CHENNAI: Sixty-year-old Arvind Gupta believes that children understand scientific concepts better by touching, breaking things apart and putting them back together. A resident of Chennai for the past 10 years, he carries out simple experiments with toys made from trash and other low-cost household objects easily accessible to anyone to make learning easy and fun.
At present, his six-year-old YouTube channel ‘Arvind Gupta Toys’ has more than 4,400 innovative experiments in 18 languages and is accessed by 50,000 students every day.
He was inspired by the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme, an effort to revitalise primary science in village schools when he visited Madhya Pradesh in the late 1970s. “In those days, the slogan was to reach out to the people, start from what they know and later build on it. I took a year’s break from my job to work there and this changed my attitude towards life,” recalls Gupta, who has been popularising science for 30 years. He says that the programme was closed down by the MP government 12 years ago.
“By the end of this month, more than 30 million students and teachers would have viewed our videos. All our films are shot with a camera that came to around `8000,” says Gupta.
Earlier, books were the only medium Gupta relied upon to spread his teaching methodology. His first book, Matchstick Models And Other Science Experiments, sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology was published in 1986.
“It was only after I joined the Students Science Centre at the Pune University that I realised the power of the Internet,” he adds, happily declaring that 700 of his science films have been recognised and posted on the educational website of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) recently. He felt that providing learning materials in one’s regional language would make the process easier. This is when he decided to dub all his videos into as many vernacular languages as possible. “The response has been tremendous, there were many people from varied professions and from different parts of the country offering to help me in this regard,” says the toy inventor, thanking everyone who contributed towards making this small difference. He particularly remembers Nanavathi, who lent his voice for more than 600 videos in Kannada.
Though he has been active in toy-making and imparting science education, he shows a deep interest in books. This is very evident from his website, which has more than 4000 e-books on math and science in several languages. He is aware of the limited number of books available in Hindi and has translated nearly 150 books. “Currently, I am translating some of Isaac Asimov’s works,” says the avid reader reaching out to a pile of Asimov’s popular science books on his table. As he continues to read the story of the Black Hole, he emphasises that his only vision is to let children enjoy the science around them and bring back the gleam into their eyes.