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A report on the November 2012 Science Fair

a photo of an earlier science fair

Each year, the APK project holds a special open day called the Science Fair. VRI Volunteer Chloe Hignett was in the village at the time and has written this report.

The November 2012 Science Fair

The Science Fair saw the Inter College and Degree College transformed into a festival of science, music, innovative ideas and excited and engaged students. Medicinal plants along with the existing flowers and trees created a perfect setting for a fair focusing on the environment. Colourful decorations and specially-erected tents added to the festival atmosphere in which students from primary to post-graduate level displayed their hard work and talents, both creative and academic.

While having a clear focus on science and the environment, the fair also provided space for other skills of creativity and English. Students from the primary and secondary schools at Amarpurkashi provided entertainment in the form of folk songs and dances. Wearing traditional outfits, with some dressed as Hindu gods and goddesses, they danced with joy and enthusiasm, delighting their audiences. There were several poems and short plays in English such as ‘My Garden’ and ‘Trees’ used to highlight the importance of nature while the short play ‘Mr Garbage’ showed bad environmental practices. Many students participated in stalls involving card and number tricks, while others used science to create the ‘magic’, all performed with confidence and a flair of showmanship.

Another important aspect of the science fair was its role as a community gathering and platform for important issues represented by stalls for HIV/AIDS awareness and careers guidance for students. The HIV/AIDS stall was well attended, providing important information; many in attendance were wearing the universal symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness and solidarity, the red ribbon. Throughout the day B.Ed. students were kept busy providing advice on career paths such as the police, medical professions and commerce to both boys and girls. These stalls represented the ability of the Science Fair not just to engage with the issue of the physical environment but also the social environment, highlighting the fact that issues of environment require engagement with numerous social as well as scientific factors.

Some stalls dealt mainly with the scientific such as experiments using hydrochloric acid to test for impurities in milk and ghee. Others took a broader approach such as a modern-day version of Ravana, the demon king whose ten heads each represented a problem facing India from environmental to health and education. There was however, no lack of stalls that engaged imaginatively and resourcefully with the environmental theme by combining the social and scientific. Issues that appeared repeatedly were the problems caused by plastic bags including a visually very striking display that sought to recreate the impact of plastic bags; this was accompanied by a short play against their use. Water pollution was another important issue. One group from Amarpurkashi even used bricks, pebbles, a hosepipe and some physical labour to create a mini river alongside a model of a water pump and well. Other models focused on homes and particularly factories as major causes of water pollution. This focus undoubtedly reflects the experience of the local area with the visible and very “smell-able” effects of the paper factories on the local river.

The strongest projects were those that highlighted not just an understanding of the causes of environmental damage but also gave proposed solutions. The first prize by Babu Ram Junior High School, Amarpurkashi was one such example. It showed methods of improving the environment of a rural village by having covered communal toilet blocks and different rubbish pits based specifically on the recyclability of materials. Jafapur High School presented models about the impact of greenhouse gases and how to use solar power as an alternative to cooking fuel. H S A Inter College, Sahas Pur also presented plates and bowls made from leaves as alternatives to the use of plastics.

The special prize requested by Toby Whitfeld, whose organisation’s generous donation had funded the event, highlighted this idea by being awarded to the group that demonstrated the best use of waste materials. This went to the B.Ed. students’ ‘zero waste’ display that demonstrated decorative and practical uses for materials often thrown away. These included woven bags, magazines and newspaper holders, pictures made from the straw of old brooms and flowers made from wire and off cuts of materials. A colourful and creative display, it demonstrated the possibilities for recycling and moving towards a ‘zero waste’ society, making it a worthy winner.

The Science Fair brought forward many interesting ideas and showcased the knowledge of the students. Also notable was the obvious pride with which the students presented their models and stalls and their obvious keenness to impress and to demonstrate their hard work. It was great to see the confidence and authority with which so many of the stalls were presented by students of all ages. As such, the Science Fair provided an environment in which a wide range of students with a range of talents and interests were able to participate in activities that encouraged them to think and act independently and innovatively.