I had been in Mumbai for a few days and was eager to get started with a series of Foldscope workshops we (DBT, Foldscope Instruments, IITB, Ruia college – amongst others) had been planning in Mumbai.
Municipal (BMC) schools are spread across the city, and we choose a majority Urdu speaking school with kids ranging from 10-14 years old. The kids understood Hindi very well. Also, participating were teachers that arrived from far flung parts of the country to attend the workshop – including a big contingent from Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and more; representing the far North East of the country. Most Indians have never visited North East and it’s beauty and biodiversity is only matched by its remoteness. Some of the teachers travelled for more than 2 days to reach the workshop destination.
The schools had small classrooms – so we decided to book a community hall (mostly used for weddings); but now instead of someone getting married here – kids would be making microscopes.
The school is in internal parts of the city, with very narrow roads and high population density. So off course – I got lost and ended up utilizing the tried and tested Indian tradition of asking people on the street where this community center/Urdu school is. The trick worked and I made it on time (8:30am sharp – to get ready for around a 50 kids, 50 workshops and 20 volunteers coming). After some panic moments of unpacking – jim and I thought we were ready.
And suddenly walked in 50 kids; incredibly curious and wondering whats in store for them.
And so began the first foldscope workshop in Mumbai. A significant portion (75%) of the participants were girls or female teachers.
In the next 1/2hr; this empty wedding hall transformed into a cacophony of voices – kids helping each other, racing ahead to finish building the microscope, teachers becoming students and students lending a helping hand to the teachers. It was hard to see who was leading and who was following, with everyone lost in the world of making.
And we had Nizzamudin and Shabana Khatun Sheikh were some of the first kids who finished building the foldscope. The current instruction sheets for the new foldscope have not been translated into Hindi; so most of the kids primarily used the color coded instructions sheets to fold them. It was wonderful to see the teachers and the students work together in this process.
Now, these are kids who had never used a microscope. Many of them have never taken a science class. But they all dived right in. Many of them exclaimed “Bada bada dikh raha hai – I can see thins very big”. In a few minutes, one of them figured out how to mount a live ant in a foldscope – and caught it chewing. Another, looked at what she could find growing in the carpet. Several walked outside looking for mosquito larvae. The list goes on and on; and the only thing I am certain is they will wonder about the microscopic world – and explore it by themselves from time to time.
Manu and Jim