Since January 2021, I have been teaching science to the students of classes 6–8 at Hummingbird School in Assam’s Majuli district. Our students come from various neighbouring villages. Apart from using videos and images to help them learn, we also conduct practical experiments to demonstrate how science is present in everyday life.
To teach them about the function of yeast and microorganisms, we ask them to make rice beer that the local communities produce at home. Pickles are popular in Majuli, so we tell the students to make it with and without salt. This helps them understand the role that salt plays in making food last longer.
The students question everything, even deep-rooted community beliefs. For example, we were once discussing hypotheses and how they can be proved and disproved. The students brought up the rumours about a ghost in the nearby Kolamua village, where an area close to the river is considered haunted by the locals. It is said that a girl from the village had died by suicide and was buried in that area. Many people report that they have seen her roam the riverside at night, which makes them fear going there. Now, the hypothesis was that the ghost exists, but how could this be disproved? A student suggested that if we go to that area at night and don’t see the ghost, they will believe that this story is false.
We decided that we will go there and set up camp a short distance from the location. There were 14 children and three teachers, including me. Some of the children were very scared, but some others were excited. We asked the scared children to stay back with one of the teachers, and the rest of us ventured out of the camp at 10 in the night.
We spent the next half hour calling the ghost by her name, but she did not appear. We returned having disproved the fearsome hypothesis. The students were beaming with pride, as if they were warriors making a triumphant return.
Deepak Rajput is a science teacher at Hummingbird School in Majuli, Assam.
Know more: Learn how children are now the climate educators in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area.
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