Long before Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots and Taare Zameen Par raised questions about the efficacy of the ‘chalk and talk’ teaching system, a khadi kurta-clad man would appear on Doordarshan every Sunday and tell us how matchboxes, straws, rubber sandals and even safety pins could be used to make complex science theories easy and fun to learn.
Meet engineer-turned-educationist Arvind Gupta, who has been inspiring generations of students to learn science with their own hands on ‘Tarang’, the DD show, since the 1980s.
Gupta, who started toy-making a decade before he appeared on the science show, has made 6,200 short films on toy-making in 18 languages in the last 35 years that are available on his website and YouTube, all to prove a point that science cannot be learnt by rote, mugging up definitions and formulae.
An IIT-Kanpur graduate, this Gandhian had left a plush job in Tata Motors in 1975 and took up a challenging job to help children become scientists again.
The change came in 1978, when Gupta attended a science teaching programme in Madhya Pradesh where he first made simple toys and educational experiments using locally available material. The toys, he found, fascinated children, and from here on Gupta went on to make these as the hallmark of his movement of popularising science.