Science on the move

At a government school in the scenic Madikeri in Coorg, students of Classes 8, 9 and 10 are excited. Some of the boys quickly brush up their chemistry, biology and physics lessons with great enthusiasm. The reason: they are all set to receive the mobile science van, the Vignana Vahini, and the teachers are going to bring in the various apparatus — the burette, pipette, conical flask, test tubes — for experiments to make salt out of copper and sulphuric acid; show how a thermostat works and all that the children have been imbibing through the printed word for so long.

A science experiment in progress in a classroom.

The school does not have a science lab and the van is a boon for the students. Three such vans, housing mobile science/math labs, are an initiative of the Rotary Club of Madikeri Misty Hills, D 3181, with support of a global grant funding from The Rotary Foundation and the Rotary Club of Central Chester County (Lionville), D 7450, Philadelphia.

The Rotarians got this idea from the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), an institution in Mysuru, which specialises in rural education. It operates four such vans around Mysuru. “We also consulted teachers and officials from the education and science and technology departments. We wanted to give the children a hands-on experience in science and math lessons so that they develop and sustain interest in the subjects,” says K K Vishwanath, the Project Contact for the club. These subjects can be interesting only when the concept is seen and clearly understood, he adds.

This is an engaging way to interpret science and create a love for math in the children.
– K K Viswanathan Project-in-charge

The vans will do the rounds across 99 identified schools in Madikeri, Somvarpet and Virajpet, covering about 15,000 high school students. They will visit each school four times a year and facilitators, selected and trained by the SVYM, will take the lab to the classroom. The school teachers will also be trained in this programme.

Each van, a Maruti Eco, is equipped with a projector, UPS, batteries, laptop and a 250 ft cable. “Our staff check with the school about the lessons being taught presently and based on that input, they take the equipment and material,” says Vishwanath. A house has been rented in each of the mandals to park the vans, and store the lab equipment and material. Then the van visits the schools in that mandal. “We have involved all the clubs in the district to monitor the vans going around the  schools in their area; a past assistant governor takes care of the overall administration for each van.”

A van housing the science /math lab.
A van housing the science /math lab.

The total cost of the project was $35,000 while the operational cost works to ₹10 lakh annually. This is borne by the SVYM. “We have received amazing feedback from the schools within a year of its inauguration. This is an engaging way to interpret science and create a love for math in children,” says Vishwanath.

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