This is a blog I wanted to write for months. But, somehow Disha, the event has been overwhelming, it was not easy getting to put the ink on the paper ;-)
Disha is a workshop and an exhibition of science experiments for high-school children, predominantly from Govt. schools. An annual event for the last 3 years, initiated and pursued by the volunteers of Friends of Children and sponsored by Synopsys India.
The idea was to encourage science at govt. schools. To get the students & teachers involved. So, we decided on a workshop for the students by a professional, soon followed by an exhibition of science projects done by the students.
We invite one or two teams of 2 students each from schools with emphasis on larger participation from the govt. schools.
Mr. Hari Paramesharan of Dynam has been conducting the workshop for us. Very lively, every student gets a kit. Lotz of experiments are conducted over the day. And, science is introduced/illustrated in a simple, thought-provoking way. Mr. Hari leads the way, explaining, asking, & demonstrating it. And, the students find it very interesting.
Usually, a science teacher accompanies the students. And, this year, we wanted to have a workshop exclusively for them too. In came Mr. Balluragi, a retired college lecturer/reader from Dharwad. He is known for popularising science amongst schools, has authored a few books, and is known for his simple experiments, explanations & low cost science kits. It was such a privilege to have him with us. Volunteers, who witnessed his workshop were bowled, and the teachers impressed. Ravi thanking Shri Balluragi.
Disha 2003: 12 schools; 7 govt+5 aided; 40 projects; 80 students; 14 teachers
Disha 2004: 35 schools; 17 govt+18 aided; 75 projects; 154 students; 38 teachers
Disha 2005: 31 schools; 27 govt+ 5 aided; 31 projects; 67 students; 31 teachers
And....in 2003 & 2004, the events happened at St. Theresa School, Chamrajpet. This year, we moved it to St. Josephs Indian High School.
Organising an event like this is a huge challenge. Visiting schools, talking to the head-master, science teacher, etc. Getting their confirmations. Then the workshop happens. Usually, we have had problems like unconfirmed schools dropping in, throwing the planning out of gear. Its fun, and very challenging.
And then the exhibition day, which is typically a fortnight after the workshop. The teams are re-embursed up to 500rs for the project. The students arrive with their projects, set up stalls, start explaining, crowds pour in, mostly students from host & neighbouring schools.
Judges. Yes, we have had some very fine judges, some of them from Synopsys, and the rest mostly with IISc connections. The judges go meet the teams, and then arrive at a decision. Here, the judges being introduced to the students and then they meet the students, and finally they are discussing.
And, finally, certificates for all, and prizes for the first few are given away. Apart from the first three prize winning trophies, we have had other sponsorers pitching in with gifts, from books to NIIT courses. Bhanu Kiran - the spirit behind FoCh - giving away prizes.
Yes, apart from Science experiments, this event has had an equally important goal for us. Passing the message to students that, if you are interested in studies and are unable to continue it for financial reasons, we are there to help you out. The Friends of Children gang has been sponsoring college education for quite sometime now. An informal group of volunteers, we sponsor their education and mentor them on weekends. Mentoring/academic doubt clearance happens at St. Theresa school, Chamrajpet.
Another issue of concern is rationalism. Science should imply rationalism. Unfortunately, in our country, Science is just another subject. A curious mind, understanding the science behind, can all happen. But soon, we start having a whole lot of superstitions in the name of personal faith & tradition. Especially with impressionable minds and coming from under-previleged societies, it becomes necessary to talk 'bout rationalism, to talk 'bout the science behind 'miracles'. A gang that has worked hard towards pushing rationalism in our society has been the Breakthrough Science Society and herz a news article on them. For us, they have been conducting 'miracle bursting' programmes: expose the 'miracles' performed by false swamies. Hope to involve such groups in Disha.
Yes, Disha for us has been taking the excitment of science to govt. school children and teachers. Telling the children that higher education is possible. And, someday hope to talk 'bout rationalism as well. Here, Shrikanth talks 'bout the options available after 10th std.
Disha also means event management of the highest order. The number of schools, teams, children, teachers, judges, prizes, certificates, VIP's. Its a challenge. We have reached out to less than 30 govt. high schools in Bangalore. There are hundred's of govt high schools in Bangalore alone. Can we reach out to them ? And, what about the rural schools, can we think on those lines, reaching out to smaller towns, away from Bangalore. Can we replicate this model elsewhere ? Thats the challenge. Money is not an issue, but dynamic volunteers to make it happen.
Snaps from various sources cover Disha 03, 04 & 05.