College students learn while explaining scientific principles to school children using horizontal learning.

The Constitution, more often than not, is associated by many as an instrument to claim their rights, more particularly fundamental rights. But little do they realise that a 1976-amendment to the supreme document had made it obligatory for citizens to perform fundamental duties also and one such duty imposed under Article 51A (h) is to develop ‘scientific temper.’

An essential requirement of scientific temper is to avoid accepting answers without scrutinising them in detail. It generally does not happen in a formal school environment where science is confined to textbooks and children are expected to learn by rote. That is exactly why a group of 35 students from Madura College here set out on a mission recently to explore science with school children.

The students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate courses in various disciplines had chosen the tiled-roof buildings of Indira Gandhi Memorial Primary School at Thenparankundram, situated under the foothills of Tirupparankundram hillock near here, to converse with about 60 children studying between VI and X standards in either government or government-aided private schools in the vicinity.

“Unlike the set pattern of a teacher teaching and the student listening, the camp organised by our college students was more of horizontal learning where they learnt a lot while explaining in simple terms the logic behind numerous scientific principles to the school children. Answering questions posed by the children was a real challenge for our students,” said S. Sivaramakrishnan of Physics Department.

The one-day camp was conducted during a fortnight-long vacation that the college students got to enjoy recently owing to the State government’s oral orders to close down colleges across the State to put an end to protests on the Sri Lankan issue. The free laptops distributed by the government to college students came in handy as they were utilised to teach computer concepts to the school-goers.

Batches rotated

The children were divided into batches — one section attended a session on chemistry, the next on physics and the third on logical reasoning. All the sessions were conducted simultaneously and the school children were rotated from one session to the other. Mathematical concepts such as fibonacci sequence and many other scientific principles were explained to them.

Referring to the college students as anna (elder brother) and akka (sister), K. Poornima, a Standard IX student of Arulmighu Aandavar Subramaniaswamy Girls Higher Secondary School, said: “The camp was very useful as we learnt that science is not just a subject to be studied at school. There is science in every single action of ours. There is science in the way we walk, talk, breathe and lots more.” In one of the sessions, the college students asked the school children to create eight triangles with six broomsticks. Many tried their hands on it but did not succeed. However, Poornima did it with ease by intersecting two big triangles one facing upwards and the other downwards. “It is so easy, this is what I do while drawing ‘kolam’ outside my house every morning,” she said amid thunderous applause.

S. Balakrishnan, faculty in the Department of Philosophy and one of the coordinators of the camp, said that students in rural pockets could grab scientific concepts with ease because they could relate them with their day-to-day activities. “This may not happen with urban students who are stuck with video games and television all through the day,” he added.

Stumped

During a session on chemistry, the school children stumped the college students by asking questions on balancing chemical equations. The moment the equation PbCO3+2KI=PbI2+K2CO3 was written on the black board, some rightly identified the reactants to be lead carbonate and potassium iodide and the products to be lead iodide and potassium carbonate.

The children were taught the science behind products such as soaps, turmeric powder and coconut oil used in every household on a daily basis. Thrilled by the experience, L. Meenakshi, a first-year B.Sc., Mathematics student said: “It was a real learning experience for me, especially because I aspire to be a teacher after completing my graduation. Today, I realised that teaching school children is not that easy.”

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