Learning science will be fun at govt schools

Science learning will now on be more fun for thousands of students of 45 corporation school students in the city, as they will soon be equipped with ‘Life Labs’ full of scientific toys.

City-based Great Foundation has joined hands with Trent Limited, a wing of the Tata Group, in setting up about 30 labs in government-run schools in the city.

“The objective is to develop interest and make science a learning fun-filled exercise for these students. This method will allow them to think, reason and understand better,” Executive President of Great Foundation Viney Kripal told Sakal Times at the launch of one such lab in Ghorpadi Village High School on Tuesday.

According to Kripal, students must be given good training in science, technology, engineering, arts and languages which she teams as STEAL.

“With these simple experiments, toys and Do-it-Yourself kits, it is possible to engage students and develop a self-learning attitude,” said Lewitt Somarajan, the CEO of Life Labs project.

Since 2012, a total of 73 labs have been set up across Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Delhi and the team now aims at extending it to 500 labs in next one year.

Sharing her experience of live-teaching, Sharmila Wani of Wanawadi-based Mahadji Shinde High School said, “There is a lot of enthusiasm among the students. Students wait impatiently to handle the models and play with the tools.”

When asked about the other future endeavours, Kripal said, “There is a project where-in we will be setting up similar labs for schools of tribal children close to Nashik. We are in the process of training volunteers for the same.”

Sakal Times

Date: 6 October 2015

‘We have an obligation towards underprivileged’

Viney Kirpal’s mission is to provide equitable access to education

Viney Kirpal, 66, enthuses, motivates, raises aspirations and inspires confidence in anyone who meets her for the first time. But her forte is changing the lives of school students. The soft-spoken woman believes in calling a spade a spade and has been doing her bit to give the underprivileged an education that will help them lead a respectable life. The Founder-Executive President of GREAT Foundation (Global Research Education And Training Foundation, Pune) is former Professor and Head of Department of Humanities and Social Sciences of IIT Bombay.


The Centre implemented the scheme of reservation of seats for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) students in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) for the first time in 1973. IIT Bombay selected eight SC/ST students in keeping with the recommendations of the Chandy Committee Report. “I was part of the teaching faculty that gave the one-year preparatory course to SC/ST students in IIT Bombay. I found that it was difficult for these students to survive in the competitive IIT set-up and needed additional facilities, extra tutorials. And many had to leave the Institute for failure of fulfilling the academic requirements,” Viney said.


 To address the academic and social adjustments of these students, the Senate of IIT Bombay appointed a panel in 1976. “As a faculty advisor, I used to regularly interact with students apart from teaching English. I did not have an answer when one of the students who was asked to leave because of continued poor performance asked, ‘Madam, why did I ever come to IIT?’ We need a humane and sociological approach towards these students,” she said, adding that the incident triggered her resolve to do something to provide quality education to SC/ST and the underprivileged.

As an IIT Bombay faculty, Viney wrote around 90 papers, some of them on quality education, including various problems that SC/ST students face in IIT. “The government should take steps to train bright SC/ST students for competitive set-ups such as IITs at the school level itself. There could also be special coaching at the post-school level, but prior to their entry into IIT.

Special coaching after entering IIT overburdens and isolates them. It would be advisable to screen SC/ST students right at the VIII or IX standard using aptitude tests and coaching them up accordingly,” she said.
Initially, Viney thought of starting an education project for SC/STs only but her friends counselled her to cover the underprivileged children.And GREAT Foundation was formed in 2002 to provide ‘best education, material resources and training to needy schoolchildren and their teachers to help them realise their full potential and become professionals’, as their website states.

The former IIT Bombay faculty just had to contact the alumni of the premier institute when she fell short of funds during GREAT Foundation’s earlier days. She believes in improving the teacher-student relationship for positive and long-lasting implications for students’ academic and social development.

“Teachers are the catalyst for change in education. Every teacher touches the lives of around 15,000 students in his/her entire career. Hence, it is important for them to adopt an effective method of teaching. Students studying in free (Marathi) schools of Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) lack good teaching, basic facilities such as libraries, sports items, and extracurricular orientation. Later, they fail to understand lectures or textbooks in English and end up as dropouts. We try to fill that gap through training and development by providing models, materials and coaching,” Viney said.

She advocated the need for model schools for needy children managed by NGO/civic body/corporates that follow the standards of a private school.

GREAT Foundation has covered 73 schools in Gujarat, Karnataka, Delhi and Maharashtra in two years. “Our study materials are in Marathi, Kannada and English and we are covering 45 schools in Pune,” she said.

“We plan to start short-term courses in fashion designing and automobile engineering. Adding English and Mathematics in our science project is also on the cards,” Viney said, adding that giving vocational courses will give them ambition and instil goals for life. Talks are also on with various stakeholders to adopt 30 municipal schools in Pune.
She said that the Ministry of Education should come out with strong solutions as the present form of ‘half-baked’ education is falling into dangerous lows in terms of quality. “Immediate steps should be taken as these children might end up as ‘rejects’ for life,” she said.

Making education accessible for all was what made Lewitt Somarajan, 27, to be a part of GREAT Foundation after doing his two-year fellowship with Teach For India. “I joined the Teach For India project in Pune after completing my chemical engineering from Nagpur in 2011. I was part of the team that taught the students of Jaihind English Medium School in Warje Malwadi. Later, I developed a science lab project for standard III-X students with two of my colleagues. Now it is part of GREAT Foundation and we have a 12-member team that covers R&D, content, training, procurement and manufacturing segments,” he said.

Lewitt said that the introduction of these models in schools have helped better students’ grade. “An independent study found that there was 68 per cent rise in grades in 2014 after teachers and students adopted our teaching methods. Initially it is a ‘cultural shock’ for students and teachers as they are used to the traditional methods. We have to be patient and it is the hope that motivates us because later the eyes of these same kids sparkle when they understand the concepts and start enjoying learning. Any project that understands the needs of stakeholders first and engages them will be fruitful,” he said.

The Golden Sparrow

Date: 18 Sep, 2015


Hands-on science models in schools

PUNE: Students of close to 45 civic schools are now capable of comprehending science-related ideas better, thanks to an initiative by city-based Great Foundation.

The charitable organisation has set up Science Life Labs in civic as well as private schools so that children learn science through models. The foundation believes that working with a model of an eye or a small electricity generation device, for instance, would help students better understand theoretical concepts. The foundation aims to assemble 500 Science Life Labs across the country, as a tribute to former president APJ Abdul Kalam.

The goal of the lab is two-fold — to impart practical knowledge about experiments and models so as to help students improve their grasp over scientific concepts; and to train educators to teach science in an interactive, experiential manner.

Viney Kirpal, executive president, Great Foundation, said, “By taking these concepts to civic schools, we are focusing on training science teachers in adopting inquiry-based learning. As part of the two-year programme, we conduct two to three workshops annually. We provide 75 science models for students from class III to class X. The models are portable so teachers can carry them either to the lab or to the classroom. The entire programme is free-of-cost for schools since it is funded through the corporate social responsibility partnerships.”

Elaborating further, Kirpal added that if a teacher explains the concept of an eye, then instead of textbook diagrams a 3D model of the eye, with artilleries running through the image to show how light is captured, is a better option. The science labs are innovative and they supplement theoretical teaching.

Besides science models, project head Lewitt Somarajan and his team have designed manuals to explain the activities that student need to work upon throughout the year. “There are as many as 12 such science activities in the manual and their main objective is to build students’ curiosity towards understanding simple concepts related to science.” At the end of the program, the students are expected to work on community projects or participate in national science competitions.

 The Times Of India

Date: 7 Sep, 2015

Toy Story: Scrap models to make science a game, learning fun

In a bid to make science more interesting for children, a group of engineering professionals are changing the way they learn by making it a game, through a project to create miniature working models to explain the laws of Physics to begin with before expanding the area to cover other subjects in science.

P Sridhar, an engineer working with Eaton Technologies, Pune, spearheading the project that aims at making working models says, “The focus right now is on Physics. We try to explain principles and laws of physics like total internal reflection of light, how electricity is generated, Newton’s laws of motion to name a few. The topics covered are in their curriculum.”

The models are built using low-cost material like thermocol and scrap items like spokes of bicycle wheels. The group, comprising six friends and colleagues, have joined hands with an NGO based in the city, the Global Research Education And Training (GREAT) Foundation. They will present and explain the models to students of nine schools the NGO supports.

“We are trying to add more models every week. Exams are now on and there will be holidays later. So we won’t start presenting our project until after November 14,” says Sridhar, who has a masters degree from The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore and had shifted to Pune a year back. Through the science project in the city, Sridhar who incidentally had taken part in a project in Bangalore called the Notebook Drive, alon with his team hopes to help schoolchildren understand science and learn to like it.

“We plan to encourage them to make certain models themselves. We will provide them with low-cost materials for models. They can then come and explain the working of the model,” says Sridhar.

One of the members of the team, Aditi Khare, is also training children on how to build toys for the Jet Toy Olympics at the A World In Motion competition, whose mission is to make the understanding of mathematics, science and technology more fun. “These will be made using paper and other simple materials. The aim is to help them understand the science and engineering behind it,” says Aditi. The regional round of the competition will be held at the Millenium National School, Karvenagar, on October 22.

The Indian Express

Date: 17 Oct,  2011