A state level workshop for teachers of government schools rekindles the excitement of teaching science and keeps alive the spirit of inquiry.

“An empty bottle is always full,” says Shajil V.K., a science teacher from Malappuram. Holding out an empty bottle, he asks a group of students, “Can you blow a pellet of paper into the bottle?” They try, but it doesn’t seem that easy. “You have to suck the air out to push the paper inside,” says Shajil.

It is the concluding day of a five-day state level workshop for teachers from Government Schools in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka at the SACON campus in Anaikatty. Called “Simple Tasks, Great Concepts”, it is an initiative of the Science and Technology Department, Government of India. The teachers are exposed to 100 simple science experiments that can be demonstrated with materials such as a chalk piece, bulbs, glass slides, sand...

The teachers use chalk and ink to demonstrate chromatography, a broken glass slide becomes a magnifying lens to observe ants and spiders, lemon juice and sugar makes invisible ink. “Many schools, especially in rural areas, don’t have access to a laboratory. The experiments have been put into a book and shared with the teachers, to make learning life sciences livelier. If they come up with new ideas, they can approach the Department of Science and Technology,” says Dr. Sultan Ahmed Ismail, the National co-ordinator and the managing director of Ecoscience Research Foundation, Chennai. P. Pramod of SACON says the objective is to demystify science for students.

M. Thriukkumaran, a middle school teacher from Salem, learnt how to make organic manure, clean waste water, and make distilled water for laboratory experiments. “I am going to encourage my students to explore,” he says confidently. R. Chandrasekaran from Palakkad fills a cup with water, covers it with a paper and inverts the cup. The water doesn’t flow out. “This is because of the atmospheric pressure,” he explains. While V.V. Manikandan from Malappuram district demonstrates ‘rope magic’, Botany teacher E. Vijayan from Karur demonstrates the blind spot in eyes. P.S. Prasantha Kumar from Malappuram, also a ventriloquist, is intrigued by the ground-water flow model experiment. that helps gauge the properties of groundwater. “We already have puppet theatre that empowers our students. Now, they will explore science experiments too,” he says.

S. Sivasankara Nayaka and Usha Rao from Chamraj Nagar lead a group of students to plantain trees and explain its botanical details. “Teaching in a classroom is always a challenge. Now a spirit of inquiry has been inculcated in us. Our classrooms will be livelier,” assures Usha.

M. Divya from Centurion Foundation in Tirupur says now she now has been taught to observe and learn from Nature. For M.T. Venkatesan, vice-principal of SSVM School, the workshop helped teachers understand the meaning behind simple tasks. Retired science teacher V. Umashankar of the Tamil Nadu Science Forum says it paves the way for learning by doing.

“I will share my learning with 200 teachers of Tamil Nadu Science Forum in Chennimalai block of Erode. Through them, it will reach 4,000 students,” says S.E. Karthikeyan. Science teacher N. Sumathi from Karur takes a sheet of paper and writes ‘Science is fun’ with a brush dipped in limejuice and sugar. She dries it, and holds the paper over the candle flame, and the words reappear. “There is no magic. It happens because the sugar in the lemon juice chars. The workshop has taught me to approach teaching without stress. Now, I will go to school with a smiling face,” she says.

Learn more

The learning module will be introduced in educational clusters in Tami Nadu, Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry through more workshops.

The book Simple Tasks Great Concepts is available on the web at http://simpletasksgreatconcepts.wordpress.com/

“In formalised education, a sense of closing happens in children. It has to be opened and the key is a good teacher. When the teachers are sensitised, they bring a new approach and this develops inquisitiveness in children. A teacher can ignite the spirit of an explorer in their students.”

Dr. P. A. Azeez, Director of SACON

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