Category Archives: Integrative education

Science in Cooking: Learning through Integration and Immersion

 

It was a fun filled day.

The girls and boys at Khoj School for Community Education were charged and excited. The air was teeming with animated activity. One could see children set up the local cooking stoves in the shade of the trees, hear the crackling of the twigs to be used as firewood, watch them lighting the kindling for fire, follow the smoke drifting from the stoves skyward and sideways depending on the wind direction and see children putting their heads together and whispering to each other in low voices what could be the best strategy to do a better job.

Obviously, all this was happening with the support and guidance of the teachers.

The stage was set for a roti making and egg frying competition. The idea behind this particular activity took birth from the fact that a majority of girls studying in schools don’t know how to do housework, especially cooking.  And cooking is culturally not considered a boy’s job. A vast majority of the parents in the rural families think that their children should concentrate only on their studies. It is not uncommon to hear from the mother, “I don’t ask my daughter to do housework at all. As the purpose of education is to prepare children for life, Khoj School always tries to respond to such situations. If they are not groomed as contributing and productive family members and citizens then what is the use of the years spent with the ‘education providers’.

One of the main objectives, therefore, was to break the myth in the rural families that the children who study in schools should be exempted from the household work. As gender equality is high on the educational agenda of Khoj School, boys were also asked to participate.

The activity also aimed at learning by doing about the heat, how the heat is transferred; what is temperature and how the temperature is measured and what is the appropriate heat to protect the nutrition of roti and egg.

The boys and girls were making lumps of wheat flour dough and shaping rotis giggling and grinning as they knew the rotis were not coming out perfect. It was not only the shape; they were not able to control the heat to required level resulting in de-shaped burnt rotis. The fate of the fried eggs was no different! But, still, it created a lot of fun and laughter

The cooking activity was followed by a lively and thorough discussion on the heating element, medium of heat transfer and the effect of heat on food and the environment through conduction, convection and radiation.The activity also reinforced the understanding of already learnt states and properties of matter, the impact of wind direction and the mathematical concepts of ratio and proportion. As the children were immersed and they had questions as a result of faltering and failing to do the perfect job, understanding the scientific concepts was not daunting for them.

As language is a vehicle of expressing oneself, children learnt new vocabulary in English and Urdu. This approach of teaching doesn’t make learning a burden on the learners. During the discussions, they keep acquiring new words and expression almost the same way as they were absorbing language from their environment during their early childhood years.

Unlike the conventional method, a handout on heat, heat transfer and temperature was given after the cooking activity and at the end of the discussion on how and why of the activity. This way, the technical write-up reads familiar to them and the learners are not harassed by the onslaught of unfamiliar jargon and scientific concepts.

The whole process was exciting and joyful and children were themselves laughing on the mistakes they were making. When you make mistakes and face the challenge, your mind gets focused on finding a solution. The best of all, you learn the art of thinking and acting that is creatively productive and joyful.

The process of further experimentation and investigation continued for a few more days with the announcement of another competition in a month’s time. The time was given to the children to improve their understanding and skills.

Children who were part of this process will never forget what they learnt and how they learnt!

Don’t Waste Learners’ Time, Integrate

How do children learn in real life? Are subject lines drawn in order to make the learning happen? Obviously, the answer is an emphatic no.

We don’t need to philosophize hard to know that children, before entering a school, have a profound understanding not only of their mother tongue but other languages also present in their social environment. It is common knowledge that children are able to speak three to four languages in a multilingual society. They can think, comprehend and express themselves; they know the right context and their selection of words is perfect. Most importantly, this learning doesn’t take place in isolation in the compartments tightly defined by subjects. A child is learning simultaneously how four bananas can be divided among four siblings; how many toffees are left if he eats up one of the three toffees she had and also how to make fractions of a roti so that two siblings can share it. Science is everywhere around them and they learn very effectively that fire can burn and they need to get away from it; salt and sugar dissolve in water and we can make a drink; water washes away dirt on the body. They can do and undo things. They ask questions of all kinds; what, how and why of everything. And nobody snubs them.


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