Bringing science home

N Sai Prashanthi

Science is the systematic analytical study of nature and natural phenomena best learnt via experiments, hypothesis and testing. Experiments are extremely important to test whatever is proposed in the hypothesis. While in physical school demonstrating and involving students in experiments wasn’t a problem, with schools now moving online, science teachers have had to think outside the box to help their students understand concepts.

Imparting theoretical knowledge was not as difficult as conducting practical classes online. With no scientific equipment at hand and no access to a laboratory, how could teachers teach practically? Through some innovative adaptations of scientific experiments! Science teachers have shown that they are no less creative with many teachers thinking up experiments that children can do at home with ingredients available at home. Through such efforts, teachers have brought science into the students’ lives at home. In this article I would like to share with you two sets of experiments that my students and I did.

Acid base chemistry

This is something I did with children in primary school, how one colour transforms into another when we add something to it. I asked the children to bring some water in a bowl or container, preferably a transparent one. The students added turmeric to this water and watched it turn yellow. Next I asked them to add in some washing powder and give the mixture a good stir. The liquid now turned red. At this point we engaged in a discussion as to why the liquid changes colour every time we add something to it. I then asked the students to add a few drops of lemon juice to the mixture and the liquid turned yellow again! Why did this happen? Another discussion point.

Such experiments are easy to organize at home, they improve practical knowledge and children’s analytical ability as well.

Isolation of DNA

We have all seen diagrams of the DNA in our textbooks. But can we see our own DNA? Wouldn’t we need a lab and complicated instruments to see our DNA? What if I told you we could do this at home with easily available ingredients? My students were all excited when I told them this. I asked each of them to keep a sterilized container at hand. When the class began, I asked them to collect some of their saliva in the container. To this they added detergent to break down the cells in the saliva. The next step was to add salt to this mixture, which immediately clotted to form clumps. The last ingredient to be added was hand sanitizer. You can see white thread like substances separating from the mixture. This is the DNA.

Such home based experiments will keep children’s interest in science alive. Indeed, COVID has taken away many things from us but it has also given us an opportunity to think afresh and re-energize the way we teach and learn and I think we must grab this opportunity with both hands.

The author conducts practical science classes for children as part of her work for Breakthrough Science Society, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. She is a student of microbiology from Osmania University, Hyderabad. She can be reached at [email protected].

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