Scientific concepts can be made easy to understand, and interesting too.
“What are the similarities between a dosa and a flower?” S.T. Manikandan, chief scientist at Miyav, asked a group of children, parents and teachers who had gathered for the Buzz Meet organised by Helen O'Grade and Long Long Ago.
“Both are round and smell good,” responded the audience. Through such simple questions, experiments and explanations, Manikandan introduced them to creative methods of learning as they explored ways to understand scientific concepts through questioning and pondering.
The questions were meant to encourage children to understand, apply, analyse, evaluate data available, while coming up with innovative ideas. Manikandan explained that his learning exercises were modeled to help children.
Toys of learning
The session started with an introduction to toys of learning. The screening of a video on scientist and master toymaker Arvind Gupta, with his innovative and improvised toys, saw faces light up on finding the secret behind those simple toys.
Manikandan's questions like why we cannot put our hands through a rock while we could do that with water, set the kids thinking as he explained the basic scientific concepts of atoms, molecules and substances. Manikandan, an IIT graduate who had worked at Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, urged the kids to look around and explore things that aroused their curiosity.
The presence of carbon in all organic substances and the concept of the universe and planets were also introduced as he kept them interested throughout.
An author of learning activity books for children, Manikandan said, “Textbooks followed in schools today encourage a fixed question-answer format instead of leaving the option open for children to come up with all possible answers. Children will come up with brilliant ideas if we give them freedom to think.”
Then he took them back in time to the Big Bang theory and the evolution of the earth and various species of flora and fauna. The session ended with various activities to introduce children to basic everyday facts.