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A PROJECT ON SCIENCE EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN

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PROPOSAL FOR A PROJECT ON HELPING CHILDREN LEARN FUNDAMENTALS OF NATURAL SCIENCE THROUGH IMPROVISED EXPERIMETS AND MULTIDIRECTIONAL EXCHANGE AN OUTLINE - Prepared, in 1985-86, by Subhas Chandra Ganguly on behalf of Scientific Workers Forum (SWF), Kolkata,West Bengal [ A current note :Below is the introductory part of the draft of a still born project, mentioned in the title above, prepared around 30 years back(1985-86) from now, by Subhas Chandra Ganguly on behalf of Scientific Workers Forum (SWF, kolkata, West Bengal), a body or conglomeration (without any formal membership) of individuals, from various fields of life i.e. much beyond the narrow field, conventionally implied by the word Scientific Workers. Biggan O biggan karmi(meaning Science and science workers) dealing in themes related to interface between science and society, was the name of its bi-monthly organ in Bengali. The full Project proposal,, meant for school children at middle school level i.e. children from Class V to VIII, in West Bengal, contained details on methods, personnel, cost and the like (not included below) for running a parallel/supplementary science education programme from an approach, different from the traditional one, followed in formal school system. After finalization of the draft project through joint participation of interested individuals, it was submitted by SWF to the then West Bengal Board of Secondary Education under State Government of West Bengal for necessary funds. It was not accepted by the Board. So, the project remained on paper only. But for a few exceptions (inclusion/exclusion) of serious implication, major part of the ideas/ perception/understanding of the present author as reflected in this 30 year old write-up below, is, as far as they go, still valid for him. Otherwise he would not made it public,. As to these few exceptions of serious implications, these have been mentioned in footnotes at appropriate places. Instead of introducing any change in terms of deletion/incorporation/alteration, all these exceptions have been kept as before as an evidence/reminder of earlier perceptions with regards to the issues involved, indicating part of a kind of inner journey of the writer over time, from earlier period . More on these and such other issues, which can add further clarification can be seen in a current write-up by the author under the title
A NOTE ON SOME PICKED UP FRAGMENTS OF PERCEPTION From Authentic Records Of Journeys , Into Mysterious Regions, By Some Wonder-Struck Pioneer Travelers (E.G, Bohr, Eddington, Einstein, Feynman, Schrdinger ) Of Known Authenticity Following The Rules-Book Of Scientific Method

by going to the Link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/149533189/Note-to-Fragemts-From-Bohr-EinsteinFeynman

SUBHAS CHANDRA GANGULY

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The very idea and inspiration of the project came from a then existing programme, Hosagnabad Science Teaching Programme, which no longer exists. This has been touched below(Footnote 4) in a little more details More about direct experience as participant-observer in that programme about 30 years back(in 1985), can be seen under the title Karke Dekhaa, Samajh Gaya (meaning When I observed after doing, I understood) : English translation of the original in Bengali, by going to the Link, named after this title, in the e-book, mentioned below. Copy of the original Bengali version, published in print in 1985 is also available in the same e-book

-Subhas Chandra Ganguly, Monday, September 02, 2013 e-mail: subhasganguly@gmail.com e-book/website: https://sites.google.com/site/subhascganguly/writings. ]

..philosophy, science, and scholarship as they exist are only humanitys incomplete answers on the young childs questions. 1

Science & technology should not be depicted as a store-house of ready-made discoveries and inventions but as an arena of struggle, where concrete and living man overcome resistance offered by material and tradition 2 There is no need of any fresh enquiry to confirm that in West Bengal, as in other parts of India, existing mode of imparting science education allows experiment either almost no role or wrongly assigned role to play in it. Thus at early stages (i.e. roughly up to secondary level) either there is no experiment or even if there is any, students are simply passive onlookers. Later, learners do carry out experiments on their own (have to

From TEACH YOURSELF TO STUDY by G.G.Neill Wrig The English University Press, London

From Address delivered to the first All-Union Congress of Soviet writers by Maxim Gorky Progress Publishers, Moscow

The writer of this 30 years project, does no longer feel any more in tune with the parts in redcoloured font of this excerpt from Maxim Gorky. This part, instead of a notion of harmonious relationship with nature seems now to hint, so to say, an old (attributed to Francis Bacon by some) scientific spirit of forcing nature to yield its secrets. Instead of just deleting and changing, this has been kept as an evidence/reminder of earlier perception of the writer of this Projects. - Monday, September 02, 2013

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because there is a hurdle called practical exam. to be crossed), but about that, one can appropriately sing, altering slightly a widely quoted line (East is East West is West, and never the twain shall meet) by the 19th-20th century British literauter Rudyard Kipling,, Theoretical is theoretical and Practical is practical, and never the twain shall meet..

Such experiments, not integrated in the overall body of scientific knowledge to be learnt, are of little use in helping to internalize that knowledge. So, the only mode of learning left to the unfortunate learners is learning by rote, sanctified by the deplorable tradition of ages. It is well-known that such a mode can only stifle curiosity, creativity, and innovative spirit 3 and urge for independent rational judgement (at least with respect to the objects of scientific study) with which any normal healthy child is born. But obviously growth of genuine interest in science is inconceivable without the aid of these almost instinctive faculties of mind. So the process, instead of becoming an adventurous, thrilling and cheerful journey through the realms of unknown, full of surprises and wonders at every turn, becomes, for the learners, one of carrying a fearfully heavy dead load of scientific information a cross to be borne for their uncommitted sins. Teachers perforce play the unenviable role of high priests in the mournful marches (of their charges) chanting mantras, which marchers are supposed to
In this context one is reminded of following, around hundred old, fragments (not cited in the original project proposal) of perceptions, related to educational system in West, which shows that in spirit and approach it was basically not different what goes on here in West Bengal/India. After all the system here is an imitation of the west :
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
Einstein (http://www.einstein-quotes.com/ThinkingKnowledge.html)
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One had to cram all this stuff into ones mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.

Einstein , In memory of Irving Segal, Gross L. (Atlantic Monthly,


The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

November 1945)

- Einstein , (http://www.websophia.com/faces/einstein.html)
- Monday, September 02, 2013

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remember. Of course, of late, many are trying to throw away the cross revealing no real understanding but only a spirit of desperation. Teachers are then called upon to police over their charges. Nor does the process necessarily equip the learners any better for survival, which ostensibly one carrot dangled before them as an incentive to complete their morbid journey. For, absence of above mental traits is hardly conductive to a better chance of survival. So end result is despair and frustration on the part of a significant proportion of learners and their families and criminal wastage of national resources (manpower and others) as witnessed in the unusually high rate of failures in examinations and jobs respectively. As for much talked of scientific temper 4 , if we see any trace of that among people, that is surely in spite of the scientific training they might have received and not due to it. Thus whether we look from personal (students, teachers) or social angle or for that mater, from utilitarian or broader point of view, the consequence of prevailing mode of science education, to put it mildly, leaves much to be desired. The present project is a humble attempt to initiate an alternative mode of imparting science education at an early stage (middle school) of training. As opposed to exclusively verbal and unidirectional communication, improvised experimentation and field trips coupled with multidirectional exchanges, while learning, among teachers, students and their pals, are the two most important cornerstones of this mode. It is hoped that the process, through further continual enrichment by valuable suggestion from the members of the public in general and that of teaching community in particular, will be able to mitigate some of the evils enumerated above. Of course, no impossible hope of answering all these serious problems is being entertained. That is perhaps beyond the scope of any project of this kind, requiring initiative of different kind and on different scale.

Today the writer of this project would not have used this ill-defined term (scientific temper) in the way it has been used here. - Monday, September 02
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Even within a narrower framework, some attempts for more effective method of teaching language and social sciences 5 are very much needed both for their own sake and to supplement science education project. That is also beyond the scope of the present project. So, if the project can enlist the support and active participation of even a small part of people connected with or interested in science education at middle school level it will be deemed to have justified its initiation. In course of more detailed elaboration latter, it will be sought to be made clear in as concrete a manner as possible that importance of improvised experimentation lies not only in the less costs it undoubtedly ensures but also in it being an integral part of a process whose effectiveness is very much dependent on this improvisation. So, the project is not meant for less affluent school only, but for all schools imparting science education at the corresponding level. And of course the non-formal and voluntary groups working in the field of education are, because of their flexible nature, expected to be able to actualise it in a relatively shorter time, once they begin to take interest in it.

There is nothing esoteric about either the idea or the practice of this project. Such attempts have been made both home and abroad at various times with various degree of response and progress. In preparing this project, we are indebted to all these early pioneers, whose experience we have freely drawn upon and shall continue to draw upon, whenever necessary, if the project can see the light of the day. In this connection, Particular mention must be made of Hosagnabad Science Teaching Programme (HSTP), run 6 by the organization named Eklavya and its predecessor Kishore Bharati in Madhya Pradesh and a large number of middle school teachers working with it since its inception in 1972 in developing a curriculum for middle school students. At present, all the middle schools (around 250) in one district (viz., Hoshangabad) and some others in another
Today the writer of this project would have substituted the term social sciences with social studies - Monday, September 02 6 At the time of preparing this Project proposal around 30-years back, it used to be financed jointly by N.C.E.R.T., under Central Govt., D.S.& T. of the state (Madhya Pradesh) & central government and education directorate of the state govt., last of them being publisher of the textbooks published under the project and providing material and other infrastructural facilities from the very beginning. But it was closed down later on (2002) under state government order. More about all these and the programme itself can be seen in the Link Karke Dekhaa, Samajh Gaya (meaning When I observed after doing, I understood) : mentioned at the end of the Current Note at the start - Monday, September 02
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district are covered by this programme. Through collective effort, they have prepared a four-volume text book (in Hindi) appropriate for this programme. Every summer they hold teachers training classes (camp) , which are refreshingly different from the usual camps for the same purpose. Theirs is an example showing feasibility of such an undertaking in the Indian context and one most important source of the present project. In case the present project ate approved, we hope to work in close collaboration with them.

Approach

Maine suna ..Bhul gia Maine dekha yad raha Maine karke dekha..Samajh gaya. 7

This aphorism written in the scrawling hand of a child and printed as such on the last cover page of one of the school textbooks of (HSTP), express, so to say, the quintessence of the approach of the present project. In consistence with the essence, following are some of the mutually overlapping and interacting important aspects of this approach. It goes without saying that the list is neither exhaustive nor final and expected to be further enriched through experience within the general framework.

(1) One single theme which will run through the whole body of the necessarily diverse lesson plans, binding them together is to help learners train themselves in the methodology of science through experiments performed by them. By methodology of science what we primarily mean here is what in more technical language called inquiry and discovery approach. Briefly, this means, in studying scientific principles they will start not from abstract statements about these principles but from appropriate experiments. Under proper guidance they will then be led to discover those principles through a gradual process of abstraction as far as practicable.

I heard And forgot,/ I saw and remember ,/ I observed by doing And understand.

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(2) A clear demarcation with proper emphasis must be made between laws as based on direct evidence of observation and Theories as based on indirect evidence and scientific imagination and guesswork and its consequent transient (relatively speaking) nature. While underlining the lack of finality in the mater of scientific theories by the very nature of things as evident in the rejection of earlier theories and reacceptance of many of them in newer form, care must be taken to prevent any possible undermining of the profound importance of scientific theories, and so of scientific imagination. One possible way of stressing this importance would be to refer to the stories, where theories led to the discovery of new laws and new objects. In other words particular attention must be given to place theories and laws in their proper interrelations and throughout the training period every concrete opportunity must be availed of to drive home this lesson. Inability to differentiate between these two categories of scientific principles, much too common even among learners at advanced level, creates serious confusion and favours the growth of both pure empiricism and dogmatism.

(3) Theories which cannot be smoothly shown to be explanations of laws discovered by the learners or of observations made by themselves should be avoided as far as practicable.

(4) Whenever occasion offers an opportunity, learners must be helped to take note of those questions raised by their own experiments and observations to which this present body of scientific knowledge has no answer, thus making them aware that only a fraction of the question posed by nature has yet been answered. Simultaneously whenever

possible stories of how the principles they themselves have discovered were once shrouded in mystry, but is no longer so should be depicted. This will discourage both the science has explained everything attitude and an inclination to jump into supernatural explanation in absence of any scientific explanation at a particular point of time or worse still to wish away an observed fact if an instant scientific explanation is not available.

(5) Basic statistical or probabilistic nature of all scientific principles can and should be brought to the learner notice in connection with all the discoveries made by them. And

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the notion of accuracy and precision being a matter of degrees must be driven home at every stage. To bring these notions into bold relief appropriate separate experiments may also be designed. All these are necessary to prevent the growth of what may be called (in absence of better term perhaps) absolutist or deterministic notion 8 with regard to science a notion much too common among people with scientific outlook but without any corresponding awareness of this scientific conclusion that very nature of human physique and psyche and of nature itself impose certain limitations on the accuracy of the human observations and so deprive the knowledge based on this observation of any supposed absoluteness. At the same time, extreme care should be taken so that

incontestable necessity of remaining within allowable range of error may not be deemphasised.

Note1: Some or all of the aspects (2), (4) and (5) above can be found in any standard textbook meant for more advanced learner. But during classroom discourses they are usually mentioned (if at all) with such casualness that their profound significance almost always escapes notice. What we want to stress is that without an acute awareness of these facts no proper and mature understanding of the process of scientific thinking is possible. One also need not worry of the possible incapacity of young children to appreciate these ideas. For these ideas are so close to our everyday experience that in the hand of an appreciative teacher they can be woven around the experiments and observations of the
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At the time of preparing the project the writer was not aware of the fact, and so there was not the required reference to it in this context, that this necessity of outgrowing absolutist or deterministic approach does not relate only in the context of accuracy and precision but is much more basic in character as well, relating to the very scientific formulation, as (unavoidably) couched in language, themselves as, e.g., the following fragments of perception from some known formulator about and path seeker into the mystery of nature/universe reflect: Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain. - RICHARD_FEYNMAN [The Meaning of It All] The reality we can put into words is never reality itself. We have to remember that what we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning. Werner
T

Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy

Though there is another kind of uncertainty in the region of sub-atomic world, intrinsic to the very process of observation, that probably does not come under the purview of a project meant for school children. - Monday, September 02 SUBHAS CHANDRA GANGULY

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children themselves without much difficulty, thereby making the communication comprehensible. And that is the only acceptable mode of communication according to this project. (6) In selecting both instruments and materials for experiments, stress, as far as

practicable will be upon excluding those that are usually to be met with within institutional laboratories and are not used in ordinary course of life. Of those again, materials, used in affluent household only, will be, if possible, avoided. Needless to mention that these cannot be made into rigid rules but only indicates the direction along which there should be a constant search. For example, young learners should be always encouraged to find cheaper and more easily available substitutes for those that are being used at a particular time. Illustration : In place of Bunsen burner, a naked kerosene lamp may be used for heating.

(7) Again, in selecting instruments and materials for experiments, preference will be given to those that can be fashioned into required shape by the students themselves or at least by craftsmen before their eyes. That is, as far as practicable raw or semimanufactured rather fully manufactured articles will be preferred. It will be a real fun for the children, for example, to produce an instrument which will give a live demonstration of the principles of electric motor out of such things as a cork used for closing bottles, a few pins, some electric wire, a piece of wood, a pair of small circular or cubic magnet, a pair of ordinary batteries used in torch and such other things.

Note 2: Among other things (6) & (7) imply that instruments and other materials will have nothing attractive about i them but will be attractive in so far as within their ordinary looking exterior they hide such wonderful principles of nature. This does not mean that aesthetic leanings among learners by way of urge to embellish these instruments further will be discouraged. It means any tendency to slip towards a gadget-oriented training where instrument itself will vie with the principle that is being discovered have to be avoided. Also this underlines an important difference from usual science club approach (important as they are) of building attractive models. Another implication is

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acquaintance with and some rudimentary training in craftsmanship should be considered as an integral part of training.

(8) The whole curriculum will be woven around successive series of experiments to be performed by the pupils themselves under the guidance of their teachers. Arrangements of these experiments will be according to the sequence in which scientific principles are to be enunciated or rather discovered. Experiments chosen or designed will, as far as possible do either the phenomena happening in their own environment or those closely resemble them.

Note 3 : (6),(7),(8) together imply that as far as practicable course must be based on environment both in terms of the means of experiment and the experiments themselves. If properly conducted, it will go a long way in that element of remoteness not infrequently felt by student of tender age with regard to the scientific principles and thus pave the way for feeling quite at home in the world of scientific principles. As can be easily inferred, this means easier and quicker grasp of those principles. Also, this

environment based approach will make the experiments less dependent on the outside agencies for supply of means of experiments, though, of course such dependence cannot be totally eliminated. And finally, such experiments are likely to drive it home more explicitly the important lesson that scientific principles are as much operative in the whole of nature that surrounds us as in the places like laboratories (in literal sense), factories, dams etc.ostensibly heralding victory of science and that helping us to understand our environment better so as to live in harmony with it is one of the most important purpose behind acquisition of this knowledge. This way a correct beginning can be made of linking science education with life, absence of which is aptly deplored by many people.

(9) There will always be a standing invitation to teachers and the taught alike to substitute the prescribed experiments by more effective ones in keeping with overall spirit of this programme.

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(10) General pattern of introducing a new scientific principle would be to guide students perform the appropriate experiment (corresponding set of experimental kits being distributed earlier) on their own and record their observation in terms of quantity, quality and rough diagram. Teachers will have to see that students strive for as much accuracy as possible and no important details escape their attention. There will naturally be difference with regard to the present deftness and capacity of observation . That will be an occasion to help pupils appreciate the fundamental importance of improving their skill in exercising sense organs and limbs . Next task at every stage of experiment would be to detect and record the questions that the noted set of observation or any other collateral observation, within the experience of the experimenters, raises. The detection will again depend on present level of curiosity, imagination and alertness of mind as well as skill in exercising the faculty of intelligence and logical thinking, all of which can be further improved. Capacity to identify or raise questions relating to observation is of

fundamental importance. Because, only then will the answers satisfy a genuine inner urge and so will be grasped in their full significance and no longer seem to be just irrelevant pieces of information. Answers to question will naturally depend on being able to correctly correlate and reconstruct the present, past and future observations and also upon the understanding of earlier principle. Also, many times these answers will depend on observations and conclusions not of their own but so authenticated by scientific community

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Copyright (c) 2010 by Subhas Chandra Ganguly. This is an open access publication distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-No Derivative License (see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/), which permits anyone (if he/she so wishes) to share this material, provided (1) the distribution is only for noncommercial purposes, (2) the original author and the source are attributed, and (3) no derivative works including any alterations are made. For any distribution, this copyright statement should also accompany this material without any alteration and in its entirety.
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