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Hands-on labs help children question academic axioms
SHWETA SHARMA  20th Apr 2013

Students experimenting at Gyan Lab

n our classrooms, Science is taught like History. In History you are told that such event happened in such and such century. Similarly in Science, students are taught Newton's three laws, without letting them explore, experience and challenging it. They are expected to conduct experiments and find out the value of earth's acceleration, and if they are unable to get it they are penalised," says IIT graduate Rakesh Kumar.

Realising the lack of a hands-on approach in Indian education and the need for better means of learning that urges students to discover, visualise and be intrigued, Rakesh along with a friend conceived Experifun (http://www.experifun.com/), a next generation suite of gadgets bringing lab-in-a-box to classrooms.

Kumar is not alone in working towards making learning fun for students. A lot of initiatives are dedicated towards helping students engage with education and apply their knowledge better. They tie up with schools for a nominal fee and through their products and innovative programmes help students experience education beyond the rote learning/exam oriented syllabus. Another project, ThinkLABS works in the field of applied science and technology education in schools and colleges. It inculcates 'scientific temper in school students through innovative programs and prepares college students for careers in embedded systems and robotics'.

Priyadeep Sinha, who faced learning problems in school and his engineering days, felt the need for a learning system where students are not restricted to the teacher's knowledge. To help children learn intuitively, he came up with Gyan Labs(http://www.addongyan.com/home.html), a self-styled and self-paced hands-on kinesthetic learning system in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), Humanities and life skills.

A lot of initiatives are tying up with schools for a nominal fee and through their products and innovative programmes helping students experience education beyond rote learning.

"In Gyan Lab, a child is at the centre of learning system (instead of the teacher) and surrounded by various resources. A lab coach is present to instigate the child to keep exploring and clear doubts. He/she is exposed to peer-to-peer learning, which is an extremely underused learning resource in Indian education. Gyan Lab also promotes team-work, empathy and compassion in kids which are again under-taught qualities," he says.

Learning to build a tower using Experifun

Launched last year, much like Gyan Lab (that offers 500+ activities), Experifun also offers a smart-lab-in-class concept called Caboodle. It is a collection of products that allows teachers to demonstrate intricate details of various Science concepts. "This helps the students in visualising the phenomenon and then understanding. In addition, the box also contains various interactive follow-up activities for the teacher and the students. The activities range from hearing plants make food to looking at how molecules dance when heated and likes," explains Kumar.

On being asked about the results of such teaching, Sinha says that focussing on the aspect of marks, defeats the whole purpose of such programmes. However he is quick to add that if such programmes make kids to grow up as better individuals he would give a definite yes. "To state an instance of improved results, we have a student with learning disabilities at Gyan Lab. The kid is unable to learn comfortably in a classroom environment where he is criticised by teachers as well as his parents. But at Gyan Lab, the kid was exhibiting strong qualities of a person who understands everything artistically and understands well," he says. He adds that through manual tests, they have recorded a jump of around 25 - 30% in a child's application knowledge after understanding a concept at Gyan Lab.

Experifun that costs something between Rs 15,000 to 20,000 for one-time buy option has partnered with 10 schools in Bangalore. Whereas Gyan Labs is setting up in a number of schools across various towns and cities of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, and is setup free of cost in a school. "We charge fees ranging from Rs 800 to Rs 3,500 per student per year (or, Rs 65 – Rs 290 per student per month) based on the kind of facility setup in a school," says Sinha.

 
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