Kids' science workshops in Bahrain

Educational programme The Futurist comes to the island Discuss this article

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A new hands-on science programme has come to Bahrain to show kids what they’re missing, educationally speaking. We talk to The Futurist’s founder Somu Karuppaiah to find out more. Words Katy Gillett

Almost everybody remembers the first time they had to fire up a Bunsen burner or dissect a frog in science class. Mixing chemicals in test tubes, using litmus paper to check pH levels or rubbing a balloon until your hair stands on end all conjures fond memories of our childhood.

But are kids today getting enough of these interactive teaching methods? Somu Karuppaiah, a long-time Bahrain resident, says no. ‘I felt like something was missing in this part of the Gulf,’ he tells us.

‘Generally creative industries, maybe art, dance, music, they’re developing day by day. But [science] is not developing. Invention and discoveries in this part of the world aren’t enough because we’re not exposed early on.’ It was this lack of scientific exploration in education that encouraged Somu to found The Futurist.
A former advertising and marketing manager, Somu was getting worried about how much time his son was spending in the evenings playing with technology, when he happened upon a video of Indian toy inventor and science addict Arvind Gupta. Over his 40-plus years of working with children, Arvind has visited 3,500 schools and influenced millions of kids all over the world through his experiments.

‘He spent almost his lifetime, over 40 years, educating children,’ Somu gushes. ‘It happened to force me to go back to India and attend his shows. I saw his work and his followers… they want to have a science lab in every village, even the most remote villages!’

Somu is obviously inspired by Arvind’s work. ‘I went to more and more of these activities,’ he says. ‘There are many people involved. It is amazing work.’ His enthusiasm for the project made him open V4 Events so he can start similar programmes in Bahrain. His slogan is a saying from Confucius in 500BC: ‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.’ This, he emphasises, is how children should be learning.

And this is exactly what The Futurist aims to introduce to Bahrain.

Over the summer, V4 Events are inviting all schools, students and children aged eight to 15 to participate in a range of science programmes that are being rolled out in July and August. The programmes, split into levels for different age groups of eight to 11 and 12 to 15, encapsulate a range of subjects from electromagnetism to astronomy, solar power to basic robotics. But they aim to make it fun.

There are five workshops, each set over a course of ten days, for five hours per day, and they expect between 300 and 350 students per workshop in this first installment of the Futurist. Alongside that, a series of seminars, talks and question-and-answer sessions take place.

Each kid, when they arrive, receives an educational kit that contains all they need to learn about a certain topic, be it energy, math, chemistry or mechanics – to name a few – and then a mentor will guide them as they create. This might mean they leave the session having created a working motor or having made a bulb light up by connecting wires themselves.

Once the summer is over, however, Somu says they have no intention of slowing down. ‘Our aim is to stimulate children and we don’t want to feel that this job is done and then we’ll leave,’ Somu explains. ‘We’re planning the year in the same way.’ For instance, in September, Somu has invited a famous TV host, Prateek, from India to come and perform his awe-inspiring science tricks for a family audience. Then, in December, another TV personality that focuses on arts and crafts will visit. Somu and his team are also considering rolling out a series of after-school programmes in partnership with Bahrain’s private schools. And, if all that goes well, then they aim to take on the rest of the GCC as well.

‘We’re focusing on this “I see and I remember” because [children] are visualising everything,’ says Somu. ‘I thought being a scientist meant you needed a PhD and you needed to study for years and research hard but what is happening now is something different.’

Ultimately, through a range of programmes and hands-on experiments, The Futurist brochure explains, ‘We aim to help them see that science is a keyhole to the future which will help them make a difference in their lives and at the same time make a worthwhile contribution to their society and country too.’

The details

The Futurist is hosting five do-it-yourself activity workshops in total where one will last ten days (not including Fridays). Course One focuses on kids aged eight to 11 for BD40 while Course Two is for children between 12 and 15 for BD70. Starting dates are:
June 29-July 8
July 9-July 19
July 20-August 3
August 4-August 13
August 16-August 26
Venues vary. Visit www.v4group.net for more information or call 3648 4640.

By Katy Gillett
Time Out Bahrain,

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