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Twelve-year-old Himanshu Sanger has never been more excited about the concept of magnetic levitation. A student of Evergreen Public School, Vasundhara Enclave, he had read about it in science books but it was during a radio and electronics class at National Bal Bhavan this week, that he finally started pondering over its details. After observing a repelling action between two magnetic rings, Sanger excitedly pointed out, "This happened because poles of the same charge had been put together. I will repeat the experiment at home and also show it to my friends." Sanger's class at National Bal Bhavan is among the several workshops in the city where children have fun translating their theoretical science lessons into practical experiments.
Asha Bhattacharjee, assistant director of Science Education Center at National Bal Bhavan, points out students engrossed in aeromodelling and radio and electronics classes. "Our aim is to simplify complex concepts. One does not need elaborate equipment, simple material can do the trick," she says, adding that the institute stresses on using material available at home for experiments. "This allows children to repeat the exercise. Science can be fun."
Building Blocks, a Delhi-based learning organisation, has a series of workshops lined up for the next two months. At the robotics classes, 11 to 15-year-olds will make models of cranes and tanks to understand motor movements and pulley systems; and in science classes, nine to 15-year-olds will be handed kits like a portable generator to understand electromagnetic induction and a hydraulic jack to familarise them with hydraulics. "These make sure that the child is not just memorising texts but also understands what is taught," says Swati Sharma, instructor at science and robotics workshops conducted by Building Blocks. The kits are being designed by a team of researchers at a laboratory in Modinagar. "These are pre-tested and have all safety precautions in place. It is important to make sure that a child is not exposed to something that could be dangerous," adds Sharma.
In Mumbai, Varun Jain, key account manager at robo.in , is busy preparing for workshops for children above 12 years in Delhi in June. Over a period of six days, fours hours each, participants will build and programme a robot to conduct particular tasks, including following a line, detecting edges and avoiding obstacles. "This gives students a strong base in programming syntaxes, understanding logic building and algorithm development," notes Jain, who has a research and development team in IIT, Mumbai, to help him with the project.
For Ritu Varma and Anita Dhawan of Busy Hands, designing experiments involves reading innumerable books and surfing the internet. The duo has been conducting science workshops for over a decade. Scheduled in May, are a two-day and a five-day workshop for children between six and 10 years at India Habitat Centre and Epicentre, respectively. "The classes are interactive and children are encouraged to ask questions. They tend to learn more in a group," says Varma, who has separate interactive sheets for younger students. She adds, "There is a lot of difference between the knowledge levels of a six-year-old and a 10-year -old. The younger children are taught through diagrams while the older ones are given more written information." Sharat Jain of Creative Science Club at Rishabh Vihar also makes certain that the younger children in a class that comprises eight to 15-year-olds, are provided with more basic details. Accredited by Ministry of Science and Technology, the club organises two-hour meetings once a month. Apart from conducting experiments, experts are invited to talk on topics like global warming, astronomy and first aid.
The price of making science less complicated? The range is wide. While membership of the Creative Science Club is free, at National Bal Bhavan, children below 12 years pay Rs 50 while the others are charged Rs 100 for a year-long membership that permits them to attend any activity at the institute. Busy Hands charges Rs 500 for two days and Rs 1,000 for a five-day workshop. Making a robot, meanwhile, is more expensive. At Building Blocks, the robotics workshop ranges between Rs 2,000 and 4,500 while robo.in charges Rs 9,300. Bhattacharjee adds that the classes gain in popularity during summer months when youngsters while away their free hours watching the boring science formal come alive in interesting experiments.
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