Vidyodaya School at Gudalur in the Nilgiris popularises Maths and Science among rural children through videos on Kaathadi, a YouTube channel
How do camels walk so easily on desert sand? A two-minute video on the YouTube channel Kaathadi gives the answer using a simple experiment. Four identical glass bottles taped tightly are placed on a tray of sand, with some books on top for weight. Though the bottles begin to sink in an inverted position, they do not when placed upright. “Many concepts in science are difficult to visualise,” says Maya Nathan, resource person of Kaathadi. “The children inferred from the activity that camels’ feet have large surface area, which exerts lesser pressure, and hence their feet don’t sink.”
Over 90 such videos on Kaathadi, in English and Tamil, teach Maths and Science concepts to primary and middle school children of Vidyodaya School at Gudalur in the Nilgiris. The School, started in 1996 by Viswa Bharati Vidyodaya Trust (VBVT), caters only to Adivasi children from Paniya, Bettakurumba and Kattunaikan communities.
“Learning by doing is the best way to understand concepts. We ask children to use any scrap, bottles, broomstick, or balloons that they find in their homes to experiment,” says B Ramdas, founding trustee of VBVT. “Learning should not be confined inside the walls of the classroom. Children going out of the classrooms, exploring the surroundings and performing activities should be encouraged,” he adds.
The Vidyodaya Maths and Science Resource was set up to popularise the subjects among rural children, and eventually Kaathadi came into existence about a year ago.
“Our videos feature on the Tamil Nadu Teachers platform, an e-resource for teachers in Government and Government- aided schools. Some of our videos have been approved for Vidyadaan, for e-resources on Diksha platform of CBSE and State Board Schools,” says Deepak Chandra, resource person of the channel.children bring rich experiences from their environment to the school.Kaathadi is an effort to share the best practices to rural study centres and other schools. We ensure that the children repeat the activities at their home
He says in most schools, subjects like Maths and Science are taught in an abstract manner. “We started with activities and experiments that could be done with easily available low-cost materials. Adivasi and draw conclusions on their own.”
All the activities uploaded on the channel have been tried in the school camps and then made into videos. Children learn about concepts like how air occupies space with an activity using a plastic bottle and balloon. In one of the videos, chickpeas and green peas are used to teach positive and negative integers respectively. Says Maya, “ We follow concrete- pictorial- abstract sequence where the child first learns using objects, then using pictures or drawings and then moves to the abstract method.”
What is central is to get students to question and listen to them. Deepak gives an example. “To get started off, we had a lesson on what causes day and night. Once the children understood the earth’s rotation is the reason for change from day to night, they started asking more questions like ‘why does the earth rotate?’ ‘Even if it rotates why don’t we feel it’, ‘what about seasons’?”
To reach out, the videos are now dubbed in Adivasi languages. Two Adivasi youth: Karalan and Vishnu are currently dubbing Kaathadi videos to Paniya language.
“The school has evolved as an Adivasi school with incorporation of Adivasi history, culture, songs and stories into the school’s curriculum,” says Shanti Kunjan (from Paniya tribe), correspondent, Vidyodaya School. “Children are encouraged to speak their languages.”
Maya says the feedback has been encouraging. “In pandemic times, where teaching has been pushed to online learning, teachers say that these videos help engage with children.”