Come on, figure it out yourself!

Come on, figure it out yourself!


Come on, figure it out yourself!

coThere is a British Telecom ad which says: Children walk very slowly to school; but once it’s over they run home. This aptly sums up a child’s perception – the home is notches above the school!

There are few schools with science labs. And even there, all the fancy equipment is often locked in cupboards covered with a layer of dust! Children seldom have access to them. It seems that labs are meant for inspectors; not children.

During summer vacation, all you children can creatively rig up a small science lab in your own home and have great fun. You don’t need to join expensive, expert workshops and travel long distances thus adding to your carbon print! Enlightened parents can support with tools and materials. The first step is to collect simple tools – scissors, scale, divider, needle, craft glue (Fevibond), cutter, hammer, hacksaw, pliers, stapler etc.

Then collect a lot of lot of throwaway material – plastic bottles, old pen refills, broken rubber slippers, matchboxes, cardboard boxes, tetrapaks, newspapers and used Xerox sheets, old cycle tubes and spokes, coconut broomsticks, plastic straws and spokes, thread, rubber bands and other possible junk. We live in a consumerist society and there is no dearth of stuff that we daily throw away.  The neighbours will be only too happy to contribute.

Cut old magazines into squares with a steel scale and paper knife. Keep a whole stack ready. With paper squares you can fold numerous dynamic toys – a flapping-ear rabbit, a bird of peace, a jumping frog.

With little strips of paper you can make a spinning helicopter and flying fish.

With an old A-4 size Xerox sheet you can make a Flexagon – a 3D-paper model which you can continuously rotate. You can also make a 14-page unending book and then illustrate it with your own story to make a dynamic, moving storybook.

Using old newspapers you can fold a dozen fancy caps which you can actually wear. The coolest cap is of course the Cricket Cap made from just half a newspaper sheet. You can also make a Chef’s Cap, a Box Cap, a Nehru Cap and others. There is a wonderful story titled Captain’s Cap Story, where you fold 4 caps using a newspaper and simultaneously recount a delightful story. This is an action story at its very best. Paper folding is the world’s most cost-effective geometry lab.

Two slant cuts convert a plastic straw into a musical flute. A straw, a broomstick and tape make a wonderful triangular sprinkler.

Two film cans and a length of old cycle tube makes an amazing pump with which you can inflate and pop a balloon!

There are over a hundred toys you can make at home from Sudarshan Khanna’s wonderful book ‘The Joy of Making Indian Toys’. For instance, using a broomstick and an eraser you can make a spinner which will help you understand the abstract force of spin – the Centrifugal force.  

If we can’t see science in simple things around us it is unlikely that we will see science in all the fancy glass and plastic equipment in the school laboratory.
For, in essence, science is an ability to see the common thread which binds things together to see similarities, differences. In short, it’s the ability to see patterns in the world around us.

It also debunks the notion that science can only be done with burettes, pipettes and test tubes.

With simple generic materials costing only twenty rupees – a torch battery, a metre of insulated copper wire and an ordinary magnet every child can make a simple electric motor in less than 10 minutes. Apart from understanding its working, you can do a dozen wonderful experiments with this motor.

Clever children try and figure out things for themselves. They need large chunks of free time to mess around and play. Enlightened parents must support this self-activity of children.

The summer vacation is a golden opportunity for you to conduct science experiments with your friends in your own homes.

Parents can pool in skills and encourage this activity. A lot of support material can be gleaned for free from

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox