As an engineering student in India, I always felt a lot of disconnect between theory and practice, and this awareness heightened during my trip to the United States as part of the CCID-CCI exchange program. During my exchange year at MATC, I was stimulated and inspired by the practice driven pedagogical approach adopted by my professors there. We were taught assembling, programming and testing by way of kits that were developed by us. There, I started from scratch and completed a full-fledged engineering device, this exposure made me feel confident while working with live engineering applications. Upon return, I felt more independent and confident, willing to open myself to new conversations. This also sowed the seeds of my dream to bring scientific temperament to everyday learning experiences within the classroom space, which was later led to implementation during my participation in the I Have a Dream program.
It is crucial to comprehend oneself to be able to understand and relate to others. I acquired greater understanding of myself through games and activities conducted by Pravah during the initial workshops. The mentorship process was insightful, where several mentors gave feedback during the initial workshop, and then, we were assigned personal mentors with whom we would work on a one on one basis for the next three to four months. One of the most important feedback I received was on prioritizing and goal setting. For example, I had allocated one and a half month for creating the content and for generating the material. I was advised to look at other activities that could be done in parallel to optimize on time.
One on one mentorship during the I Have a Dream program proved beneficial for me especially while reaching out to institutions for collaborations. Instead of starting from scratch, Nitin, my mentor encouraged me to collaborate with existing institutions and people who were already engaged in this kind of work. Through his personal networks, I was able to access schools, which was extremely helpful, especially when I was only 21 days away from the final closing presentation. Working with a mentor was absolutely crucial to my journey. Nitin encouraged independent thinking and made me work on problems till I felt I couldn’t go any further, only then would he step in. This is also how the real world works.
I made my first presentation on applying scientific thinking to grade eighth students of Vidya Prabodhini English School in Mulund, Mumbai. Scientific method is not only relevant to science but to everyday life, to question the world around us, and to fight superstitions, it is the way in which we receive and analyze information before coming to any conclusion. Subsequent to this presentation, I am in the process of developing a more extensive curriculum on scientific thinking for the same school. These will be held every Sunday over a period of three to four weeks, and will have experiments as well. Upon completion of the program, I started working with Navnirmiti, an organisation dedicated to building models to enable better understanding of science through design. These models are targeted towards teachers who can in turn facilitate better pedagogic engagement. I feel my journey in that sense has come full circle.
Avinash Maurya Shripal is currently in the last year of B.Tech (Electronics & Communication Engineering). He participated in the USG-sponsored Community College Initiative Program (CCIP) 2011-12. He was mentored by Nitin Sawant through the USG-sponsored I Have a Dream leadership and mentoring program for International Exchange Alumni.