KARACHI: With hands raised high, a solemn oath was taken to not taste, eat or drink any of the materials that would be part of the experiments to follow, and immediately after this promise was made, a science class titled ‘Chemical Curiosities’ kicked off at T2f on Tuesday.
Unshackled from conventional classroom techniques that have compelled many young, aspiring scientists to desert their passion for science, the social enterprise Science Fuse hosted the event with the aim to “create a generation of scientists, innovators and thinkers in Pakistan.”
Dozens of nervous children had earlier trickled in to be welcomed by tables adorned with test tubes and materials right out of a science lab, and many aspiring “Dexters” shared excited glances, in anticipation of what was in store for the science class they had registered for. And to welcome them was founder of Science Fuse, Lalarukh Malik and her team, all geared up to make science fun and exciting for children in Pakistan.
Ms Malik used wit and examples relatable to children to explain various scientific concepts such as describing how matter surrounds us, and how it is made up of atoms and molecules. One such example was how she referred to the water molecule as the “Mickey Mouse Molecule” due to the arrangement of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. With theoretical concepts supplemented and complemented with practical demonstration, soon enough the children had rolled up their sleeves and were busy conducting experiments.
One of the experiments involved the use of alginate, calcium chloride and water, and children became busy dissolving and mixing elements together, an integral part of chemical changes. After several dashes of food colouring, lo and behold, slime was created from scratch.
Amid excited chatter, and with trepidation, children poked and probed with plastic spoons the slime they had created, and soon enough bravely ventured into using their hands after the Science Fuse team assured them that it was safe to do so.
Nudging children towards self-discovery without belittling them was a clear prerogative of the two-day workshop, and Malik and her team treated the children like adults, holding them accountable when working in groups, and allowing them a certain level of independence to freely explore within the limits of safety.
Calling herself a science communicator, Ms Malik has studied molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of Oslo, and her venture holds science camps in collaboration with different schools in Karachi and Lahore where the turnout, she explained, has been overwhelming.
Science Fuse also hosts paid programmes where children can register for inquiry-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programmes, and some of the proceeds generated are directed towards pro bono programmes at charity schools.
“There is a need to create informal learning environments after school. Also, schools need to incorporate hands-on, immersive, and interactive science activities into their curriculum as there is a general perception in Pakistan that science is not entertaining,” explained Ms Malik.
The teaching of subjects such as chemistry and physics has seen much change and flexibility in the modern world, with more interactive and practical learning in the laboratory preferred over textbook theoretical teaching. As a result science is progressing by leaps and bounds. This, unfortunately, is clearly lacking in Pakistan, and many argue that the country’s regressive outlook on teaching science needs to be immediately rectified if there is any hope of salvaging it.
Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2017