Building Local Foldscope Super Users- Workshop at Vatsalya, Jaipur

Building Local Foldscope Super Users- Workshop at Vatsalya, Jaipur

Sonali and I recently conducted a Foldscope Workshop at Vatsalya Udayan. Its a non-profit Education center for rural children. We documented the whole process of conducting the workshop, along with observations, inferences and finally highlighting the learnings. If you are going to conduct a foldscope workshop with children, especially with the resource constraint, this might be of some help to you. Also, don’t miss the learnings, at the end!

Everyone looking through the foldscope.

Objective of Foldscope Workshop at Vatsalya –

1. To get the students of Vatsalya learn how to assemble and operate/handle Foldscope

2. To enable students to conceptualize their Foldscope observations with Science and Environment

Approach Keywords:

  1. Self-learning, 2. Facilitating, 3. Peer-learning, 4. Exploring, 5. Imagining, 6. Story Writing & Storytelling, 7. Conceptualizing, 8. Expressing

Day 1: March 12, 2019

Objectives (and Plan) of the Day:

1. To train 10-12 students of Vatsalya to assemble and operate/handle foldscope*

2. To enable them to train the other students of Vatsalya for the Workshop

*Assemble, collect diverse samples, mount slides, focus, observe, troubleshoot, draw the observations, express


12 students of class 6, 7 and 8 were selected. (Almost equal number from each class)

  • Introduction- In a circle, introducing oneself along with their hobbies.
  • Brief interactive round on – What is Science? Give examples of what comes in science. Evolution: How did life begin on Earth? What are Cells? What all can you see under the microscope?- Students asked to list out all that they can think of, in a minute.
  • Distributed Foldscope, take out the two sheets -Manual and Foldscope.
  • Assembly instructions: Do it yourself, with the help of the manual. Watch out for focus ramp cutout – Do not break it in between. Time given- approx 45 mins.
  • Check what’s wrong. Discuss the common errors and list them out in a notebook.

Troubleshooting common errors:

  1. Look for red signs
  2. Colour code Yellow on yellow and blue on blue
  3. Magnets: silver in front and back (after the fold)
  4. Put sticker before placing the lens
  5. The orientation of the foldscope – name must be on top and scale should be aligned accordingly
  6. Check every fold: properly and firmly pressed
  7. Couplers aligned with the dots (white & black) and only 2 couplers are used in the assembly. Look for any extra coupler as couplers tend to stick together.
  8. Focus ramp position – narrow side on ‘Z’ mark.
  9. Identification sticker
  • Sample collected for observation: chalk dust, flowers, petals, pollen, milk, curd, onion peels, milk of the crown flower, and dirty water.
  • Experience sharing: Making a new tool Foldscope, and their learnings.

Observations and inferences of the day:

  • Almost everyone got the assembly right, but many were yet to understand focusing.
  • Operating and getting a knack on foldscope would require more practice and supervision.
  • Foldscope observations drawn were quite vague/ambiguous, they were unable to relate with their reality or recognizing/identifying the details in the sample eg. cells or structure or living or nonliving.
  • To understand and identify what they see, it is important to develop conceptualizing of the sample and observation. (By asking What, How, Why etc. w.r.t the sample)
  • Instead of taking all students of Vatsalya, for the workshop in coming days, developing these existing 10-12 students into Super Users (/trainers for Vatsalya and nearby villages) seemed to be a better idea which reflected on the plan ahead.

Day 2: March 13, 2019

Objectives (and Plan) of the Day:

Training the trainers. Getting to know Foldscope hacks and improving skills on handling foldscope.

Process: (Due to exams for Class 8 students, they were replaced by other class 7 students)

  • New students sat in a separate group to assemble Foldscope on their own.
  • Meanwhile, old students were asked to prepare their samples, and learn focusing.
  • By trial and error, several students learnt common hacks on their own and many under guidance.

Focusing hacks: Dry samples

  1. Using focus ramp by moving it very slowly and patiently
  2. Adjusting the distance between lens and sample by adding a few extra slides; trial and error method
  3. Moving the lens stage in X and Y direction
  4. Need of scale and also using the scale on a focusing ramp for remembering focus point
  5. Sample mounting was done with various samples using paper slides and tape.
  6. Now, the old students were asked to guide and supervise new students after they assembled foldscope to follow the same procedure, they did the previous day.
  7. To much extent, they guided the new students well and helped them in troubleshooting. Troubleshooting methods were discussed again in the group which clarified several questions the old students had while trying to guide the new ones.
  8. Post lunch break, old and new students were all brought together in a circle, sitting in partners (the old student who guided the new student). After a small ice-breaker, the partners would introduce each other and share individual experiences and observations of being a trainer and a learner.
  9. At the end of the day, a workshop for teachers was also conducted.
  10. Introduced teachers to the online Microcosmos community and explained the online registration process.

Observations and inferences of the day:

  • This day was better organized, but ‘outline of the day’ will be helpful for keeping a track of sessions and objectives (to be) achieved.
  • Almost all students got their focusing right. They identified and corrected errors amongst themselves (peer learning).
  • There was more detailing in their drawing this time and included coloring as well. However, many were still unable to relate to the sample. Fantasy was still more on ‘Foldscope’ than in understanding the sample.
  • Peer learning definitely helped the new students grasp and catch up with old students.


Day 3: March 14, 2019

Objectives (and Plan) of the Day:

Learning to conceptualize with the help of Foldscope through the ant model: Ant biology and its impact on its social structure and food hunting pattern.


  • Chinti Chachi ki Kahani! : “When you drop your food who is it that senses it and comes to it first?” “- Ant.” 
  • Outdoor sample collection: Collect different types of ants in the Vatsalya Campus and remember the geographic location of where it was collected from for mapping. -30 mins
  • Students themselves asked for the forceps and microwell plate for collecting samples.
  • Story writing: divided into groups- Queen ant, Soldier Ant, and Worker Ant. Based on the type of ant, highlight its role with a story. Story writing and mapping of the ant.
  • Mounting and observation: Students learnt to mount an ant live on paper slides (with multiple layers) as well as with the help of PVC slides. Observation was drawn onto body parts of an ant.
Focused by students, themselves!
  • Basic anatomy of ant: The parts of a body was an interactive discussion where the students were asked to guess the name of the body part and its respective function. Most of them were answered by the students themselves with a few hints from our side.
  • Storytelling/presentation: The students in groups came up with a story each and had distributed roles amongst each other, getting everyone equally involved. While one group presented and asked questions to the others, the others evaluated and provided them with feedback.
  • All the group activity of drawing, mapping, and storytelling was combined onto a chart paper and was stuck on their notice board.

 Observations and inferences of the day:

  • Activities helped them to recognize and nurture skills like teamwork, storytelling, and also boosted their confidence.
  • For storytelling, however, the students had come up with creative ways of expressing the story- song, drama etc. (while discussing within group) but failed/feared to execute.
  • The students provided very constructive feedback, with an optimistic approach.
  • Improved Foldscope handling skills and conceptualizing the observations.
  • Ant model helped in developing a multidisciplinary/multidimensional learning approach by using foldscope.

Day 4: March 15, 2019

Objectives (and Plan) of the Day:

  1. To enable trained students to conduct a workshop by themselves.
  2. To introduce precautions and safety measures.
  3. Assign projects


  • The well-trained students were asked to organize and conduct a Foldscope workshop for other remaining kids.
  • Each student trained one-two new students.
  • The most active students were identified and were appreciated by giving a deluxe kit; also a responsibility was given to train other kids from Vatsalya and the local schools.
  • Precautions and safety measures were discussed with kids and teachers.
  • Poster of precautions and some foldscope hacks were made and stick on the notice board.
  • Taught science teacher to make posts on Online microcosmos community.
  • Precautions:
  1. Don’t observe in direct sunlight or bright light as it may damage the eye
    1. Place the diffuser on the light module to lower the intensity
    2. Always operate light module on low intensity
  2. Samples should be mounted cleanly and neatly
  3. Don’t strain the eye by constantly looking with one eye
  4. Wash your hands after collecting the samples
  5. Wet samples shouldn’t be leaky: wipe out an excess sample on the slide before observing; as the sample may enter eyes and cause infection
  6. Collect liquid sample using the dropper and collect in the ampoules or ziplock bags provided in the deluxe/teachers kit
  7. Be careful while collecting live samples example insects
  8. Projects and follow up:
  1. Mapping ant diversity
  2. Water sample analysis
  3. Projects assigned to them was to identify, map and observe all the types of ants living in and around Vatsalya Campus, and to observe as many types of liquid/water samples and record the observation. The teacher was asked to help with identification and uploading on microcosmos.

Observations and inferences of the day:

  • Many students of Vatsalya could not make it to the school, this day, due to transport issue. Hence, the number of students to be trained by each trainer student had reduced to one-two.
  • Nonetheless, the workshop was very well carried out. The student trainers supervised the new students and facilitated their learning.
  • The student trainers were extremely enthusiastic to be trainers. Almost every one of them wanted to take the lead to speak up, while discussing what foldscope is, the troubleshooting measures, the theories & concepts and the precautions. Each one of this, was addressed by students themselves, while we only supervised.
  • After helping the Science teacher in uploading the students observations on microcosmos, he developed more interest and curiosity and experimented with foldscope with the help of student trainers.

Post Workshop: March 16, 2019

3 of the student trainers of Vatsalya, Devika, Omprakash and Arun conducted a foldscope workshop for children at a neighbouring school named Satyabharati. They conducted it all by themselves.

Children at Satyabharati with Vatsalya Foldscope Student Trainers


  • Change of plan – training the trainers/ developing superusers: The post workshop training at nearby school would probably not have occurred if all the students of Vatsalya were taken instead of some. Quality training works better in the long run, than quantity for the short term.
  • Teachers involvement is a challenge: Teachers were cooperating but were relatively lethargic to learn something new out of this workshop. The science teacher was expected to be involved in the workshop as well as teachers’ training session, as he was requested to, but until the last day, he only appeared to check on and provide us with items that we required for the workshop. However, the last day he did develop a special interest for foldscope, as he began using it. Better approach for involving teachers need to be ideated.
  • Peer learning did most of the job: For most of the workshop, there was very less of teaching, more of facilitating and supervising while the students learnt by self and peer learning.
  • Ant Model: Using one particular organism to study various concepts across different subjects, helps cultivate linking and conceptualizing with Foldscope as a tool. Hence, making foldscope more of a multidimensional learning tool.
  • Post lunch break, students tend to lose focus and get very playful. Attempting to discipling them breaks the flow of the workshop, as well as the positive learning environment. Better, perhaps, playful activities need to be thought of/designed for the upcoming times to align it with their mood/ children’s psychology.
  • Rural challenges: Many students come from distant villages and local transport in villages are very infrequent. Hence, they plan accordingly to leave the campus. The driver of their school bus left the job and majority of the students could not make it to school on friday, and it was expected to continue for a few days more. Although, it did not cause much of a hindrance, rural challenges are to be kept in mind to plan workshops and be flexible

Sonali Kadam & Akshatha Nayak

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