Theory versus Practice

Theory versus Practice

There is an interesting anecdote about James Watt. One day, when he was still young, he happened to observe a kettle boiling on the hearth and started to fiddle around by holding a spoon over its spout, opening the kettle and shutting it, gauging the pressure and so on. When his aunt saw him “fooling around”, she scolded him for “idleness” and told him to go out and do something more productive. His "idleness" soon led to the development of the famed steam engine.

Children's Science Centre in Thane

There is a lesson in that little story for our education system which is predominantly theory-oriented. For, true learning always follows understanding, which needs observation and involvement. This is even more so for subjects like science, which have a basis in experiments. For example, read the following statement: “The centre of gravity of a collection of masses is the point where all the weight of the object can be considered to be concentrated.” Now would you not rather that you understand the concept of centre of gravity with the help of an experiment?

School students from the city can rejoice as they can now strengthen their theoretical knowledge with the help of practical understanding. Last Saturday, Jidnyasa Bal Vidnyan Kendra, a science activity centre was unveiled at the TMC School No.7, located in Uthalsar. The centre, dubbed “Mini Nehru Science Centre”, opens up news vistas in science education for children of Thane. To begin with, 30 scientific apparatus have been installed to facilitate the explanation of basic science principles. Visiting children can now easily grasp concepts such as the Archimedes principle, effect of centre of gravity on objects in motion or how geostationary satellites work – all in a playful atmosphere.

A joint initiative of city based youth-welfare NGO Jidnyasa and the Education Committee of the TMC, the science activity centre was inaugurated by the director of Nehru Science Centre, Dr G S Rautela who said, “This is the first science centre built entirely by an NGO. It’s a very good start and a great example for others to follow.” Rautela’s delight was not unwarranted. There are 528 districts in India and every district is supposed to have at least one science centre of its own, yet the annual budget allows no more than two centres. At that rate it will take decades before we can see the light of the day. Unless NGOs like Jidnyasa take up the issue with the help of individuals like Sanjay More who is the chairman of the education committee of TMC.

Inspired by non-profit institutes like Bal Bhavan in Charni Road, the Jidnyasa Bal Vidnyan Kendra will remain open for five days every week – half a day for students from municipal schools and the remaining half for those from private schools. The centre will be open to public on weekends too, when parents can accompany their children to the centre for a nominal fee. A staff member will always be present to take the visitors around the centre. “We believe this centre will be more useful to students from Thane than visiting the Nehru Science Centre, which has become more like a picnic spot. We encourage teachers and students to make full use of the facility.” Jidnyasa, who formally handed over the centre to the Mayor, plans to form an advisory committee comprising Thane residents, who will play a role of guiding the centre activities.

Albert Einstein once said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” The science activity centre is a breeding ground for curiosities – like those displayed by James Watt.

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