Science experiments or project work by schools students are meant to help develop an inquisitive bent of mind and make the learning process interesting. But, how far are they helping the students?

Quite a number of schools are re-thinking this component of the school curriculum following complaints that children are carrying a lot of such work home or seeking external help to complete the assignments.

While some schools such as Sir Sivaswami Kalaya Senior Secondary School do not observe project work day, some schools do not encourage any working model that are expensive and time-consuming to make.

With Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) laying stress on overall development of the child, through academics and co-curricular activities, the CBSE has issued circulars to all its affiliated schools this academic year that project work be done during the school hours under the supervision of teachers.

“There were complaints from parents that children brought the work home, burdening them in the process. This is one reason why we do not insist that students of classes V to VIII do any working model. Students of class XI and X can take up a working model and pursue even if it is a failure,” said a principal of a school in the Arumbakkam area. A few other schools such as Chettinad Hari Shree Vidyalayam and Children's Garden Higher Secondary School lay emphasis on group work where the teacher acts as a facilitator. Sri RKM Sarada Vidyalaya Model Higher Secondary School, which undertakes several environment-friendly activities, does not give marks to students who design models with thermacol or the like. “We have a group which curtails energy consumption and the electricity bill has been brought down by nearly Rs. 500 every month,” says headmistress Kannaki Prabakaran about how practical examples stimulate interest in students.

The challenge, however, is finding time between school hours if project work has to be taken in the true spirit, say teachers. “Also, teachers need to be well-equipped. When students work as a group they develop social skills and it becomes a mode of expression for which the teacher should play as a facilitator,” says Pushpa Gopal, academic coordinator, Chettinad Hari Shree Vidyalayam.

Sultan Ahmed Ismail, a soil biologist who is often invited as a judge to various project competitions, says it should not be made compulsory. “Impromptu things should be brought out by children. Give them some broken things, coloured paper… and let them design something,” he says.

The DNA Club, promoted by Loyola Institute of Frontier Energy, and Shri AMM Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre, work in schools and popularise science and technology interventions by designing and distribute eco-friendly units such as creating a vermi compost in school, solar still fabrication, etc.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012