Physiotherapist-Turned-Entrepreneur Dr Naina Arora Is Making Science Fun For School Students
- IWB Post
- July 1, 2019
The only reason I completed Science projects back in school was to avoid getting a remark in my school calendar. But what if my projects were fun and innovative? I didn’t know that, years after I passed out, this dream will come true, and at least today’s kids will be happy.
Projects for School designs and develops DIY kits for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). With these DIY kits, students can learn and practice different concepts of Science in a fun and hands-on manner. A doctor-turned-entrepreneur, Dr. Naina Arora, staunchly believes that every kid has a unique mind and they should be allowed to make their own choices and explore as much as they want.
In this interview, she tells us about her venture, ‘Projects for Schools’ and why and how a venture like this is important to reshape the education system. Excerpts:
Projects for Schools is very innovative, how did you get this exciting idea?
I am an physiotherapist, and I used to work with this initiative called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, and they work for kids with special challenges. I observed that these kids learned with better with practical concepts because they couldn’t really grasp what was being taught verbally. That’s when I got this idea of developing practical projects so that kids could learn the concepts thoroughly. Also, a lot of parents complained about their children’s obsession with TV, Internet, and video games. Making fun and interactive projects like these will not only help them learn better but will also make it a fun activity for them.
It sounds so interesting, do you just focus on science projects?
We have gone way beyond just providing projects. We aim to provide experiential learning to all the children from kindergarten to class 12. We have interactive projects and modules for students from all the grades.
Tell us about the challenges that children face in today’s education system.
Today every kid wants to learn robotics or learn the latest and sophisticated technology. But they aren’t even clear with their basics. There’s a massive gap in the knowledge that they have. If we teach them the basics, they will not only be able to understand the basics better but will also be able to decide and judge their own inclination to technology. For example, not every kid would be interested in pursuing a career in technology even though they are interested in learning about the latest tech gadget.
Any suggested solution?
I think what we’re doing is the solution for this. We need to take the bottom-top approach and also make it fun and interesting.
Could you tell us some ways in which parents can help children be innovative?
Parents can start by explaining the science behind daily tasks such as describing the process of making curd or why we use turmeric and its medicinal properties. Today, most parents are working full-time and might not be able to give time to their kids, and that’s when we can help. We provide kits with all the things and instruction manual for assembling which makes children learn on their own and also spark a note of innovation in their mind.
How can teachers employ such creative techniques to teach?
Teachers need tools to do this. Also, they need to be trained themselves to learn and imbibe some creative techniques.
There’s a lot of emphasis on STEM education in India these days, how do you think ventures like yours can contribute at a macro level?
Our school curriculum is such that science subject is taught from 6th Std with hardcore concepts. We must start teaching science; math and basics of technology from a much younger age because science and math can’t be learned by mugging up, so the students need to learn the concepts first and then go on to understand hardcore science. Also, there’s a lot of gender bias. There are very few girls pursuing engineering and other science streams. We must inculcate a thought process that anyone can pursue science regardless of their gender or intelligence with some curiosity to learn the subject.
How do you think we can encourage more girls to take up science?
Firstly, we should start teaching the basics from very young age, and secondly, we must let the kid choose whatever they want to pursue. Parents shouldn’t put a pressure on boys to choose a particular field and on girls to choose the other. They should be free to make their own choices.
Do you think our education system is evolving and accepting the critical thinking approach or do we still have a rote-heavy education system?
I think things are changing gradually, but there’s still a huge gap. We need to work harder to improvise education system, and it’s not just the school’s responsibility, but even parents must take initiatives to shift from the mugging-up culture.
Students in some of the premier institutions in India are burdened with the sudden pressure of studies when they enroll, how can we ease the burden and encourage learning and innovation?
I think our education system doesn’t have any room for exploration. We are just told that this is right and that is wrong, and we are supposed to believe it. We should encourage students to explore and let them figure out what is right and what is wrong. The biggest problem is that we aren’t allowed to fail, we should eradicate this thinking and let children know that it’s okay to fail and learn.
Tell us about your great career shift from being a doctor to now being an entrepreneur. How was your transition journey?
I haven’t completely transitioned because I am still in touch with science. I faced a challenge to create a market and even to establish a venture because that was something very new for me. But it’s a much better environment for women entrepreneurs today.
Did you face any sexist experiences during this phase?
Not really. I didn’t face any such challenge, and I think India is transforming. This is actually the best time for women entrepreneurs to get out there and prove their worth.
As a kid, were you interested in doing science projects?
I was really interested in doing science projects. I was a creative child and always wanted to experiment and learn.
How do you plan to expand ‘Projects for School,’ are there any additional ideas you want to implement in this model?
In addition to providing the projects to schools, or workshops, etc. we have also designed a teaching module. Apart from this, we are working on a project to inculcate creative learning for kindergarten students. So instead of teaching them A for apple’, let them find out what the letter A stands for.
Give one piece of advice for young science enthusiasts out there.
Just go and explore everything!
First published on Feb 28, 2018.