Do you remember those backyard science lessons that NatGeo junior (channel) used to broadcast? Well this is something like that. Except, India had it much earlier than any TV channels started airing it. TV wasn’t even a household name for that matter.
Can you imagine the gleam in the child’s eye when he comes to know that he can make his own miniature motor or pulley, or understand shapes and angles by actually holding them? and for that, the school library need not even have a Physics or Geometry kit! The idea sounds great isn’t it? As if, every child will fall in love with Science and not abhor it anymore. We never hate a subject. We just hate the way it is taught. Or hate the professor or teacher.
Dr Arvind Gupta has been trying to change that since the last 30 years. Making toys out of trash and waste items and teaching science to young students all over India has been his area of commendable work. What started with a small village has now transcended the borders of India. He has helped lakhs of Government School students and poor students who do not have much resources to study and understand science and the ill-trained teachers are of no help. After all, no subject can be mugged up and taught.
A scientist from the prestigious IIT Kanpur, he left his even more prestigious job at TELCO in 1978 because he realized that he didn’t want to make trucks for TATAs for the rest of his life. He followed his calling and the trend of the seventies and spent a year in a village studying their science. In that one year he realized what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Make toys out of trash and litter and make great scientists.
In his talk, he demonstrates some really simple ways to make great stuff. You could aptly name it backyard science. All the stuff will be available at the junkyard. You might just need to purchase a battery which is the most expensive item in the whole list! And he demonstrates shapes using matchsticks and cycle tube pieces, understand the theory of sounds and centrifugal forces through straws and tapes, make motors and pulleys out of CDs and erasers and much more. You won’t be able to see that gleam in your eyes and realize the scientist in you till you don’t see it for yourself. But perhaps the best that he shows is how really junk stuff can be used to create a drawing board for the blind children. All you need is a plastic box (which acts as a table), some welcro as paper and wool as the ink. He explains how one can create a simple working Braille structure out of these junk and help lots and lots of blind children enjoy the art of drawing.
He ends with a sweet little ship captain story where he teaches how to make different types of paper hats and a boat and a life jacket out of the same piece of newspaper. How expensive and time taking it is to do these? It may not be in our capacity to help these children with other necessities of life. But we can help them with the joy of learning and they will be able to keep care of themselves.
One man has taken it 30 years and still we know of schools where children mug up theories and vomit them in exams. What is the use! More and more people need to join this initiative to create a future for our country which does not just know things but understands them also!