Articles published about Curiouscity:
30th January, 2015
Give them lemons and they’ll make batteries out of them. Or they might just teach you to make square bubbles. Bengaluru’s Curiouscity helps kids get creative with their learning of science
In a world where kids are increasingly bogged down by mugging facts and swimming through a swarm of data, Curiouscity, a Bengaluru-based organisation has been getting children to work with their hands and minds, put some thought into the science they learn, and supplement conventional structured learning with seamless experiments. And in the process, get them to lose their fear of science, and begin loving it.
“Our education system kills a child’s ability to be curious,” says Shonali Chinniah, one of the co-founders of Curiouscity. “The idea through Curiouscity is to challenge them to find solutions. It’s not so much about science as it is about ‘doing’ things.”
Started eight years ago in a city ruled by technology, Curiouscity came together when five people decided that the way science is taught to children must change; if not in schools, at least outside it.
Shonali Chinniah is a marine ecologist who has taught in schools and colleges in India and America, Utpal Chattopadhyay is a physicist who has held senior R&D positions in renowned technology organisations, Sukanya Sinha is a physicist who’s held research positions in universities worldwide, Dr. Jandeep Banga is a doctor from Shimla who takes two weeks off work to be in Bangalore for workshops, and Umesh Malhotra is a serial entrepreneur.
Most of the modules are actively taught by Shonali, Utpal and Sukanya along with young educators, based on science modules they have designed. Field visits, science camps, weekend workshops, and specially designed school modules are used to get ideas across. Themes are created and kids are allowed to take it further from there in their own way. “Usually kids are given a set of instructions to go about things a certain way. We don’t do that. I may show them how to make a lemon battery. But their task may be to create another one to generate double the voltage. This, they have to figure out on their own.”
The problem arises, says Shonali, because of the adult urge to interfere. “If you hold your peace long enough for them to figure things out, they can come up with something amazing.”
Utpal further stresses: “Science is part of human endeavour that tries to understand how the world works and also seeks to explain observations in terms of a few laws. The strength of science is in asking questions, raising doubts, and also repeatedly testing known laws through experiments to see if these laws continue to remain valid.” They work mostly with students aged eight to 12, because, Shonali says, they can understand and do basic maths by then, have motor skills good enough to do experiments by themselves. “And they are more open to ideas and not so much bogged down by jargon.” Most children have got a sense of discovery, points out Utpal. It may be a discovery of known facts — but a discovery all the same to them. “We make them feel like mini scientists!” is how Utpal puts it. “We facilitate, rather than teach. The idea is to get kids to ask questions,” says Shonali.
They are not asking students or teachers to completely turn their current syllabus on its head. Utpal believes that making science fun need not be a difficult task, and is practically achievable even within the confines of syllabus and time — by perhaps organising, at least three to four times a year experiments and activity-based sessions related to the curriculum. Ideally, a teacher should turn a students’ question into a possible experiment to test out answers or generate excitement in the mind of the students about what possible answers could be. “Most parents whose children have attended our sessions over a period extending up to nine months, have told us that their children have lost the fear of science and that they like to try out things for themselves,” says Utpal.
The Times of India,
September 3, 2013
BANGALORE: It was a hands-on chance for students to explore the extraordinary world of science. To help them "understand how to do science", Gopalan International School held Curiosity Science Fair in association with Curiosity, an organization headed by Dr Sukanya Sinha, Dr Utpal Chattopadhyay and Dr Shonali Chinniah. The topics ranged from properties of water, weight and water pressure, conductivity, the history of water use, water in interstellar space, tornadoes and whirlpools, animal distribution in oceans and estuaries, effect of water pressure on animals, and much more. The science fun fair had five zones of activities. Two zones had over 20 experiments each, with materials and models that kids can replicate at home. One zone had posters related to the water world. The 'WOW' zone demonstrated amazing experiments that can be done with water. Bubbles, the space water occupies, the secret behind the pressure cooker, the Styrofoam cup were part of several experiments. The video zone revealed different types of life forms in the water world. Each zone had a wrap-up session of questions and answers with the educators.
There’s no room for mouthfuls of scientific terminology and long-winded theorising at Curiouscity, finds Priya George.
Consider a pendulum with a mass M, suspended at a distance L from a pivot. The moment this object, a bob, is displaced from its resting equilibrium position, the restoring force due to gravity will cause it to move in one direction, and this force, combined with its mass, will impel it in another. The period of swing “T” of this pendulum is a factor of “L”, the local strength of gravity “g” and, to a small extent, the amplitude of its swing, “theta”. “M” has no bearing on “T”. If you’ve employed this approach to explain oscillating masses to your kids, it’s fair to assume that by the time you get to “resting equilibrium position” and “restoring force due to gravity”, the young ones have assumed recumbent positions on the couch, removed from fanciful notions of amplitude and period of swing.
Instead, you might want to consider the method adopted by Shonali Chinniah and her associates at Curiouscity when they attempt to unravel the physics behind pendulums to kids: they suspend a bucket using 20 feet of rope from a tree and let it swing away. Later, they hand out potatoes of various shapes and sizes to the children and ask them to replicate the exercise, thereby demonstrating that “M” indeed has no effect on “T”. “We teach children how to observe, explore and come to their own conclusions after an experiment is conducted,” said Chinniah. “Our approach to teaching science is very hands-on; experiments are conducted by the children.”
Curiouscity was founded two years ago by a handful of scientists and teachers with the specific purpose of bringing science to kids without muddling their heads with jargon. “This isn’t meant to change the way science is taught in schools,” Chinniah quickly clarified. “We are only attempting to add to a child’s learning.” To this end, the programme that Curiouscity conducts doesn’t involve an exam. “Although I believe that memorising is an important aspect of learning, I feel learning should involve as much theory as practical knowledge,” she said. Co-founder Sukanya Sinha, a professor at the Indian Statistical Institute, insists that teaching children observation and encouraging curiosity is crucial. “We want to inculcate a questioning temperament that they can apply to everyday life and not just their studies,” she said. “The focus is to get children to experience science first hand.”
Curiouscity addresses the needs of children aged eight to 12 – they hold two-hour sessions through the year where children are encouraged to come up with ideas, find solutions to problems and design experiments. “We are not trying to better the kid’s grades or make him a science genius, we are trying to build a curiosity for science,” Chinniah said. “As long as a child picks up whatever he can in a class and tries something at home and is able to apply this learning in different ways, that’s learning enough.”
As soon as an experiment reaches its conclusion, the participants gather around to discuss the results and attempt to understand the underlying science. “The idea is to create an atmosphere where the kids can approach everything from scratch,” said research scientist and Curiouscity co-founder Utpal Chattopadhyay. “Hopefully, what they learn will stay with them for life.”