This IIT engineer converts trash into toys to make science learning fun
Having succeeded at his dream of making thrifty toys, Arvind Gupta is now going online with his educational videos and books.
Ursula K. Le Guin, the famous author, once remarked thus: “The creative adult is the child who has survived.”
And so it is for this engineer from IIT Kanpur. Arvind Gupta was working at TELCO when he realised that making tractors was not something he wanted to do forever. He was passionate about science and wanted to share his interest with others. He was keen to show the world how fun the subject can be.
Arvind took study leave for one year and started teaching rural children as part of the Science Teaching Programme in Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, in 1978.
He did not want to rely on conventional textbook teaching methods for science. He was of the opinion that kids learn faster by doing. Students are more likely to take interest in something they can touch, feel and see. For example, the geometric concepts of the triangle as taught by textbooks can be boring, while the same explained with the aid of a triangular toy will be entertaining and effortless learning.
Arvind wanted to change the classroom environment so that the students can feel free and involved. He wanted them to enjoy the learning process. He was of opinion that instead of lecturing, a teacher should focus on interacting with students. He should encourage children to come up with questions. Kids should be allowed to break apart things so that they can learn to put them back together. He wanted his students to love science as much as he did, so he decided to simplify the learning and turned complex theories into toys.
Arvind used throwaway stuff for making his contraptions. He chose junk because it was inexpensive and easily, locally available to everyone.
He converted plastic bottles, matchsticks, matchboxes, balloon, battery, safety pins, tyre tubes, toothpaste tubes, cardboard boxes, newspaper, straw etc. into innovative toys like motor boats, rockets, water fountains, geometric shapes, flutes, fan cars, vacuum suctions, up-down doll etc. The list runs in to the hundreds.
Arvind presents a toy in the classroom, let children play with it and then explain how it worked. This is a clever way to make kids familiar with otherwise boring and difficult looking scientific theories. He avoids technical jargon and explains everything in simple language. He also teaches kids how to recreate the toys. Resultantly, the students feel more excited and involved and the classrooms become more interactive.
Arvind has also created copyright free video tutorials for his innovations and uploaded them on his website to share his knowledge with more students in different locations. These tutorials are available in several languages.
He also has a popular YouTube channel which is accessed by viewers from 234 countries in 8 languages.
Arvind’s first book ‘Matchstick Models and Other Science Experiments’ was quite popular and sold more than five lakh copies. It was reprinted in 12 Indian languages.
Arvind has also been awarded numerous times. He has been covered extensively by media and was invited to talk on several reputed platforms like INK.
Arvind is now planning to go a step further and create science and math activities to cover the whole curriculum. His model will include simple toys and short videos explaining difficult concepts. Through his website, he wants to connect with the students from the poorest countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to provide them readily available, comprehensive, low cost study material. He also envisions to be a valuable resource library for teachers and parents worldwide.
(Content Produced By Contagio Media. Photo by Nandagopalrl/Wikimedia Commons under CC BY SA 3.0)