Science study is all about discovery; it cannot but be interesting. While unusual individuals like Rishis of yore or Isaac Newton or Srinivasa Ramanujan in recent times, can start exploring Science all by themselves, many of our generation are fortunate to be taught Science in schools. Luckier than the students who learn Science in the classroom are those of you who teach Science to the youngsters. Here are some tips to make Science teaching and learning interesting
1 Explore: As I mentioned earlier, it is all about discovery; learning by doing is as important as learning to listen to the teacher in the class or to repeat the experiments in the Laboratory. Do not structure it too much; let the students not try to match exactly the results the teachers expect, but let them “deviate”; in the process, they will explore and learn. Some of the greatest discoveries in Science happened due to such “deviations”. Who knows you may discover yet another Isaac Newton or Srinivasa Ramanujan right in your class!
2 Science has no boundaries: For the sake of convenience we divide Science into Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and so on, but Science is a continuum; do not limit to Physical Sciences alone; Social Sciences are equally important. Let the student discover what she / he is best at; help the student to explore further. It is particularly important in India, where we tend to put Physical Sciences (that need expensive equipment) at a higher pedestal than Social Sciences (that can be done at near zero cost).
3 Go out to discover: In traffic-infested cities in India, you have no option but to confine the students to the crowded classrooms. Those of you who are lucky enough to have space around, do encourage students to look at Nature – insects, animals, water, air, fire and more importantly stars; there is so much to explore. The buildings around you temples and cathedrals have so much to teach too. Do not underestimate them. Encourage the students to ask questions; there are NO stupid questions!
4 Internet and Gadgets are great: Nothing attracts today’s GenNext (Facebook, Twitter generation) better than Internet gadgets. There are amazing pieces of content – Courseware (OCW), Encyclopedia (Wikipedia), for example, or Apps like “Periodic Table” that are at once absorbing and immersive. Make use of them if your children can afford. There are some amazing games too that are worth looking at; not all games are violent games that keep children hooked for hours!
5 Go beyond gadgets: It is equally important for the children to explore Science in everyday life; ask them to discover patterns in “rangoli”, “pallu design” in Kanjeevaram silk sari, “ragas” in music or “moves” in a chess game. Ask them to look at traffic pattern in a busy intersection, disease occurrence pattern in your neighborhhod, or waiting time outside an elevator; they have so much to teach!
6 Do not underestimate the power of books: Books will continue to be an important part of Science learning. Amazing books by outstanding authors (in electronic or print form) will continue to engage and inspire. Look at recent options like Pratham Books (thanks to Rohini Nilekani) that are very affordable even for rural children.
These are just a few tips; a teachers network will let you find many more! Go explore and lets together create a generation of children interested, excited and inspired by Science. The second half of 21st Century in India will be far more interesting!
(Appeared in Times of India November 18, 2013)