Month: October 2003

Touch a Scientist and You Touch a Child

Touch a Scientist and You Touch a Child

Earlier this year we wrote about the Annual Children’s Science Congress that is organised by National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC) and how last year, a city school had created a record by sending the most number of entries from single school. Another national record for Thane at last year’s Congress was that seven of its projects reached the final round – the maximum from any one city at the level of the national convention.

For those readers who are unaware, NCSTC is an apex organisation of the Government of India that endeavours to popularise science and technology by stimulating scientific and technological disposition. NCSTC has been founded by Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. The State Science Council of all the States along with prominent NGOs working in the field of science are the members of this organisation.

The results of the first elimination round for this year’s congress were declared on October 02, 2003 at the New English High School at Ram Maruti Road. As many as 65 projects were submitted from 14 city schools.

This year’s theme, like last year, is "Food Systems towards Nutrition for all." The first round was judged by prominent people from the foods and nutrition industry. Food technologists, dieticians, medical practitioners, academicians and food manufacturing professionals were among the 15 judges who selected 24 projects for the district level which will be held in ShreeRang Vidyala in Thane on November 15, 2003. At the district level, 12 projects will be selected to participate at the State Level Congress which will be held on December 06 and 07 at Barshi, Sholapur.

Judging by the entries that the organisers have received so far, there is no reason why students from Thane will not repeat last year’s splendid performance. In fact, so impressed is Surendra Dighe with one project from ShreeRang Vidyalaya English, that he has decided to sent it to the Intel Science Fair also. The topic of this project is "Improvement in Food Production" while its sub-topic is "Improvement in Food Production through Bio-Seed Dressing Method." The title of the project is "To study the effect of Bio-Seed Dressing on the growth, yield and quality of Crop." While the group project leader is Zeeshan Sayyed, its members are Niteesh Kulkarni, Vrishi Patil, Rucha Vakhariya, Prajakta Dhamorikar. The guide teacher is Shweta Sawant.

The group seemed to have worked rather hard on the project. They collected various materials such as Neem seed powder, Neem leaves powder, Custard apple seed powder and so on. They visited various villages to observe the methods of plantation of bhendi ((Lady Fingers) and also to collect information regarding fertilizers, pesticides and so on. They analysed their data from various sources and began to dress the seeds of bhendi in their school lab and planted the same in the background of their school. After observations they concluded that treated seeds show more resistance to pests than untreated ones. They firmly believe that "bio-pesticides used for seed dressing are promising, cheap, eco-friendly, will help the farmers to depend less on chemicals and also help increase productivity."

Dighe, who serves on the national governing body of the NCSTC, says "Thane has a lot of talented students and with proper guidance, can go places." If recent reports are any indications, Dighe is bang on target. Thane’s Maithili Dalvi from Sulochanadevi Singhania School was one of the 12 award-winning students from all over India, who were selected through national trials, and had participated in the annual Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Cleveland, Ohio in May. They were part of 1300-odd students from 35 countries, who exhibited their award-winning science projects at the annual Fair.

American Writer Ray Bradbury once said, "Touch a scientist and you touch a child." His words certainly apply to the Thane’s young scientists.

Watch this space for updates on the performance of city students as the Science Congress reaches its culmination between December 27 and December 31, 2003 at Lucknow.

Housewives of Substance

Housewives of Substance

Life of a traditional Indian housewife, even if she dwells in an urban setting, more or less revolves around her family. Realising a need for housewives to break out of this domestic monotony, Leela Joshi, an enthusiastic English Teacher from Thane, started a social women-only club for those living in and around Thane. The club, founded 29 years ago, is aptly called Sakhi Shezarini Mahila Mandal, which loosely translates into "Friends and Neighbours Club for Women." For the 300 life members aged between 30 years to over 70 years, the club is an excellent place for unwinding themselves and helping their all round development.

The members meet every month and discuss issues that face housewives. Kitchen issues, parenting, plant-care, spirituality and god, health and fitness, beauty and fashion and the like are the issues discussed. Prominent speakers, usually experts in their fields, are called in to address the members. Besides, interaction with so many women and experts speakers helps them improve their general knowledge quotient too.

A couple of weeks ago, women from the club got an opportunity to participate in contests that tested their knowledge and ability. Organised by the club in it’s own premises at Ghantali, there were in all four competitions. The first one was a quiz based on general knowledge – on how much they know about the goings-on around the world. As many as 45 women participated in this contest. The second competition was something of a memory test wherein the participants were required write something down as quickly as possible (like names of flowers or the lines of a song) in the time allotted to them. It was tougher than it seems, because women older than 60 years also participated. Yet, 50 women participated in this one.

The third and the most difficult of the lot was the elocution competition. Participants were asked to pick a chit which contained a topic and their task was to speak on the given topic for two minutes. They were given 30 minutes to prepare. Abstract topics such as "environment consciousness", "Who is God?" and "The person who shape my life" ensured that only 30 brave women contested. Unlike the first two, this was a subjective competition and therefore required judges. Sujata Bhide and Vinita Sharma did the umpiring.

The final contest was also subjective and was probably the closest to the hearts of most members. It was the recipe contest. The challenge here was to make a dish using chana dal (split Bengal gram), sweet or spicy. 50 women participated in the recipe contest which was judged by Uma Amrute and Lalita Chimote. One over-enthusiastic prepared 10 dishes for this contest. The winner in the Sweet Dish category was Vaishali Gupte who made a chana dal cake. The other winners were Shobha Kale who made sheera, and Sulabha Puranik who made laddoos.
 
In the spicy category, Sulabha Kulkarni won the first prize for her chana dal lollipop, much like the roasted chicken lollipop. Other winners were Rohini Damle, Malati Bhagwat and Jyotsna Phadke. A local restaurant had sponsored the prizes for this event.

Competitions such as the above add more meaning to the otherwise routine lives of women, especially housewives. As Joshi says, "The club activities motivate and inspire many members to get out of their houses and do something constructive. Most importantly, they get a platform to express their individual selves."

Sowing the Seeds of Peace

Sowing the Seeds of Peace

Mahatma Gandhi said, "An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind." But if the recent turn of events is any indication, the Mahatma’s words of wisdom have been long forgotten. Violence in the name of religion is perhaps the biggest threat to our world today. The origins of most acts of terrorism can be traced to religious affiliations. The strategy to combat terrorism on a global scale requires a commitment of a different kind than has been shown by present-day politicians and religious leaders across the continents. It requires an approach that acknowledges the deep-rooted source of the problem – that the seeds of hatred are planted early in life and it is most difficult to change the attitudes of adults by reasoning with them about the futility of religious conflicts. The only antidote to hatred is love. And therefore the only way out this dreadful state of affairs is to begin by planting the seeds love in children.

Parents play the most important role in shaping the psychological development of a child. It is therefore imperative that parents themselves acknowledge the urgent importance of peace and harmony for the survival of our planet.

On the occasion of the First Day of Navratri, the Garden School at Cherai was filled not with students but their parents. These parents had gathered there for a unique inter-religious prayer meeting. The prayer meeting lasted for about an hour. Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Parsis were all there with one mission – to learn and spread the message of love, peace and harmony. Extracts from the various holy books were read and their meanings explained. The Holy Quran, The Bhagavad Geeta, The Bible and the Guru Granth Sahib were all referred to – and all of them advocated the same thing – that there is nothing greater than love.

13-year-old Ameya Gawand, an ex-student of the school was also present. Ameya owes a lot to the school and it’s Principal Bernadette Pimenta who helped him tremendously during his early childhood which was marked by severe physical challenges. He emerged triumphant through them all. While addressing the parents assembled, he gave many examples of religious myths that can be easily done away with, in these modern times.

To reinforce the idea of peace and harmony, Pimenta led the assemblage of parents to take a pledge against war, mutual conflict, thefts, murders, bomb blasts and other crimes. A two-minute silence was observed in the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace.

Later candles were lit by parents and teachers accompanied by a song that urged people to light the flame of peace in their hearts. Other popular songs of powerful messages were also sung.

Before we belong to any religion or any country, we belong to humanity. As Mother Teresa said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." The prayer meeting held at the Garden School may seem too trivial an effort towards world peace; nevertheless it can have far reaching consequences. If all schools across the world begin to hold such inter-faith meetings, peace will be inevitable.