Sunday, September 26, 2010

Them as teachers

Them as teachers

Aim: To empower the students and make them share the knowledge they have gained

Closing the loop

Trying to make them retain more of what they have learnt

I went to talk to Arzu about my project a few weeks ago and she told me about this three tyre system. A Political Visionary (One who is in charge of the larger politics and functioning- could be in the NGO or funders in this case), a Conceptual visionary (One who conceptualises the vision which could be me, in this case) and a Practical visionary (which was also me because I was conducting all the workshops and making it happen). Instead, she said, why don’t you empower the children to be practical visionaries? I thought this was a great idea because I saw for myself that I learnt most when I had to teach and work with these kids. This would just empower them some more and make them feel confident about what they have learnt and share it with their schoolmates too. So, I told the 9th standard students to prepare an afternoon session for the 8th standard kids. I told them to write down what they would ask them or say to them. Beginning from the basics of what fluoride is, what it is present in and what its harmful effects were and what they needed to do about it. I gave them all the visual aid I had and told them that I was going to be a student and they should take the class and not ask me what to do. We set up chairs outside and they went out to start their lesson. Boy, were they awesome! Better than me any day! They make the little ones jump up with joy and test their respective village’s water that they were carrying in their bottles and stamped them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ water. The standard 8 kids were so excited that they wanted to test their school rainwater for fluoride and found that it had zero fluoride. They loved it. They also told them about rainwater and how to maintain a rainwater tank by cleaning the top of the roof up 10 minutes before they feel it is going to rain. They told them that they have to help each other maintain the tank that is going to provide them with fluoride free water.

Some of them gave up after some time and went back to class while a few stayed back to finish the lesson. This made me figure how many of them understood what I was talking about! I was surprised to find out that even though they were all in the same campus and the 8th std. Kids have been watching what I do with the 9th, they had no idea about what it was all about. Fluoride and rainwater was as new to them as when I started off with standard 9. It was great that they were able to share what they had learnt, though they told me at the end that they were a much better class. ‘These 8th standard kids are still small and irresponsible” they said!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Having fun with soap

Aim: To build an experience around hand washing and doing so with soap to integrate it with the bottle we had built earlier

Activity: 'Seeing the unseen' was the most effective theme running through these activities. When they see something, it affects them much more than talking about it (like in the case of testing for fluoride). First I spoke to them about soap and what it does. Then I showed them images of virus and bacteria and hands under UV light so that they could see these microscopic germs. It would have been ideal to carry a microscope and show them their hands under them, but sadly I was not able to source one on time. They were really grossed out by the image of the hand infested with bacteria and exclaimed asking if they really had that many germs on their hands!

(Images above are from google)

Then I gave them sheets with my examples and told them to draw their own germ. Something that they thought was on their hand and name their germ. After which, we went out to wash this germ off their hands. Here are some of the things they came up with. One of them named her germ after another girl in her class!

Then I demonstrated a simple experiment using oil, water and soap to show them how soap works and a little bit about the chemistry behind soap. Here is the experiment.

1| Take two jars and fill them half full of water. Add a drop or two of food colouring and shake.

2| Add some cooking oil to both the jars.

3| Add a few squirts of liquid soap to one of the jars. Put the lids back on tight and shake them for about 30 seconds.When you first put them down, there's not much difference between the two jars. The oil and water molecules are all quite well mixed together.

4| After only a minute or so, you'll start to see the jar with just oil and water in it start to re-separate. The jar with the soap in it is still mixed together.

5| After several minutes, the oil and water only jar has almost completely separated again , but the jar with the soap is still mixed! (as you can see in the bottom right image)

Soap, water and oil are all made up of molecules. Some molecules are hydrophillic, meaning they are attracted to water, and some molecules are hydrophobic meaning they are repelled by water. Oil and water don't mix.

Well that's where soap comes in. Soap is actually a very long molecule that has one hydrophillic end and one hydrophobic end. The water sticks/bonds with the hydrophillic end and the oil sticks/bonds to the hydrophobic end. Two opposing molecules with the soap in the middle. As the water is rinsed away, the soap sticks to the water, and the oil sticks to the soap. Clean!

That's what's happened in the jar. The jar with just oil and water quickly separates. In the jar with the soap added, however, the oil and water stay mixed together for much longer.

After this, I asked them who all had soap at home and was surprised to see all of them raise their hands. I asked them how many of them use it to wash their hands and about 4 put their hands up, I doubt they also do it regularly :) These were only the hostel kids who were given soap for free in their hostel. They proudly announced that they got Mysore sandal soap (the more expensive variety)! Many kids used Lifeboy or Medimix which was the cheapest in the shop we visited. Around Rs.6- Rs.10 a bar. They use it only when they have a bath (twice or thrice a week) and once a day to wash their face. They wanted it to last longer and hence did not want to 'waste' it to wash their hands with them. So, I tried explaining to them that it is essential to wash off those germs from their hands and that they would have to spend much more (I found out that they approximately spend around Rs.50 for consultation and Rs.50 for medicines) each time they visit the doctor in their village for gastric troubles or simple illnesses. We discussed how it is better they spend a little more and stay healthy than spend so much on the doctor and they seemed to agree!

Then, we went out to the courtyard and dissolved a bar of soap to make lots of soap solution for the whole school, to keep near their water tank for them to use. The rest we used to wash our hands and make bubbles and have fun. I taught them a hand washing song in English that we sang with actions. Then I explained to them what it meant and they helped me translate it into kannada and sang it in kannada too! They boys of course turned it into a local 'dappangutthu' type dance song, which was also pretty fun! I still have to upload the video from the casette, it will be up soon!

A hand washing song to the tune of Frere Jacques

Top and Bottom, Top and Bottom, (Rub top and bottom of hands)
In between, In between, (Rub fingers inside on both hands)
All around, All around, (Just like it says)
Makes them clean. Makes them clean. (Flash all ten fingers)

They asked me what they should do once this solution got over. Before I could answer, one of the kids said "this soap is for all of us right? Once this is over, we can all get small pieces from our big soap and make lots of solution and use it!" This was the highlight of my visit.

They took the bottle to lock it up in their principal's office at the end of the day so that no one would waste it! This would be an amazing system, if it works.

This was insightful in many ways. Even a small thing like soap can show class distinction where the hostel boys used Mysore sandal everyday while some of the lower class children used only Medimix and only when they had to. They all knew all the brands available in the two shops in their village though! How much each one costs and everything!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Their water

I didn't know when I would be able to go back, so, thought it might be nice to do end with some video exercise with the students since they love to tell stories and the camera! The last day (half a day) we spent learning how to shoot a video using a simple digital camera, how to frame , choose locations etc. I gave each group of 5-6 one camera and half an hour to go around school and tell people things about water, what they had had learnt with me and what they liked and didn't like about it. Here are some images of them shooting. They were great for first time camera handlers!

Here is some of the parts of the videos put together. I have to put something together in a way it might make sense(hope something does!) It is still too long. I need to think of a proper narrative and use this to tell their story. Will be working on more edits. any feedback is most welcome!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Final products

Ok, so suddenly I realised that I have just a little over a month for submission! Hence I need to start working on my final products to that I can take it back to show it to the students and teachers to see if they find it useful (user testing).
My final outputs would be

- Refining and making a working hand washing bottle with soap- building an experience around it and documenting this for the manual/tool-kit
- A participatory film that the students have shot on what they learnt, liked and didn't about these workshops that I will be putting together and
- A tool-kit (manual) for facilitators which will contain all the knick knacks that can be put into a book, needed to facilitate similar participatory activities.

Need. Why this tool-kit?

A tool-kit manual that helps one facilitate participatory workshops, making it fun at the same time

. For teachers employed by the government for these rural schools: Even within this one school, there are two other classes who are very enthusiastic about these workshops but have no material and facilitators to conduct them. Even if there are teachers, they are not exposed to such participatory methods of working and are unaware. They are surprised to see students running around and having fun while learning. Hence this toolkit will enable them to understand what to do and why certain things might or might not work in a context such as this. Since these people belong to the local community, they will have a better understanding of the students and issues as well, making the activities and discussions more enriching.

. For any facilitator who wants to conduct awareness programmes and workshops in this area (like I did): Some background research and pointers would have definitely helped me structure my workshops in a much better way and I would have known what to expect and what not to. This will help people who from outside by giving them some background and pointers

. For people in NGOs like Arghyam and BIAF who are trying to run awareness programmes in the villages anyway: From my short stay in these villages, I have met many enthusiastic people with a passion for learning and teaching. Many people who are trying to spread awareness in their own little ways. They have many ideas but are unable to articulate it and also get the children and community involved. This might be a good ice-breaker. Working with the children using these simple art and design tools which I am going to include in this manual might help them conduct these sessions.

. For health clubs in schools and ‘learn and play’ programmes (a new initiative by the Govt.): Fluoride and water will and should be a part of the discussion in health clubs, which are going to become a mandatory part of school life for students according to the new government rule. This might be a good space to use such manuals, for the children to conduct workshops and activities for themselves and their peer.

. Can be appropriated for other contexts as well: These exercises revolve around water and fluoride, but it can be appropriated to different contexts. I will try and give pointers for that in the tool-kit.