The best days during school apart from those summer vacations were Sundays. One day of no homework and complete cartoon network or for the modern day kids- the latest play station. But even on this day, some children across Bangalore wake up with excitement to go to school. Not just any school, but a science school where there are no questions, exams or comparisons and everyone is engrossed in his or her experiments, making their model work.
Sunday Science School (SSS) started as a pilot project four years back in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. The response was convincing and the three directors of SSS-Suyash Dake, Sujatha Virdhe and Dinesh Nisang, decided to take the experiential method of learning science to other parts of the country. They have now expanded to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Sujatha Virdhe, who takes care of the South Indian chapter of SSS which was started last July says, "Our education system does not encourage experimentation, questioning or novelty. Science is made unduly complicated by definitions and descriptions which takes away the real beauty of the subject. Students not only lose interest but actually get terrified by science. We want this beauty to be restored through SSS".
Sunday schools in the western world have classes on Sunday where children are taught reading, writing and understanding Biblical parables. But according to Sujatha, the inspiration was to make science simpler. She says, "We started on Sundays, as it's a holiday and children are free. Science is our religion and passion."
The school operates on an interactive module of learning science where the focus is on hands-on science experimentation among children. Studies have repeatedly indicated the effectiveness of experiential learning as opposed to didactic learning in the long term. Sujatha affirms this and adds, "Our experiences too show that children simply love to see science that works due to their own efforts."
SSS enrolls students from 2nd standard onwards. They have three programmes: SSS Junior (Age 7-9), SSS Level 01 (Age 10-15), SSS Level 02 (Age 11-15, after completion of Level 01).
Regarding the program Sujatha says, "Our SSS Level 01 program requires some skills that a child develops at age 10; like using a screw driver, twisting wires, scraping enamelled contacts, etc. Level 02 program needs a bit of carpentry work like fixing nails, taking measurements, analytic thinking and concluding the results. So, we take a step-by-step approach to thinking like a scientist".
The one year old Bangalore SSS has parents coming back to the school to ask, "What keeps our children so motivated that they get up early on Sundays and rush to SSS?"
Sujatha shares, "Parents are still fixed on a notion that science teaching happens only at schools but they don't know what their children are missing. I don't blame them or the teachers. We are all part of the same rote method of learning science which SSS aims to change."
And with the number of students increasing, the concept seems to taken off on a fine note. "Once they are enrolled, they want to come Sunday after Sunday. They love the science activities. There is a healthy discussion, sharing of knowledge and ideas. They come forward to stand and speak fearlessly, which gives them a sense of importance and true understanding of science."
Recently the school also conducted a hand-held windmill making competition. The competition saw over 300 participants in the model making contest. Sujatha says, "The material was provided by us and by using just a tiny DC toy motor, students succeeded in glowing 100 LED lights. Our students have huge potential. All they need is an opportunity".
(SSS can be reached at: 9448827438, 8971276825)