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Learning, a break and make effort

Source: DNA India, October 1, 2012

Children must be taught how to think, not what to think, said Margaret Mead, a cultural anthropologists. Perhaps, taking a leaf from the same, a small experiment in Vadodara is trying to let children think and discover on their own how things work.

The innovative programme titled ‘Tod Fod Jod’ run by the Vadodara Innovation Council (VIC), lets children take apart things, discover how it works and assemble it back to its original shape. Interestingly, it isn’t classroom teaching, nor are there any teachers, but instructors alone who answer questions only if the children ask them.

A Voluntary Work Another interesting aspect about the same is that it is all done on a voluntary basis — from instructors to the school building where the workshop is carried out — with hardly any monetary payments involved. Even the equipment that the children take apart, are donated by community members.

The programme is part of a pilot project being carried out by the National Innovation Council. Similar programmes are also being held in Bangalore and Delhi as well.

Encouraging to experiment “The idea is to encourage students to experiment; to learn through discovery. When children open and reassemble an equipment, they get a better understanding of how it works. The activity encourages them to ask questions like why are body parts of a particular equipment made of metal and not of plastic,” said Vikas Chawda, secretary Vadodara Innovation Council.

The three-month pilot project which began on July 15 came to an end on Sunday, September 30. Students from class 6 to 10 have taken part in the workshops so far where six different products had been taken apart and re-assembled by kids. These products include — a pen, telephone, bicycle, mouse, clocks and aero-modelling (making paper planes).

In all 30 to 35 students participated in a batch of five or six. Every batch is given a different equipment. While the instructors too offer volunteer services, Baroda High School gave the project a place to carry out the workshop.

“In one of the recent workshops an expert on clocks volunteered his time. He explained to the students how a clock works, the things used to make it, the difference between a mechanical clock and a digital one. But unlike a class, there was no teaching. Kids asked a question when they could not figure out something on their own,” said Paresh Parekh, chairman of the committee of VIC.

More such programmes on the cards It should be noted that after studying the reports about the pilot project, the National Innovation Council plans to introduce similar programmes in schools across the country. Their enthusiasm is not misguided for KJ Shah, who often instructs students on the functioning of equipment they dismantle.

He said that kids come up with questions they hadn’t thought of asking before. “They may have seen a fan, read about its functioning in a book. But it is only when they dismantle a fan that they think of asking questions which otherwise they would not have asked,” said Shah.

He told of a recent workshop in which a group dismantling a cycle wanted to know why tyres have tubes. “Students of that age know of a cycle but perhaps they never thought of asking such questions or were not given an opportunity to ponder on it,” said Shah.

Kids prefer practical approach The programme it seems is a hit with kids as well. Those associated with the programme say the children are quite enthusiastic about the whole thing.

Raunak Chavda, an 11-year-old who has attended the programme admits that he learns more from these practical sessions than the theoretical sessions at school. “In school there is theory, but here we get to see how things function,” said Raunak, one of the youngest attendees at the event.

His favourite is the aero-modelling workshops, which prompted him to find out how a heavy aircraft manages to fly. When asked if he ever put forth such questions in school, he said, “No, it was only when I was doing it that it occurred to me to find out how a plane fly,” said Raunak.

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