Why teach science when we can have so much fun with it?

Adithi Mathur and Ratnesh Mathur

I am Rithvik. I am 9 years old. I love doing science. I don’t like to read books because it is not interesting. I enjoy electronics projects. I am interested to learn about plants, animals, amphibians, reptiles that I see around me – like ants, frogs, butterflies, lizards, worms. I like those things that are around me and want to know more about them. EXPERIMENTS IN BOOKS ARE not interesting. I want to learn doing directly.

Perhaps this boy has captured the essence of science much better than we ever can in all our definitions of the subject. Science is all around us. Why can’t we immerse, interact and play with it without trying to learn/study it? What are we worried will happen if we used this approach to experience science?

Me and dad were sitting on plastic chairs at a dinner gathering. V came and suddenly asked,
“What is your weight daddy?”
“64 kgs.”
“What is your weight mumma?”
“54 kgs.”
“Oh okay.” He said and then went to the left hand support of dad’s chair and tried to pull himself up by pushing his weight down on the handle of the chair with his hands.
I got curious. I asked, “Oh! So you asked for the weight because you wanted to try and lift yourself off the ground?” “Yes” he said smiling and continued, “The more the weight in the chair, it won’t tumble to one side and I won’t fall.”
“Oh okay.” I said as I realized he was thinking in terms of balancing.
“So the more weight you have in the chair, the safer you are from it toppling over,” I continued.
“Yessss… That’s why I chose daddy’s chair,” he said laughing.
“So what is the minimum weight that you will need in the chair in order for it to not topple over?” I asked. He thought for a moment and asked, “How much?” Dad asked him, “How much is your weight?” Puzzled, he repeated the question back to us, “How much is my weight?”
“17 kgs,” I answered.
“Oh ok,” he said. Then he started playing again by pulling himself up on the handle of the chair. After a while he shared his explanation.
“So mumma, if I have less than 17 kgs on the left side (of the chair), the chair will fall on this side (his side).”
“And what if it’s more than 17 kgs?”
He had a big smile on his face, “Then it won’t fall.”
“And what if both sides are 17 kgs?”
“It’s the same,” he said and ran outside.

The problem with studying science is that one has to always make sense. The advantage of playing with science is that the act of making any kind of sense becomes the science. If only we could all decide, once and for all, what it is that we really want. Do we want children to learn facts that anyway abound in books and the internet OR do we want them thinking science?

As a 45 year old, I already knew what glass (silica) is, how it is made (high temperature melting in a kiln), etc. But when it came to cutting a glass bottle for some requirement on our campus I was stumped. I operated from the belief that this is a tough material, cannot be cut by hand and needs some hi-tech glass cutting machine.

But then Stanzin researched and offered to cut the glass bottle. Initially, I was sceptical (was it one of those hacks that don’t usually work?). But all he did was to tie a jute string dipped in kerosene around the bottle where it needed to be cut, then lit the kerosene soaked string and even as it was burning, he quickly dipped the bottle in a bucket of water. Voila.

The excitement that comes over us when seeing a device that we built with our own hands working is awesome. It gives a complete sense of satisfaction, while inviting us to understand the intricacies and inspiring us to keep exploring.

If I were to fall in love with science – I would not try to know or learn more. Rather I would make more, do more and fail more. Again not to learn, but just to experience joy.

Advay is washing his hands with soap. After the soap is all gone he turns the tap off and stares at his hands. The water is making tracks on his hands. He flaps his hands, water sprays all around. Looks at his hands once again, some more water is left. Flaps them again, there is still some water left.

Back in his bedroom Advay is applying some oil in his hair.

Excitedly, after applying oil in his hair, Advay goes back into the bathroom, turns the tap on and pours water on his hands. He notices that this time the water is slipping away. Applies soap, washes his hands clean, pours water on his hands again, observes the water making tracks on his hands again.

He comes out and exclaims triumphantly to his parents, “Did you know that ducks’ wings never get wet?”

Learning isn’t supposed to stick to our minds. It is supposed to flow into tracks, out from here and in there and nowhere and then it’s available everywhere. We don’t need to cook science in our minds, it’s warmer in our palms. Once we stop evaluating it, the oil of simple joys can lubricate our learning, our life.

If you ask a fish whether she knows what water is – she may not know at all – simply because to a fish, her world is water (she knows no other world).

In the same way if you ask a child if they know what science is, the child may not know at all, simply because to a child, her/his world is science (they know no other world).

S – Storm of stupidity
C – Combining mixture of raw thoughts
I – In and out, Innovative
E – Evolutionary
N – Nurturing
C – Creations
E – Enjoyment

F – Fooling – repetitive experiments make you fool with the results
U – Your mind round and round
N – Noooo to know this science

Do you know other ways of living science?

The authors run Aarohi, an Open Learning Community for learners of all ages, open to all kinds of interests, abilities, styles and content areas. Learning by doing what one wants, how one wants, and self-reflection. It is a community to co-live, learn and support each other. Aarohi’s campus is in a village near Hosur in Tamil Nadu (55 km from Bangalore). To know more about Aarohi, visit https://aarohilife.org.

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