Our Foldscope journey with the TSWREIS schools began in October 2017, with the ‘Atoms to Amoeba’ workshop at TIFR Hyderabad. Over the next few months we (i.e. several students and volunteers working with TIFR Hyderabad’s Science Education and Outreach program) followed up in three schools and ourselves messed around with the old Foldscopes. In mid 2018, with help from DBT (Government of India), we introduced the new Foldscopes in 9 schools and one life sciences college, through two successive workshops: one for teachers only and another for teachers and a few students. Now, at the start of 2019, we invited students from nine schools that had been using Foldscopes in the past six months, for a ‘Project-based Foldscope workshop‘.
Each school was represented by 2-3 students and an accompanying teacher. Eight schools (Chilkur, Dharmaram, Gowlidoddi, Isnapur, Kondapur, Mahendra Hills, Narsingi and Shaikpet) participated, with 17 students and 8 teachers. The RCO office at Shaikpet school served as the perfect venue for conducting this workshop.
A specific objective of this workshop was to see how students’ curiosity may be linked with their Foldscope experiences, and how one investigation could stimulate them to more questions and explorations. So we began with, ‘What is Science?’ and suggested how Foldscopes are a perfect way to actually practice the ‘observation’ and ‘questioning’ aspects of the ‘scientific methodology’ that they so routinely learn about in school. Then students went on to express their doubts and reflections, on their prior experiences with Foldscopes, and on some biological concepts and terminology that had been introduced in their related science lessons.
We were delighted that, after their experiences with foldscopes, students had a lot of questions and doubts bubbling in their minds, not all of which get addressed in the rush of classroom activities. Here’s a sampler: (1) Fungi grow on dead things. Are they living or dead? Why do fungi need a particular temperature to grow? Why do they grow only in wet places? Why are fungi formed after two days, why not in one day? … If I want to see bacteria in air then what should I do? … Can we watch respiration (in stomata) through the foldscope? … How does a rotifer’s body support it to move? (Someone needs to work hard to answer all their questions! 🙂 )
Four projects were initiated by the students and teachers through the following activities: (1) Observe and study the upper/lower epidermis of monocot (Spider Lily) and dicot (Hibiscus, Money plant) leaves. (2) Observe the cells of onion and garlic peel. (3) Observe different microorganisms in pond water and (4) Stain and observe fungi growing on different substrates (bread mould, lemon and pumpkin).
Students and teachers enjoyed the ‘nail-varnish’ method to observe stomata in the monocot and dicot leaf epidermis. Ashalatha captured everyone’s interest with her unique Telugu + English explanation of the differences between monocot and dicot plants. Teachers actively helped students to capture impressive images of their observations through the Foldscope, including video recordings of pond water samples.
Here are some images of the slides prepared by students during the workshop.
All were energized and satisfied with the workshop and the beautiful images of monocot and dicot epidermis, cells of onion and garlic peels, fungal sporangium and hyphae. Students were enchanted with observing and recording videos of dynamic micro-organisms in pond water. An important take away was the skills to make dry and wet mount slides. The worksheets submitted by the students magnified our delight several-fold, as they came up with numerous interesting questions and thoughts!
One particular question, by a Grade 9 student, deserves a separate post. It showed us how easy it is for us to create a mystique around the Foldscope and how we should begin a conversation to demystify the Foldscope design. In this we need help from Manu, Jim and the Foldscope community.
This workshop experience also inspired our group’s subsequent presentation on foldscopes for another group of government school students.
We hope that our TSWREIS students will continue to explore the microscopic world with their Foldscopes and present their findings at upcoming science fairs and exhibitions.
Debashree, Ashalatha, Anu, Chandrika and Jayashree