Science from scrap

Sparkles Science simplifies science concepts for children, using everyday material

Published - June 30, 2017 12:56 am IST

In a second floor apartment in Belapur, a group of children are gathered in a corner of the living room in the early afternoon, all earnestly arranging and rearranging two large plastic bottles filled with water. It looks like a normal apartment — airy and well lit, until you start to notice a few oddities in the furniture. Next to an arm chair in the living room, for instance, is a car engine, mounted on a bright orange trolley. On shelves that line the wall next to the dining table are what appear to be toys but are actually each little devices that are science experiments — a makeshift kaleidoscope for instance, or a model electrical circuit.

Toys from trash

“Toys from trash” is what Sanskriti Singh, founder of Sparkles Science, whose office this apartment is, calls these numerous devices. And something about the way they have been put together, using basic scrap materials and plastic, speaks of the simplicity with which her organisation seeks to make the learning of science more accessible to children.

It’s the summer holidays and the children have come as part of a science club in which they are taught basic concepts through simple experiments. The use of plastic bottles with water, inverted into each other, is used to simulate a tornado. Each class is meticulously designed and while these classes, for kids in the locality who can afford to pay, keep Sparkles running.

Ms. Singh’s larger vision, which she speaks about passionately, is to make science more accessible to underprivileged children who study in government or municipal schools.

Simple experiments

Sparkles Science started as an idea in 2010 when Ms. Singh, then a resident of Delhi, took a break to travel to her village of Jirabasti in Uttar Pradesh, where her mother ran a school and needed her help. Travelling with her eight-month-old daughter, Ms Singh stopped at a municipal school along the way and volunteered to teach. It began what she calls her singular exploration of the Indian education system.

“I would shuttle between Delhi [where my family was staying], Jirabasti, and a different school along the Ganga belt each time. Till 2012, I had touched quite a few areas — Kanpur, Ghajipur, Benaras, Baksar and more,” she says. She found both headmasters and principals willing to let her teach and try different styles of teaching. She chose science as it was free of language barriers and at each school, attempted to devise a system that went beyond rote learning, creating simple experiments or building models.

In 2013, Ms. Singh and her family moved to Mumbai and in the period of adjustment that followed, she had to give up her experiment along the Ganga and focus on settling in a new city. Two years later, though, she started a home science club. It started as informal mission to popularise science among children since Ms. Singh was not satisfied with the way in which science was being taught in Mumbai schools. Soon, however, the experiments along the Ganga came in handy. The club expanded to workshops for various schools and organisations and Sparkles was born.

Wider reach

Sparkles does science outreach by working with a partner organisation called Doorstep Schools that provides education and support to children of pavement and slum dwellers, construction site families and other underprivileged families. One of their major projects is called School on Wheels, mobile classrooms that travel around the city to difficult area and Sparkles initially helped with this project, providing science equipment and conducting classes. In addition to this, when Doorstep sets up new community learning centres around the city, Sparkles is called in to help popularise and increase awareness about science through shows and demonstrations. Much of this is done through experiments and paraphernalia created in house, and stored in large boxes at the Sparkles office.

“We’ve done shows and workshops like these in areas around M Ward, E Ward, Govandi and the hamlets around Sanjay Gandhi national park,” Ms. Singh says.

Around the same time that Sparkles was set up, a friend reached out to Ms. Singh one day to do a science show at a birthday party and the event proved so popular that it gave rise to a new enterprise called Blue Sparrow Events, which provides income for the group and largely supports the work of Sparkles.

While Sparkles’ work is largely pro bono, Ms. Singh says they sometimes get paid to do training workshops for government school teachers and to set up labs where simple equipment, like the kind displayed in the Sparkles office, can be used to teach science.

“Sparkles reaches out to underprivileged kids and Blue Sparrow engages with kids through parties, workshops and carnivals,” says Ms. Singh. The team also creates science kits and other interestingly-themed return gifts that they sell.

Today, the Sparkles Science’s centre in Belapur hosts teacher trainings, workshops for kids on pure and applied sciences and school visits for science talks. On weekdays, Ms. Singh and her team of six interns, all college level science students, do shows and parties, now averaging about 15 a month. For the outreach work with Doorstep, a small team of full-time staff travels to various places across the city.

In order to expand further, Ms. Singh says she needs to partner with more organisations like Doorstep. “I have always felt there is potential to grow and reach out to more schools and more children,” she says. She hopes that will change as more people become aware of their work.

Sparkles Science

Founded: 2011

Employees: 5 full time; 10 part time

Contact: 9619780981


0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.