Following their appointment as a mentor for implementing the ambitious Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyaan (RAA) programme of the HRD Ministry that aims to inculcate a spirit of inquiry, creativity and love for science and mathematics in school children, scientists at Pune-based Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) have already prepared a roadmap for the next three months for the schools to follow.
A few days back, the Maharashtra government issued an official notification about the central programme stating that of the 100-odd schools chosen in the country, 12 would be from Maharashtra (six each from Pune and Nagpur). These schools would be mentored by scientists of IISER and Nagpur’s Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology.
Speaking to The Indian Express, IISER professor Arvind Natu, who is heading the project, said that instead of six, seven civic-run schools have been selected for the project, including three primary and four secondary schools. Two officials of Pune Municipal Corporation-education officer Baban Dahiphale and Shivaji Bokhare-are involved in implementation of the programme.
A mixed batch of 5-6 scientists and final-year students would be carrying out the project from IISER, which envisages to take science beyond classrooms and encourage students to come up with their own innovations.
“We held a meeting on Monday and it was decided to start the programme from the second week of January since we barely have two months to go before March. We would be adopting a four-pronged approach starting with teachers workshops where 50 teachers from these schools would be trained in theory and practical lectures on advances in modern science to make them aware of what is going on beyond classrooms,” said Natu.
The themes selected for the workshop are solar or alternative energy sources, environmental factors, besides small demonstrations on how to make science teaching interesting by making scientific toys and small gadgets to demonstrate scientific principles like how light travels and so on.
As far as students go, Natu said that the activity would begin with a bottoms-up approach. “Generally we go to schools and feed them information whether they want it or not. But this time, we have decided to let students do the asking and hence the students programme is called ‘Quench the Thirst’. Till January 12, students would send us questions and after that, we would send our teams to schools to answer these questions and with demonstrations wherever possible,” he said.
In February, a programme on making scientific toys would be conducted with help of IUCAA followed by a last session of skywatching for one and hours which would be done in batches for all students. “It’s not that this is the most exhaustive programme we can conduct to inculcate a scientific temper in students, but in the limited time that we have, we are making a start with this. Hopefully next year, we would have a much larger programme based on this one’s success,” said Natu.