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Rendezvous with science

Waiting to find out more Kids at the event  

Think about the power of stories, especially those about heroes. What better way to inspire a learning community of parents and children than by providing a platform for children to meet modern heroes? In an effort to popularise science among children, Mango Education hosted ‘Kids Ask Science’, in which students met scientists and science writers and interacted with them.

The science heroes who came to share their stories were Dr. Vijayaragavan Vishwanathan, a former scientist at CERN and Co-Founder & CEO, Tiino Techmations Pvt Ltd; Atul Jain, scientist at Cosmic Ray Laboratory, Ooty; Dr. Subhashree Desikan, a science journalist and a translator endeavouring to give children science fiction in Tamil.

The event was hosted by the students. Right from researching about the panellists to curating and facilitating the Q&A session, the children ran an exemplary show. Each speaker got 10 minutes to speak about their experiences, inspirations, beliefs, passions and about their work. This was followed by a Q&A session in which they took queries from the audience.

Vishwanathan, a first-generation graduate from a farming family, shared stories from his childhood up to his days in CERN. He emphasised the importance of thinking with both the heart and the mind and sharing knowledge. He talked about how he struggled in his initial years of college. The most important part of learning, he said, was understanding. He spoke about failing in Quantum Physics during his Master’s and approaching a friend for help. With the coaching, he ended up scoring more than his friend. His friend just hugged him and said, “Your 29 and my 27 are my marks!”

Shubashree Desikan’s passion for science began when she learnt that the sun had a finite life period. It made her re-evaluate and understand the daily happenings around her. She talked about the difficult period when she chose to give up her research and turn to science writing.

She also spoke about her three favourite sci-fi authors — Michael Crichton, Isaac Asimov and Margaret Atwood — and entertained the children with Asimov’s tales and the contrast Atwood’s dystopian fiction. Desikan drew attention to the responsibility that comes with science. Like Spiderman, she said, science gives us great power but with great power comes responsibility and that all of us should take up that responsibility seriously.

Atul Jain highlighted his belief that the best form of pedagogy is learning from mistakes and also about the significance of setting priorities, and problem-solving abilities. He narrated an incident from his college days that the kids enjoyed. Along with his Head of Department, and a team of scientists, Jain was in a village to observe a solar eclipse when the HoD realised that the earthing was not working properly, he asked for an iron rod to be buried in the ground. Next, he asked his young son to pee next to it. To the perplexed students, the HoD explained that wet soil with salt gives a good ground connection. This, Jain said, showed the value of being able to identify a problem and create a solution with what was available.

The panellists answered questions from the children. A sample: What happens when an experiment fails?; Are you satisfied with what you are doing now?; How do you keep yourself motivated? They also discussed topics like fake and real news, and gender equality in the field of science.

As the kids surrounded the panellists after the session, everyone agreed that it was indeed a breath of fresh air to see them take autographs of scientists.

Mango Education is a group of young engineers turned educators who organise after-school programmes for kids on science and technology. Visit http://themango.co or call them at 9894167141 or 8197443753 for more details

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 1:12:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/schools/when-kids-interacted-with-scientists-and-science-writers/article17923453.ece

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