Nurturing scientific temper through life’s everyday lessons

When retired scientist V Ramachandran walked about his neighbourhood in Dwarka,he found that the only pedestrian zones were the steep foot-and-a-half high footpaths.

Written by Neha Sinha | New Delhi | Published:March 2, 2009 2:30 am

When retired scientist V Ramachandran walked about his neighbourhood in Dwarka,he found that the only pedestrian zones were the steep foot-and-a-half high footpaths.

And when social scientist P V S Kumar spoke to children around Dwarka,he found science for them was mostly about ‘objective-type questions’ crammed for one-hour exams.

These discoveries were unconnected,but Ramachandran and Kumar decided to do something about both.

With a few like-minded friends,they got residents of Dwarka,adults and children,together to help them develop a scientific temper,debate,peer through microscopes,and most important of all — think.

Kumar,from the National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies,and Ramachandran,who retired from the Council of Science and Industrial Research,have come together with filmmaker Gauhar Raza to form the Dwarka Science Forum (DSF),the first of its kind neighbourhood group.

The forum is re-interpreting life in Dwarka. Both scientists are founder members of the Delhi Science Forum,an NGO which works to popularise science and work on science policy. But the Dwarka Science Forum has forayed into the everyday world of people.

Ramachandran finds some aspects of Dwarka’s ‘modern’ planning absurd. “The pathways in Dwarka have been made this steep to avoid storm water channels,even though there’s no flooding here. Also,in spite of supporting more than 800 housing societies,Dwarka has an acute water shortage. We rely on groundwater. Dwarka was once farm land,so the problem of fertilisers leaching into the soil and water is common. We tested the groundwater in many areas — it is totally brackish. Residents need to think about these,” Ramachandran says.

“Dwarka has more than 100 schools,but I found that children’s education does not communicate that science and life are about the joys of discovery. Why shouldn’t kids be encouraged to think and find solutions to every day problems?” Kumar asks.

At its inaugural talk,the DSF invited the representatives of the Ministry of Science and Technology to talk about scholarships for children. The forum also gave away books,microscopes and telescopes to many ‘science-hating’ youngsters.

The DSF wants to collect data on groundwater,solid waste,pollution and pedestrian life in Dwarka and look for solutions.

“We want to initiate the process of segregating our waste. But most importantly,we are going to reach out to the young and get them involved,” Ramachandran says.

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