bodies and that they were happy to promise their children never smoke or use tobacco.

Mustard oil adulteration testing centre
Three years ago when newspapers were full of news of adulteration of mustard oil, I decided to get the students to open a mustard oil adulteration testing centre. A simple test of mixing nitric acid with the oil indicates whether it is pure or adulterated. Not only were students enthused with the project but we also had shopkeepers lining up at our centre asking to check whether the oil they were selling was adulterated.

Science films, mobile science exhibition
I am always on the lookout for science programmes or shows that are being organized in the vicinity of our school so that I can take my students there. The Regional Science Center Bhopal is a favourite place for us as they often have science films or mobile science exhibitions to create public awareness on various topics.

To conduct exams other than academics
The science exam conducted by the school shouldn’t be the only science exams that your students write. Talk to the school management and have science olympiads and competitive exams conducted. Such exams improve students’ knowledge to a great extent.

Field trips
Try and take your students on field trips as often as you can. Science is understood better outside in the world than inside the four walls of the classroom. I took the class 12 students of my school to visit the Raghogarh TV transmission center as well as the Radio station in Guna.

National Children Science Congress
For budding young scientists and to bring out their hidden potential NCSC carries out project activities for children. My students have been very enthusiastic in participating in the Science Congress; they have even reached the national level of the competition bringing laurels to our school.

These are some of the ways in which I have tried to popularize science. Have you tried something new to make science fun? I’d love to exchange ideas with all my fellow teachers.

The author has been teaching for the last 21 years. He is the Head of the Department for Science at Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, Vijaipur, Madhya Pradesh. He can be reached at kishorkulkarni71@gmail.com.