From ages, Science is taught in schools like how history or English are. By this, we mean that facts are told and children are made to mug up these and write in examinations. Very little thought has been given to spur the natural curiosity in children to experiment and learn. Some do the experiments, but are done with steps given in the textbook the EXPECTED results (also in the textbook) are arrived at. Children’s questions have no role to play as they are modeled to these demonstrations.
This has a very big impact on Scientific thoughts of children who are visually impaired. Their alternative ways of thinking is not appreciated by the sighted adults. The visual approach in teaching with least practical knowledge which the sighted children easily grasp, is a natural hindrance to children with visual impairment.
We have no answers to all problems, but definitely would want to give the initial push and academic exposure of science to students with visual impairment through hands-on experience.
Prayoga is an effort by Vividha to make Science an interesting and an academically accessible subject to children from schools for the blind.
Sri Ramana Maharshi Academy for the Blind is the only school for the blind currently in Bangalore that offers Math and Science to the students till their 10th grade. This was a good place for us to pilot our first Prayoga. We have already seen good progress in Science with regular Vividha students and that gave us confidence to implement it with a slightly bigger audience.
We worked out the topics with their teachers/curriculum coordinators and came up with once a trimester experiment day for children in grade 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.
What did we cover in our first Prayoga? The lessons that were chosen were “Separation of Substances” and “Friction”. Children were divided into a group of 4 but attempt was made to take each one through the experience. Some methodology followed:
- Separation of substances
A mixture of chickpea and rava was given to them and asked to separate. They did hand-picking, but took a long time. So we asked for a better solution. Someone in the group said sieving. We gave each group a sieve and they did. We summarized two separation methods. Then we discussed about how rice is harvested. We gave them a new broomstick and demonstrated how paddy is separated from the straw. That method of separation was Threshing. The story of rice continued and rice had to separated from paddy husk for which winnowing is used. We gave them a mixture of sand and dry leaves and ask them to winnow it. Then we gave them the mixture of salt and sand and children could not use any of the learnt methods of separation. So they came up with the solution of dissolving the salt in water which they did. They observed the settled sand and then poured out the salt solution into another container. Two more methods, sedimentation and decantation were learnt this way. Now they noticed that the salt solution had floating impurities, so wanted to filter. They used cloth and filter paper to filter and understood filteration. Now salt was still not separated from water. So as per their suggestion boiled the water to see the salt residue. Also observed water collected in the lid while boiling. That covered evaporation and condensation.
They were given nylon and cotton clothes to put on their hands and they experienced that one slipped easily while the other did not. They slided the bowls on plates which were greased with oil and which were not, to see the difference. Then they used matchboxes lined with different textures on an plane and inclined it to see which ones would slide first. They pushed the chair with and without wheels to experience friction. Then was measurement of friction using mechanical spring balance that had tactile markings. They related all these to the definitions of friction, types of friction and measurement of friction.
Thus we concluded our lessons for the day with a lot of learnings to take home!