Mega Science Fairs
“I never understood many of the science concepts I learnt in school until I had to explain them. It was indeed thrilling to be able to teach.” – Seema, Young Instructor Leader (YIL)
Ever wanted to visit a mega science event where you could learn hundreds of scientific concepts all in one go? Dream no more, for Agastya has made this mega science extravaganza come true. Using over 300 simple scientific models, Agastya’s 14- to 16-year-old Young Instructor (YIs) routinely demonstrate phenomena such as solar and lunar eclipse; seasonal changes; and concepts such as protein chains that link together to form insulin at Agastya’s Mega Science Fairs.
With no lack of an audience, Agastya’s Mega Science Fairs bustle with intellectual exchanges between thousands of exuberant student-teachers who field questions from peers, teachers and subject specialists alike. With their enthusiastic and animated explanations, these zestful high school students bring their audience into the exciting worlds of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Ecology and even Astronomy.
Indeed, as a testament to its popularity and widespread success, Agastya has convened over 9 Mega Science Fairs, attracting over 5,000 -10,000 participants each time since the virgin fair in Hubli in 2008.
How it came about
Since its inauguration, Agastya has been conducting mini “live” science fairs by transporting low-cost models in mobile lab vans to schools around Karnataka state. In addition, Agastya has also actively set up booths in school campuses (read more about Agastya’s Mobile Lab Program here).
Within months of its inception, the Mobile Lab Program received an overwhelmingly positive response from the rural community. And, as more villages came to know about Agastya’s transformative teaching methodology, requests to conduct fairs on a larger scale started to flow in. Encouraged by this response, Agastya started to explore new ways to reach out to a larger group of students and teachers within a shorter period of time. Thus, after months of planning and deliberation, the idea of a Mega Science Fair was born.
How it works
With a target audience of mainly children, Mega Science Fairs serve as a platform for YIs to build up their confidence and improve their communication skills by demonstrating models and concepts to their peers and teachers. In addition, YIs are able to enhance their understanding of complex scientific theories by learning through teaching.
In preparation of an upcoming Mega Science Fair, YIs are selected and trained over a 3-day period by Agastya’s instructors to demonstrate and explain a concept adeptly using a low cost model. During the 2-day science fair itself, YIs are then paired up in teams with a Young Instructor Leader (YIL) in charge to explain their model to visiting students, teachers and guests.
In addition, YILs take on additional responsibilities at the fair such as: managing the crowd; managing waste; manning the registration booth; food distribution to visitors; as well as photographing and videoing of the event. These additional responsibilities not only help in building up the different skill sets of each child, it also sets the stage for the development of leadership qualities within each YIL.
“I see improvement in terms of discipline and openness. In the most backward areas of Andhra Pradesh, children are beginning to answer scientific questions.”, beams V. Kumar, a Mandal Education Officer.
Indeed, the majority of students and teachers who have been to a Mega Science Fair agree that the fairs are extremely useful for their learning purposes. In fact, many students have started to adopt experiential learning to improve their performance in tests whilst teachers have replicated models they have seen at Science Fairs as teaching aids for their classes.
For YILs themselves, the numerous opportunities for interaction with peers and teachers during the Mega Science Fairs have bolstered their confidence in public speaking and many of them have learnt how to be more patient in explaining concepts when someone does not understand them. “Instead of getting irritated, I feel even more accomplished when the other person finally understands the concept I am trying to teach.”, says YI Ajay.
Freshened minds, renewed spirits
In his book How The Brain Learns, neuroscience expert David Sousa writes that we learn only 10% of what we read, but 95% of what we teach. The team at Agastya cannot agree more.
One of the main objectives of Agastya’s Mega Science Fairs was to inculcate curiosity and creativity by encouraging students to be curious enough to find out the underlying concepts behind scientific phenomena and to discover new ideas through this learning process. This objective is slowly being realized as our YIs have become ever more eager to learn and explain new models at every fair, with many even attempting to make their own models to bring to our Mega Science Fairs!
The stories of these children are the factors that motivate Agastya towards bringing about greater paradigm shifts in rural education in India. Our goal? That an increasingly larger number of rural students and teachers can learn the mysteries of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Ecology, and Astronomy joyously and experientially together.