"...a drop of science can remove tons of ignorance"

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Milestones

SCF has taken initiatives for conducting programmes based on research and development (R&D) programmes in the fields of Water-Literacy, Weather Monitoring, and GIS & Community Mapping. SCF is aimed to reach the marginalized section of the society through exchange of scientific views and indigenous knowledge. A few of the major activities of SCF during recent period are – 

• Developing innovative teaching learning materials.

• Organising nature study camps for students and teachers.

• Organising teachers’ orientation programme for meaningful learning.

• Organising National Children’s Science Congress.

• Organising Vacation Camps for Creative Learning.

• Research and development of Educational Tools and Kits.

• Research and development activity for understanding Planet Earth and pertinent issues.

• Training and application of Map literacy and GIS for students and common mass.


01. SCIENCE EDUCATION PROGRAMME

This is the most important domain of activities of SCF as the need was felt to create scopes in our education system where education is not 'delivered' but 'created'. With this objective in mind, SCF is trying to diffuse the method of 'chalk & talk' to an alternative methodology of joyful learning where innovative pedagogy of hands-on experiments for teaching science and mathematics by using low-cost-no-cost materials have been experimentally introduced in some schools in West Bengal. Recently the Sarva Siksha Mission in West Bengal has taken up programmes to introduce hands on experiment methods in science teaching in schools. SCF has been entrusted with the job of acting as a resource organisation.

For the last few years SCF has been organising VCCL with the support of the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Elementary Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India and others. SCF has developed Activity Kits on Science, Mathematics and Earth Sciences for hands on experiments. Each VCCL is generally conducted for five days, involving clusters of schools in all the districts of West Bengal, which ultimately gets converted into Creative Learning Centres (CLCs) in the districts. The children, attending the camps become better human resource as communicators of science among the people. SCF initially started with 30-35 camps. But now more than 100 VCCLs are being organised each year.

B.Ed. is the recognised teacher training course essential for all potential/practicing teachers in teaching career. During the training the B.Ed. students have to take up practice teaching programme of four to six week duration in a secondary or higher secondary school of choice.  SCF has taken up training programme in B. Ed. colleges so that the trainee teachers can practice innovative pedagogy of creative science learning during their practice teaching sessions. With the intervention of SCF this innovative pedagogy has already been practiced in some B.Ed. colleges in West Bengal. This programme is gradually becoming popular and more and more colleges are seeking assistance of SCF to introduce this innovative pedagogy in their curriculum.

The National Children’s Science Congress (NCSC) is one of the unique annual programmes of the National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC) under the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India.   Since 1993 SCF, is acting as the State Coordinating Agency (SCA) for organizing Children’s Science Congress in West Bengal. Since inception of CSC, SCF has believed in evolving, advancing and learning in taking CSC to the dropouts, low literates, orphanages, children in slum areas and also the children of those who are in Correctional Homes. Since 1993 the journey of SCF with CSC has remained a path breaker and is still continuing at an increased pace.

Research and development of Science Learning Activity Kit is a continuous in-house activity and is one of the major achievements of SCF. These kits initially were designed and assembled with low-cost-no-cost materials for vacation camps. The Activity Kits have become so popular that the Rajya Sishu Siksha Mission, Paschim Banga Sarva Shiksha Mission, West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education in the State are the major consumers of the Activity Kits.

02. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT BASED PROGRAMMES

With the progress of education related activities in recent years, SCF felt the need of undertaking research and development related programmes to explore a new arena of knowledge. Through research and development programmes, SCF intends to take up certain developmental issues which would benefit the students and teachers and may prove to be beneficial for people belonging to the different strata of the society.

Water Literacy Programme is a series of activities designed for making people aware of conserving and augmenting water resources that they access. Moreover, this would also help them to go in for a judicious use of the scarce water resources. The programme consists of development of communication materials, generation of activity and training modules, and identification of activist groups and formation of local level knowledge components on this precious resource. In this programme 100 Jalabandhu (Friends of Water) groups have been formed who have conducted action programmes throughout the year.

2008 had been proclaimed by the United Nations as the International Year of the Planet Earth. SCF took this opportunity to take up some R&D programme related to Earth Care.  One of such programmes is installation of Earth Care Centres in schools. The Earth Care Centre is a natural resource data observatory to be run and maintained by the students. Here students will observe and measure different parameters of the weather, soil and water on regular basis and utilise the data for social benefit through the Panchayet or similar bodies. SCF has successfully installed 75 Earth Care Centres in selected schools. Different resource materials in the form of books, posters, manuals etc. have also been developed and distributed. Regular data generation related to weather continues at these Centres.

In connection with a programme “Year of Scientific Awareness 2004”, SCF had been entrusted by the NCSTC-DST, GOI to develop GIS software named People’s GIS. With the help of the software developed by SCF, village level workers can prepare GIS maps of their own area related to human resource, natural resource, infrastructure etc., can digitize maps, geo-referenced from the national level to the village level.

SCF is also a pioneer in the field of school level map literacy in West Bengal. In 2004-2005 SCF has conducted map literacy training in 40 schools, involving over 3500 students in four districts of West Bengal. The tool kits used for this campaign contained GPS receiver, toposheets, satellite data, resource books, etc.

The success of the initiative could convince NCSTC-DST, GOI to ask SCF to develop national level resource materials on map literacy for community as a part of Understanding Planet Earth programme. SCF has successfully developed the Resource Book, Activity Guide and Organizer’s Manual for Community Level Map Literacy for the nation.

SCF has recently developed a user friendly GIS named Spatial Information System for Community action and Development.

03. COLLABORATIVE PROGRAMMES

During the International Year of Planet Earth 2008 Vigyan Prasar entrusted SCF with the responsibility of preparing scripts for a 52-Episode radio serial titled Dharti Meri Dharti in Bengali, which had been broadcasted from five Bengali stations of All India Radio titled Amader Ei Basundhara, reported to be a very popular to listeners. In 2009 SCF developed scripts for another 54-Episode radio serial on Astronomy for All India Radio on behalf of the Vigyan Prasar. This astronomy serial is named Mohakasher Janala and also became popular. At present SCF is developing a 13-Episodes vernacular scripts for radio serial Grass Root Innovations (English version) for broadcast by All India Radio, Kolkata station.

The primary and secondary education system and its wide spread network form the backbone of our institution based education system. The large network of school draws its wards from a diverse community, spanning all agro-climatic zones and disparate economic categories. The challenge for delivering basic yet effective education to such a diverse community is somewhat addressed, but the linkage and the possible backward delivery by the wards to their own community had not yet occupied any attention so far. SCF in collaboration with the Bose Institute had adopted a systematic approach to dovetail education the institutional learning pedagogy with community delivery system through a programme entitled “Innovative Science Learning from Class Room to Community” in 10 (ten) selected schools at Falta block of South 24 Parganas District. This minimized, if not eliminated the gap in perception and aspiration of the society regarding institution based education delivery system.

Of the ten schools, 4 (four) schools were visited by a team of 12 (twelve) Fulbright Scholars’ Group Projects Abroad from USA in 2010 on a curriculum development programme. They met and interacted with the faculty, staff and students ‘for obtaining intimate knowledge of the structure of Indian classrooms and curricular organization and constraints’.

SCF has supported an elaborate Teachers’ Training Programmes organised by the Paschim Banga Sarva Shiksha Mission and provided Resource Persons and Science Learning Kits. The programmes were housed in 8 (eight) District Institutes for Education and Training (DIET).

04. PROGRAMMES OF SCF IN THE FIELD

The West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education (WBBME) having decided to implement the principles of innovative methods of science learning by organizing school level in-house programmes, where the students of classes VI-VII shall be exposed to activity based teaching learning through hands-on experiments for better understanding of science subjects, like Physical Science and Geography within the curriculum framework of the Madrasah education, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SCF for identifying innovative methods and techniques on defined pedagogical approaches and also to be executed through structured programmes, to start with, in selected 50 Madrasah.

Following a consultative meeting with the heads and the assistant teachers of the selected Madrasahs 2 (two) Residential Orientation Workshops have been conducted for 144 Resource Persons from 51 Madrasahs. The project AIPA include Four-Day Madrasah level programme in 25 (twenty five) Madrasahs involving 250 (two hundred fifty) students of class VII & VIII standard of each Madrasah and also Two-Day Mid-term Review-cum-Refresher Training Workshops for Resource Persons (RPs) from 25 (twenty five) Madrasahs.

394 (three hundred ninety four) High Madrasahs account for roughly 65% of total no. of High, Sr. High and Jr. High Madrasahs in West Bengal recognized by WBBME.

In National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005 and Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education (RTE), 2009 it has been stated that science education should be organized in such a way so that the students can analyze their daily experiences within and also without the classroom through method of science.

On science education NCF, 2005 more clearly advises that the students should learn through known experiences of simple principles of science and the concept on science is to be built up through activities, observations, investigation, analyzing information etc., conducted in innovative methods with easily and less costly materials. It further states that the basic principles of science should be made understandable to the students in spite of insufficient infrastructural facilities.

Further, while discussing Curriculum and Evaluation RTE, 2009, states that the curriculum has to be constructed keeping in view an all-round development of the child. In attaining and increasing the knowledge, ability and intellect of students their physical and mental development has to be raised to the maximum level and the instructions have to be objective and in mother tongue. Specifically it is stated that ‘Learning through activities, discovery and exploration in a child friendly and child centered manner’.

The foundation of the initiative of ABLEP, originally conceived by SCF on an experimental basis and under implementation in the selected 255 (two hundred fifty five) govt. aided schools of West Bengal, draw sustenance from above directives in NCF, 2005 and in RTE, 2009.

Project support for ABLEP is offered by Paschimbanga Sarva Shiksha Mission and the Project collaboration is assured by the Commissioner of School Education, Government of West Bengal, the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and the State Council of Educational Research & Training, West Bengal. SCF has been nominated as the Project State Nodal Agency of ABLEP.

Of the ten schools, 4 (four) schools were visited by a team of 12 (twelve) Fulbright Scholars’ Group Projects Abroad from USA in 2010 on a curriculum development programme. They met and interacted with the faculty, staff and students ‘for obtaining intimate knowledge of the structure of Indian classrooms and curricular organization and constraints’.

Sundarban, the largest mangrove delta epitomizes the global dilemma of the conflicts between environment and development. The area has a very singular combination of certain extraordinary phenomena which include the world’s most extensive network of embankments raised around immature salt marshes, the most dreaded mangrove clad habitat of tigers and at the same time the only example of a densely settled tropical delta harnessed for the purpose of sedentary  subsistence agriculture, a concentration  of marginalized people in a marginalized space in close proximity to one of the largest metropolises of the world  and finally an extremely intriguing history of human settlement.

Located at the eastern extremity of the coastal strip of India, Sundarban is highly prone to disasters like cyclones, floods, gales, bores and tidal ingression, fluvial and marine erosion. The origin, development and route of cyclonic storms are so unpredictable that though the meteorological offices are able to forecast in some cases, in most cases they fail to trace their development, magnitude, intensity and travel route. The instability of Sundarban largely depends on these unpredictable thunder squalls causing rise in water level and submergence of land under saline water for a prolonged period. This unpredictable nature of climate in this littoral fringe exerts a tremendous impact upon almost every sphere of life of the inhabitants starting from the site and pattern of settlement to the seasonal patterns and success and failure of occupation in agriculture, fishing, forestry and related activities since the inception of its settlement history. It is not only the physical aspects of intensity and magnitude of the environmental hazards, but the risk and vulnerability of the marginal people living in this prematurely reclaimed marginal land have compelled them to become victims of disaster. cc

Even after spending a lots of money and energy in the field of disaster management due to lack of synchronization between the Government and non-government organisations, experts, analysts and the victims effective results are not visible in situ. More emphasis has alays been given on the structural measures. But while specifying management responsibilities of the major four elements like pro-actions on risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery, the assessment of risk and vulnerability of the potential hazard victims and their disaster perception have never been prioritized. Thus, ‘event centric’ management instead of ‘people centric’ management has failed miserably to combat with the disasters in Sundarban.

 

The Project therefore aims to assess the risk and vulnerability of the people of Sundarban in the perspective of environmental disaster, to study the disaster perception of the people of Sundarban, to understand the linkages between risk and vulnerability of the people and the real situation/status/sufferings of the victims, and to address some specific measures helpful for the disaster management in this unique area.

The Project is supported by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi.