BENGALURU: Lessons in chemical reactions and gases using liquid nitrogen and marshmallow bazooka, the physics behind kinetic energy explained with a game involving students, a flying kangaroo doll, eggs and a basketball, low and high air pressure elucidated through a vacuum cleaner cannon.
School students in the city could not control their excitement with each passing experiment conducted by Australian science communicators, Dr Graham Walker and Dr Stuart Kohlhagen on Tuesday.
The duo were here to flag off the ‘Science Circus’, a multi-city travelling science workshop aimed at making science learning fun for students and teachers.
Standing over 6-feet tall and dressed in bright orange dungarees, Dr Graham says to the students in between one of his science displays, “Many a times when we engage in science we forget that we can actually have a lot of fun.”
And fun was what many students like Pralahada Chandrashekhar, a class 8 student in a city school who loves physics, had during the hour long session. When asked if he had attended such hands-on science session before, he says, “This is the second one I have attended, but between the two this has been the best.”
On being asked how science lessons are conducted in his school and he replies, “We have a lab and we do some experiments but it is not as fun as this. I think classes would be so much better if they were this exciting.” Pranamiya Ajila, another student says, “We want more of these workshops in our schools.”
No practical lessons
Highlighting the importance of hands on learning, Dr Graham says, “We all saw today how the students reacted to science being be brought to life through our experiments. Science does not need to live only in textbooks. It is important that the teaching technique is such that it engages the students”
Does hands on learning involve a lot of money? Dr Stuart says not really. “I have conducted some of these hands on courses and workshops in Cambodia and in rural villages. The material is not critical. A skilled teacher who will understand how to lead students through a problem and get them to be curious and support them is whats important,” he says.
However, there are not too many skilled science educators as Dr Sujata Virdhe, former ISRO scientist and science educator points out. “Most from the science community are not too interested in communicating science. Teachers in schools do not want to burden themselves with additional work,” she says.
Dr Graham also talked about how he uses simple equipment from the supermarket for his displays. “There are a wealth of ideas on the internet and museums.
It can be done with the most simple things,” says Graham. Dr Graham pointed out how hands on learning in science can help issues like climate change. “Children can be taught to think critically. Science is a way of thinking. Children should be able to think scientifically and apply science not just in a classroom, but also in everyday life.”
The Science Circus will embark on a nine-city India tour and is presented by the Australian High Commission, in partnership with the National Council for Science Museums (NCSM) and the Tamilnadu Science and Technology Centre, Chennai.