A new initiative started this year; the CRHP Science Center is a project that responds to educational needs of rural communities by offering schoolchildren the chance for hands-on, practical learning of science. Activity-based learning has been shown to promote students’ curiosity and problem solving skills. The science and technology activities in the Center are geared to rural secondary school students in the Jamkhed area. We hope this new program will expand future educational and career opportunities for the local children.
The Science Center has its roots in a partnership between CRHP and Elon University (NC, USA). Dr. Martin Kamela, associate professor of physics, is spending a yearlong sabbatical leave at CRHP in order to develop, manage, and assess the project. The initial partnership is now expanded to include the Jamkhed Teachers’ College, several local schools, and members of the education community in the area. The teacher candidates spend time in the Science Center as instructors thereby expanding their exposure to novel approaches to teaching, several schools from Jamkhed and the surrounding villages are keenly interested to send students to the Science Center, and seasoned educators offer valuable advice and connections.
The Science Center is housed in a dedicated building on the campus of CRHP. It contains children’s Science Labs (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering/Technology), a large hall for introductory and concluding session, and for meals, a Science Park (playground with a science theme – which is still being completed), toilets and running water. The Center has hired an assistant coordinator, Mr. Vikas Bhore, who grew up in one of the CRHP’s project villages and attended the Jamkhed Teachers’ College after completing a chemistry degree. Ms. Pranoti Ranade, who has science and social work background, also helps manage the program. Several other CRHP staff members are on board too – from drivers who bring the children, kitchen staff who provide nutritious meals so that children learn on full stomachs, to the construction crew who fix plumbing and walkways. It’s a team effort and the team is solid!
During the school year the Center operates a “One-Day School Program” for students in 5th -10th grade. A class of students of students, with their teacher, visits the science center for one day. Students are divided into small groups and are guided by Science Center instructors through various Labs, where children complete grade-appropriate activities tied to their school curriculum. CRHP provides both the transportation and meals for the children to make sure all students have access to the Center.
In the summer the Center will run weeklong enrichment courses in biology, chemistry, physics, robotics, and computing, for students in 11th and 12th grade. Through increased self-confidence in their abilities, and with friendly advice from the Science Center guidance counselors, we hope to expand the students’ vision of possible career paths. The program will also help participating rural students compete in the challenging college/university admission process if they choose to pursue higher education.
Schools are on Diwali break in the first weeks of November. We take the opportunity to improve the facilities, to assess the activities of the Center so far, and to drum up support for this project from friends new and old. Mr. Dieter Flecy, who visited CRHP earlier in the year, will work with his High School in Belgium to consider establishing a partnership for the summer enrichment program at the Center. Martin Kamela will present the initial assessment of the Science Center programs at the International Conference on Science in Society in Warsaw, Poland, and try to establish connections that may lead to future support for the Center.