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Group takes science out of dreary classroom

BHUBANESWAR, MAY 21: On a sultry May afternoon, five students from Khandagiri High school are busy folding pieces of paper to make boats ...

Written by Debabrata Mohanty |
May 22, 1999

BHUBANESWAR, MAY 21: On a sultry May afternoon, five students from Khandagiri High school are busy folding pieces of paper to make boats and inkpots at Jagamara, Khandagiri. “We are practising Origami (the Japanese craft of folding paper to make animals and flowers),” explains Santosh Singh, as the other four give the last touchess.

A few yards away, Puspashree Patnaik keenly watches over the group as her husband Nikhil Mohan Patnaik waters the plants at Srujanika, the group they set up to take science out of humdrum classroom settings to the `real’ world — the world the students live in.

The group, established in 1987, works in the fields of science and education, particularly among school-going children.

“In the computer age, science is still boring, unimaginative and uninspiring to students, who find themselves alienated from the subject due to the lacklustre teaching process. There is absolutely no link between science being taught in the classroom and the things one sees every day,” saysNikhil Patnaik, co-founder of Srujanika.

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Patnaik says Srujanika tries to reach out to the child through enjoyable reading and activity material such as Origami.

Srujanika was conceived in 1980, when Patnaik was working as a biotechnologist at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad. The couple came into contact with various groups who were working in similar fields. In 1987, the couple registered Srujanika as a society for research and innovation in science, education and development with the objective of “promoting education and science in its true spirit”.

Srujanika first attempted to popularise science through Bigyan Tarang, an Oriya publication launched in August 1989. “Every year, we take up a theme and publish articles on that throughout the year. We were the first in the State to bring out a sky map for Bhubaneswar,” says Nikhil Patnaik.

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Bigyan Tarang, now in its 10th year, has been Srujanika’s longest-running venture which links the group’s activities.“It acts as a vehicle for new ideas and approaches relating to science education. We invite articles from students for Bigyan Tarang,” says Puspashree. Besides, many Tarang clubs — a network of reader groups — have sprung up across the State.

Apart from Bigyan Tarang, Srujanika runs the Sunday Club and nature camps. “The Sunday Club involves the local village children in informal activity. The children enjoy their own library, science fun-corner and play-lot, at no cost. This provides us with a platform for trying out new ideas and also serves as a ready model for visitors interested in similar work,” says Nikhil.

The nature camps are open to students within and outside the State. In February this year, its second nature camp-cum-workshop was held in the Jagamara campus, where participants strolled along the Kushabhadra river embankment to see marine creatures.

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Srujanika received the national award for `best efforts in science popularisation among children’ from the National Councilfor Science and Technology Communication, New Delhi, this year.

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First published on: 22-05-1999 at 12:00:00 am

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