In most schools in India, teaching practices are guided largely by textbook content and are usually based on “chalk-talk” methods. This is even more the case in subjects like science. Teaching of science at the school level should be such that it encourages children to be curious, to explore and to apply, to be creative and to do things with their hands so that it could enhance their understanding of concepts and ideas. Perhaps because of the manner in which science is taught, children often find the subject difficult and anxiety-provoking. Additionally, poor infrastructure and scarce resources for laboratories makes it hard for children to gain any experience in hands-on learning or in learning by doing.
Pratham’s Science Learning Program attempts to bridge the gap in learning by providing a platform for children to learn by doing experiments on their own, by handling various kinds of apparatus and tools and through exploring the world around them. These activities are designed to stimulate curiosity and help develop excitement about science, not only among children but also more broadly in schools and in communities.
The Pratham Science Program has several implementation models across different parts of the country. First, science activities are conducted by local youth called ‘Vigyan Mitra’ (Friends of Science). These young people are trained by Pratham to organize science fairs and thematic science workshops which cover different concepts from the upper primary curriculum. Science clubs are then formed to conduct topic based workshops and sky watching camps. These activities are integrated into Pratham’s direct interventions in upper primary grades. For conducting workshops, content aligned to the NCERT syllabus is developed in the form of manuals, reading cards and books.
In some locations a ‘Mobile Science Van’ has been provided to cover a larger geographical area and reach schools that are less well-connected. These vans are equipped with science models, telescopes, projectors and library books.
Science Exploratory Centres have also been set up in multiple locations around the country. These centres integrate technology with learning by using tablets and LED
TVs with digital content and are equipped with several models to facilitate learning.
The centres serve resource hubs for the schools and communities in their vicinity.
Science parks, butterfly gardens vermicompost pits among other components have been developed so schools from the nearby villages can bring children for visits and workshops. The centres also reach out to nearby schools and communities by forming science clubs. Pratham’s Science Program also supports individuals who are willing to open science centres in their own villages. Village libraries are also set up as part of the intervention. The libraries are provided with a combination of books and cards on science and other literature. Village volunteers are identified and trained on various activities in order to run the libraries.
Alliance for Science is the outreach activity which networks with other organizations and individuals interested in the popularization of Science. Workshops and fairs are organized under the banner of Alliance for Science.
In some locations, Pratham’s Science Program also works with the government by organizing teacher trainings for upper primary teachers. The Science Program team also provides content and training support to various other Pratham programs.
In 2017-18, a total of 337,170 children were reached through science programs running in 5,798 units.