Many of the poor children in India begin with their future already laid out for them. They are destined to follow the well-worn paths of their parents and grandparents. But Agastya shows these children a wider world, exposing them to some of the benefits of an education. Whether on the main campus, or through a visit from a mobile lab instructor, children see Agastya as a place for discovery, where they learn to really see the world around them, to observe and draw conclusions about the connections between nature and themselves. Their minds and imaginations are stimulated through direct, hands-on engagement. Agastya allows them to wonder about the world, and freely ask, “How?” and “Why?”
Two village girls, who had frequented Agastya on school trips, went to sit under a tree to escape the hot sun, and they began to wonder why the leaves of certain trees cooled them more than others. Encouraged by Agastya’s teachers, Rani Jhansi & Roja asked questions that led them to create a project, winning a prize in the 2008 Intel IRIS competition at the national level. Such triumphs provide village children with confidence. They see themselves alongside students from prestigious city schools, often doing as well or better in the competition.
Just one visit to Agastya on a single day can make a huge difference, turning on a light for a child. Purnima is just such a child. Growing up in a small farming village, not far from Agastya’s main campus, Purnima’s experience sparked her fascination with science. She became a Young Instructor Leader when Agastya’s teachers noticed her appreciation for learning, her appetite for discovery, and her aptitude for leadership. Determined that she one day would win the Intel science competition, she had encouragement and help from Agastya’s teachers. Her goal was achieved earlier than she had dreamed. Purnima wants to teach biology at Agastya when she grows up. The Agastya touch has made her optimistic about her future and her potential to meet her goals – an enormous stride for children growing up in villages like hers.
Agastya continues to produce winners of this prestigious award, and other such awards and recognitions, who compete with students from the country’s finest public and private schools. Several of Agastya’s prize winners were even sent to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, to attend an international science fair in 2013. They did not speak English, and were not accustomed to wearing shoes, but still they had the confidence to travel abroad and share their love of science with their peers from around the world.
Ah, Aha and Haha!
‘Ah, Aha, Haha’, the 3-fold principle, ensures effective learning among children while unleashing creativity and sparking curiosity. When children see a spinning top flip over, they are wonderstruck. They experience the ‘Ah’ moment when their curiosity has been stirred. They then begin to wonder why this happened; they touch the top, twirl it around and try to recreate the action they saw. This phase of exploration is called the ‘Aha’ moment. The final and most important step to learning is that children have fun while doing so. This, is the ‘Haha’ moment.