Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) has launched a first-of-its-kind telephone helpline First Question for children to answer all their queries on nature and science.
Dr TV Sajeev, Research Coordinator, Kerala Forest Research Institute, the man behind the project, conceived the idea to cater to small children, whose first questions about things are usually ignored by elders. “I had noticed when I take classes to students of various ages that the questions they ask at the of the lecture decreases drastically as their age increases. Small kids ask the maximum, college students very few. This has been observed for a long while now,” Dr Sajeev told Express Parenting.
The decision to start First Question was inspired by a particular lecture on the history of learning, informed Dr Sajeev. “The proximate reason (for the project) was a lecture by noted Historian Prof Rajan Gurukkal (former VC, Mahatma Gandhi University, currently Chairman, Kerala Higher Education Council) at Govt College, Balussery, on “History of learning”. He observed that the first disconnect in the education system happens when the first questions a kid ask is not treated with due importance. Those are genuine questions and they would be willing to spent any amount of time to get the answer. But sadly, those questions are hardly taken seriously or evaded. We wish to fill this gap,” he added.
The helpline number is 0487-2690222. One can call between 9:30am and 5:30pm, from Monday to Friday.
So, how is KFRI helping in satisfying children’s curiosities? The helpline is currently being managed by 20 research scholars from the institute, who take questions from children and consult the respective subject matter experts and scientists, 50 of whom have been roped in from across the state to explain the concepts.
Not just children, parents and teachers can also avail the service on their behalf, from across the country. “First Question provides simple, straight, scientific answers to the questions children ask. It is a one point solution for all their curiosities on nature. Parents (and teachers too) should encourage kids to ask questions because the whole enterprise of Science is built on them. This will essentially help increase the scientific temper in the society,” Dr Sajeev said.
So far, the institute has received 133 questions. Here are some questions asked by children:
1. What is fire? What is it made of?
2. Why does the mango change its colour when it ripens?
3. What is the true colour of a chameleon?
4. Why is it that my pet birds are not laying eggs?
5. How does temperature fall inside a fridge?
The queries coming in have only shown how children sometimes are hesitant about asking questions, thanks to how their curiosity is usually belittled by parents and teachers. “There was one kid who asked several questions. He introduced himself as a student of class V. Later when we talked and he was comfortable, he apologised and confessed that he was in fact studying in class X and since his questions were childish, he lied. We reassured him on his questions,” Dr Sajeev shared.