Published: 26th August 2020
These IIT-M grads are starting a Science, Math YouTube channel for Adivasi kids in the Paniya language
We speak to IITian-duo Maya and Deepak, who runs the YouTube channel Kathaadi. They tell us about how concepts of science and maths are made easy for rural children through their channel and more
Daniel Willingham a popular psychologist and cognitive scientist says, "Abstraction is the goal of schooling. The Human mind does not care for abstractions. The mind prefers the concrete."
Citing this, Deepak Chandra and his wife Maya Nathan, who teach Adivasi children in Gudalur, tells us they have observed that these children bring rich experiences from their environment to the school. "But in most schools, subjects like Math and Science are taught in a very abstract manner and there is a dearth of resources to learn the concepts. This has been leading to a substantial number of children dropping out as the foundation for learning Maths and Science is not laid in the primary and elementary level of schooling. This is also one of the reasons why children from rural backgrounds are at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to competitive exams." The duo, both graduates from IIT Madras, who are now teaching at the Viswa Bharati Vidyodaya Trust in Gudalur, Tamil Nadu, started a YouTube channel Kaathadi last year to solve this problem. An educational channel, Kaathadi explains concepts in Math and Science with simple and effective activities and experiments that can be done easily with available low-cost materials at home.
The channel was also launched as a part of an outreach project of the Vidyodaya Maths and Science Resource Centre. Vidyodaya Maths and Science Resource is an initiative of VBVT to popularise Maths and Science among rural children. The purpose is also to facilitate learning by discovery and inquiry, through hands-on activities and to bridge the gap between textbooks and daily life.
"When we started making videos, our focus was to cover basic concepts in Maths and Science, like arithmetic operations and concepts of air, water etc. Later we felt that if the videos are mapped to the Tamil Nadu state board syllabus, then it would be easier for teachers to use it for planning or for direct classroom instruction. We have also kept the language simple so that the children can try the activities independently," explains Maya.
Speaking about why their channel is effective and unique, Deepak adds, "Though there are many YouTube channels which explain concepts using the chalk-and-talk approach or animations, there are very few that focus on using concrete objects to understand abstract concepts. So we decided that we will focus exclusively on experiments and activities that the children can replicate on their own."
Kathaadi teaches concepts at the primary and middle school levels. The videos are in English and Tamil currently, but they are also dubbing the videos into the Paniya Adivasi language for children to understand better. The channel has nearly 500 subscribers and over 90 videos right now. "The Paniya Adivasi language videos will be uploaded on a separate channel called Kaathadi-Paniya. This channel will be exclusively for children from Paniya Adivasi community. We hope to dub the videos into other Adivasi languages soon," adds Maya.
The duo has earlier been a part of the Teach For India’s rural fellowship programme and that experience gave them the conviction to work in rural areas as they noticed the disparity in opportunities and resources between urban and rural schools. They joined VBVT in June 2018. The duo adds that the activities are designed in such a way that they help both teachers and children from schools where they do not have access to adequate resources. This is mostly true for schools in rural areas and low-cost schools in urban areas but they believe any child can learn through their approach.
The activities in the videos have been tried at the Vidyodaya School, adds the duo. For example, they borrowed the idea of using matchsticks for basic arithmetic operations from the teachers in Vidyodaya. For certain concepts, they have contextualised the activities, so those can be done with little or no cost with readily available materials. For example, in one of their videos explaining the operations in Integers are done using red and green buttons but they have used chickpeas and green peas which are found in any kitchen. "Though it is simple for most of the concepts in primary and middle school, it is not so easy for all concepts, especially as we move to high school concepts. Bringing Science and Maths from laboratories to the backyards is our goal, we are still exploring and improvising," says Deepak.
While the school and videos on the subjects follow the TN state board curriculum, the children are also taught through real-life experiences to make it more relatable and interesting. For example, the kids learn literacy and rules of grammar through their traditional stories. Then they move on to stories and poems in the State Board textbooks. "This way, we build on what they already have (traditional knowledge) and take them to what they should know (textbook content). Every year, the Kindergarten students are taken for short walks. They are divided into groups and each group counts particular kind of vehicles, like bikes, autos, buses etc on the road. This way the students learn to count and develop number sense," explains Maya.
Since the pandemic hit and due to the lockdown, the duo has been connecting to students of Classes 4 and 5 through WhatsApp. "Teachers are sending short videos of activities that the children can independently perform at home. The students watch the videos and respond back with pictures of completed worksheets or activities. However, it has been challenging to reach all the children, as some of them do not have access to smartphones or the internet. Hence, VBVT has also employed volunteers to start study centres in the villages. Small groups of children come together to do worksheets in the villages. So far we have 18 study centres in Adivasi hamlets," concludes Maya.