Making Science Fun

Jan. 16, 2022

English, Science, and Maths are the three subjects that the students dread studying. Students have made up their minds that these subjects are never going to be easy.  In the case of science, students have this preconceived notion that science is an alien thing for them. They don’t see science as something that is happening around them. 

Our Fellows are connecting science to the community. Fellows from Marshyangdi; Ramhari Sapkota, and Sandeep Kumar Dahal are simplifying science, and showing them that the difficult concepts of science are happening in the workaday lives of the village. 

Sandeep believes that the locals from the community possess enormous indigenous knowledge. Similarly, the indigenous knowledge gets passed on to the kids. However, in the class students fail to link that knowledge to their textbooks.

When Sandeep enters the class he makes sure that he brings examples from the community. In practical classes, he brings local plants and leaves to demonstrate in class. This way students develop a sense of familiarity with the subject.

In Sandeep’s community, the locals brew alcohol. They have been seeing distillation all their lives. Almost every kid sees alcohol being brewed in their homes. But whenever they are taught distillation in the class they are clueless. “They are magnificent brewers, I just told them that it happens in your homes daily and connected brewing to their textbook”, says Sandeep. Once the students connected brewing to distillation the chapter became easy for them.

Students learn about ecology and environment, but I don’t think I know more about the ecology of Lamjung better than the kids”, he shares. But the students are in a disadvantaged position because they are learning something in English, which is not even their first language. They understand the ecology and environment of their place it is just that they do not understand the ecology that is written in the book.

Sandeep gives students positive affirmations in the class. “I tell my students, ‘You have immense knowledge, you probably know more than I do, it is just that you are not able to sync the knowledge written in the book.’” The students then feel empowered and see a sense of possibility. Once they see a sense of possibility they start having fun with science and bring in new ideas.

He believes in creating a safe environment in the class because students can only express themselves when they feel they are not judged. Sandeep wants his students to participate in the classroom as much as possible. “If the students don’t speak it is a monologue, and it is boring”, he adds.

In Sandeep’s class, a student shares their experience, he then contextualizes the experience based on the chapter, and then another student adds to the conversation; this way a knowledge pool is built. Because of this very reason Sandeep’s classes are interactive.

Ramhari Sapkota believes that the classroom, community, and the chapters in the science book are interrelated.  An amalgamation of these three things can aid in the overall performance of the students in the science class, he shares.

Science by nature is a practical subject, if the classes run devoid of practical lessons the learning becomes futile. Since the students were learning theories and definitions; mugging was the only way to learn science.

Memorizing the definitions has many drawbacks. The students eventually cannot mug the whole book up. Ramhari’s approach was similar to that of Sandeep’s. From physics to astronomy, he tried to find all the examples locally.

The local examples increased students’ familiarity with the subject, and they no longer felt the need to memorize every answer. They could look around themselves and find the answers to the questions that they found difficult in the first place. 

Teaching with the local resources made it easy for him to bring materials in the class, as well. For instance, simple machines were taught by bringing locally available simple machines to the class. The students would bring beam balance, nail cutter, and screw to the class; this would aid in their understanding. Practical lessons not only help in understanding the concepts but also help to keep students engaged throughout the class.

Ramhari brought the community to the classroom. “Community is the biggest classroom for me, it is bigger than any science lab in the world”, he says. Just by making the students look at the sky, he could explain the whole chapter of astronomy. The students then would look at the sun, solar system, and moon and make sense of what is written in the book.

Lamjung is a landslide-prone area, so the landslide itself became a part of the classroom. The causes of the landslide and the impacts it has on the lives of people became really clear for the students.

Sandeep and Ramhari’s classes are not your usual science classes. They enter the class with plants, leaves, simple machines, microscopes, and everything that can possibly attract students’ attention. When they enter the classrooms students are intrigued and happy. The students know that in this class they won’t have to memorize the definition because their teachers will eventually make them understand using the tools that they are familiar with.

Sandeep Kumar Dahal and Ramhari Sapkota are Science Fellows placed in Lamjung. Sandeep completed his Bachelor’s of Science (Botany) from Sri Aurobindo College, Delhi University, India, and joined TFN Fellowship in the year 2020.  Likewise, Ramhari completed his Bachelor of Public Health from National Open College, Pokhara University, and later joined the Fellowship. While Punam is serving as a science Fellow at Shree Ganga Milan Secondary School, Ghermu, Lamjung, Ramhari is serving at Shree Mahendradev Secondary School, Taranche.

Currently, 107 young leaders from diverse educational backgrounds are working as Teach For Nepal Fellows in 55 schools in Lalitpur, Sindhupalchowk, Dhanusa, Parsa, Lamjung, Dang, and Tanahun.

You can sponsor Fellows like Sandeep and Ramhari by donating to Teach For Nepal and support their work.

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