The blog is written by Gautam Jha who works with Shiksharth and leads the science program in Residential schools of Sukma.

This academic year was very great for me in terms of learning new things and exposure visits. Before the beginning of this session I got the chance to visit inquilab foundation in Hyderabad, Mantra4change in Bangalore, Jnana Prabodhini in Pune, and also I got the chance to attend a workshop on ‘Introduction to Science teaching’. All these visits gave me new learning opportunities, experience, exposure, and perspectives.

If I talk about these organizations, except inquilab lab foundation other organizations are working in many areas and running many Programmes too like Mantra4change programs are School Transformation and empowerment projects(STEP), Project for Active Cluster Engagement(PACE), Edumentum, Excellence in Education Leadership(Excel), Alumni Leadership Incubator and Shikshakalp Fellowship, all these programs are for increasing quality in education. But Jnana Prabodhini is not only an organization it is a school for education, research & development. There I had to go. Our point of contact and my mentor was Pranav Da. And in his absence, my contact person was Mangesh Bhai with whom I could contact in case of any problem. From the beginning of this academic session, we (as an organization) were in contact with him for seeking permission to visit their maker space, fab-labs, and to learn and practice star-gazing.

Here my learning journey starts from the 16th of Jan. I visited Dr. Kalmadi Shamarao High School & Jr College to meet Mr. Praresh Shinde, he is an ex-employee of Jnana Prabodhini and now he is an ATL coordinator & mentor in two schools including Dr. Kalmadi Shamarao high school. We both introduced ourselves to each other. I got to know about his journey and experiences. He told me about ATL (Atal Tinkering Lab), its structure, and working. So basically ATL is a space or area, within the schools, for young minds to thing new, think big, think out of the box, innovate, be creative, be imaginative, look for solutions for global and local issues, etc. And it is a national level program – by National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) – The premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the government of India. The key objectives of the program are to develop an eco-system that promotes innovation in India and to create a workspace in schools where young minds can learn innovation skills and sculpt ideas through hands-on and from do-it-yourself projects etc.

Any individual school can apply for this. A school gets 20 lakhs rupees for 5 years (12 lakhs for the first year and 2-2 lakhs only for operation for the next 4 years) from NITI Aayog if the school got selected after applying. After getting the money a school has to purchase and spend money according to the expenditure structure given by NITI Aayog. Like with 12 lakhs a school has to purchase equipment in 4 packages worth rupees 7 lakhs including electronics, IoT, sensors in package-1; 3d printer & filament in package-2; mechanical tools in package-3 and safety tools in package-4, and a school has to purchase laptops worth rupees 1.5 lakhs and has to spend 1.5 lakhs on paint & furniture. So now the question arises how the ATL operates in a school. So, a school has to conduct 30 min class for every 20 students for 5th grade to 9th grade. ATL curriculum is a semester-based so in sem-1 5th-grade students practice paperwork (level-1) and in sem-2 they practice woodwork (level-1), 6th-grade students practice mechanism in sem-1 and metalwork in sem-2, 7th-grade students practice paper (level-2) work in sem-1 and woodwork (level-2) in sem-2, 8th-grade students practice engineering design with 3D-printer in sem-1 and fabrication & welding in sem-2, 9th grades students practice electronics in sem-1 and Arduino & programming in sem-2. If a classroom has more than 30 or around 40 students then they work in a group, e.g. in sem-1 group-1 will practice paperwork, and group-2 will practice woodwork and in sem-2 group-1 will practice wood and group-2 will practice paperwork. Similarly, things operated in different grades.

After getting all these l valuable information I also discussed on resistors to know its value range and the method to know a resistor resistance. And then we both visited another school, there also Paresh does mentorship in ATL. After all these, we came back to Jnana Prabodhini campus. After a half-hour break, my telescope handling session begins. In that session I met Mr Jameer Manur he manages Radio Physics Lab at IUCAA (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics), he and Paresh Bhai explained many things related to the telescope. This is how my first day in Jnana Prabodhini ends.

Shiksharth Team Members stargazing in Sukma

I was eagerly waiting for the second day because on this star-gazing was planned and this was the main purpose of my visit. So the learning journey starts with learning and practicing electronics. It was very enjoyable for me to practice new things with breadboards, jumper wires, Arduino and LEDs. It was a firsthand experience for me to do these interesting things. Pranav Da gave me problems and I was solving them using programming, as I’m not programming language expert so I was using online platforms to write programming based on the problems I got.

Now the time had come, all the 7th-grade students, two-three Jnana Prabodhini staff, Mr. Jameer from IUCAA, and I as well were ready to leave for the place from where we want to do the stargazing. We all sat on the bus and our journey start. I’m very habitual to get fall asleep on a journey if I’m sitting on a bus, car, or on a train, so as usual, I fall asleep. But the other students on the bus were enjoying, having fun and playing antakshari. They were drawing the attention of others. Finally, I woke up at the petrol pump where the bus stops for refilling the diesel tank. Before reaching the place an amazing thing happened. Jameer has many astronomical apps on his mobile phone, so he got a notification that ISS (International Space Station) will pass above us in the sky. So for watching this view, the bus was stopped. One by one everybody gets down from the bus for witnessing the unforgettable moment. And finally, we did witness that moment, for one and a half minutes we all kept observing in the sky. And after reaching our final destination, it was located at the edge of Pune city far away from pollution and disturbances, we started our main objective, so the first thing we saw using telescope was Venus “an evening star” (साँझ का तारा), a star-like object brightening in the sky before sunrise and after sunset. I can’t describe it here how the beautiful view it was. After this we saw many constellations Cassiopeia(शर्मिष्ठा नक्षत्र), Tauras(वृषभ नक्षत्र), Orion(मृग तारामंडल), Pleiades(कृतिका नक्षत्र), Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Leo, Gemini, etc. and its stars like Aldebaran, Rigel, regulas, etc, most of these names I wrote here were given according to the Greek and Hindu mythology. After this, a presentation was conducted for the 7th-grade students with whom I was learning these things. And between all this dinner and two coffee breaks were there for all of us. Star-gazing workshop and presentation was facilitated by Mr. Jameer Manur. After the presentation, a quiz competition was conducted for the assessment and Pranav Da was the facilitator, then each group of students makes a different style of breakfast. We also enjoyed that breakfast. We came to our place at 7 a.m. And then sleeping hours began.

It was the third day and for me, it was the revision and practicing day what I had done yesterday, “why?” because today again we left for stargazing with 7th-grade students but there was only one difference between today and yesterday that was the yesterday I was learning with 7th-grade boys and today I was going to learn with 7th-grade girls. All the sessions were like the previous one. So there is no much more to say but one thing that I want share is today I came here with our own organizations’ telescope. We brought that one with us to check it whether it is working properly or not. Yesterday we got it delivered at Jnana Prabodhini and Pranav Da was the man who helped us in selecting the right telescope for star-gazing and in future we’re going to take a star-gazing workshop with kids of Sukma, Chhattisgarh. This is the main purpose due to which I was there. After two days of the workshop, I had known some constellations, stars, galaxy, and Nebula. I had learned how to operate a telescope. During these sessions, I was dreaming and making plans about my workshops that how I’ll facilitate my workshop. From childhood, I heard many times about the astrology, zodiac signs, and constellations but I didn’t know the concept behind it, ‘how sun, planets, and other celestial body shift their position to other constellations. Now also I don’t know about mathematics and science behind it. I would love to know how astrologers do it. Now we have some advanced technology and formulae to calculate celestial body positions. But there was a time we didn’t have any technology but at that time also astrologers knew about constellations, sun and other planets position. So the question arises how they used to do it.

This was the fourth day, ‘Sunday’, after taking rest I woke up in the afternoon and went to the local market with Mangesh Bhai for having some snacks and walk through the Z-bridge. While talking we came back and I get back on my learning journey. This time I had to work with mechanical workshop tools and machines and this time my mentor was Mangesh Bhai, in Jnana Prabodhini his responsibility was to take care of mechanical workshop space and guide the students of the school. After getting the orientation I decide to make soma-cube, it is a solid dissection puzzle invented by Piet Hein in 1933 during a lecture on quantum mechanics conducted by Werner Heisenberg. I made my plans like I need to make 2, 8, and 5 blocks having dimensions ‘9*3*3’, ‘6*3*3’, ‘3*3*3’ respectively. So I started cutting using hacksaw and bench-vise to hold the piece of wood. I was doing it for the first time so my level of perfection at that time could be seen. After cutting smoothing the surface of blocks were started. It took 4 hrs to make 15 blocks. Here everyone can realize the skill of carpenter they have. The next day morning again I started to work on this. After smoothing its surface I paste the blocks according to the requirement using adhesive and c-clamp. Up to then, the bell rang for lunch. We had lunch in Jnana Prabodhini Mess. After lunch I practice Gyan-setu activities, this was not very new for me because from last three years I was using these activities in the workshops I facilitate in Sukma, Chhattisgarh but somethings which o got very interesting are the way of presenting the things in front of students and updated and tangible models which can be used more number of times. And then App development session was planned for me in Jnana Prabodhini Makers Space. And for this session also Pranav Da was the mentor. We use the website- for making the app. After understanding the tools of this app, I develop a very basic ‘light on/off’ app after copying its processes from other sources. These were the things I had done and experience in Jnana Prabodhini.

People in Jnana Prabodhini are helpful and supportive. THE meals I ate there were good. I had no problem there except one and that one was I lost my earphone due to my carelessness. I’m very grateful to Jnana Prabodhini administration, Pranav Da, Mr. Jameer manur, and finally director and co-founder of our organization, because of them my 5-day learning journey succeeded.