Published: 16th January 2019
This planetarium in Bengaluru has been inspiring students to become astronauts since 1989
We talk to the Director of Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in Bengaluru to find out what sets them apart from other planetariums
Located in the heart of the city, Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium (JNP) in Bengaluru is a place where anyone would like to get lost in the magic and illusion of space and the universe. Spread across two acres, the planetarium has not only run shows on the universe and stars since 1989, but it has also inspired many school and college students to become scientists or astronauts. Though it was built by the then Bangalore Municipal Corporation, which is now Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the administration was handed over to Bangalore Association for Science Education (BASE), which was formed in 1992 by the Government of Karnataka. Every year, the planetarium receives around three lakh visitors from all age groups. To keep up with the growing inquisitiveness, BASE has been adding new educational programmes and concepts.
Pramod G Galgali, Director, BASE, talks about what led them to design various educational programmes for students, "Initially, we used to have only two shows a day. But as the number of visitors went on increasing, we realised that just running a planetarium is not a high priority. Thus, we derived twin objectives and have been working towards them. While one objective is all about Science popularisation, the other objective is about highlighting non-formal Science. It is our educational programmes in non-formal science that sets us apart from other planetariums." Today, the planetarium is running five shows a day in both Kannada and English.
Joyful learning: Kids mainly spend most of their time in Science Park as it helps them to understand concepts easily
BASE's Science Popularisation programmes include Sky-Theatre, Science Park with over 60 models of the Universe and concepts explaining centripetal force, concave and convex lens, Archimedes screw and much more. "The Science Park has always been the planetarium's centre of attraction. Every year, we add new concepts and models to this park. For instance, our globe attracts immediate attention due to its large size. It shows the orientation for Bengaluru’s latitude. Several geographical/astronomical concepts can be demonstrated with this model. Then, there is the Anti-gravity Cottage - a room wherein if you pour some water in the bucket, it does not flow downwards rather it flows upwards, against the force of gravity," he says, excitedly. Meanwhile, non-formal Science education takes the children through some serious learning. It aims at providing quality Science education from class III to graduation level. They even have a proper syllabus to be followed. "There is no compulsion for schools and colleges to take up these programmes. Students who are interested come here directly. The programmes are only designed to provide a thorough understanding of Science concepts through sessions."
To ensure that neither age groups go disappointed, BASE has designed programmes accordingly. "For class III to V, we have a programme called SEED - Science Education in Early Development. During school vacations, we conduct classes to teach concepts like colour, light and sound, and of course, Mathematics to calculate the speed of both. For class VIII to X and PUC students, we have a programme called SOW - Science Over Weekends. From July to February, we conduct two-hour sessions every Sundays. Students are given assignments at the end of each session. This is just to test how much they have understood from the topics taught," he explains. And both these programmes come at a nominal fee of Rs 500 annually.
Watching shows: Sky-Theatre can seat up to 210 people with reclining seats in a uni-directional viewing arrangement (Pic: Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium)
Aside from these programmes, REAP (Research Education Advancement Programme) for BSc students has been quite successful, claims Pramod. Implemented in 1995, it's a three-year programme with classes conducted every weekend. Scientists from IISc, Indian Institute of Astrophysics and other reputed institutes deliver lectures on various topics at the planetarium. While the first two years are theoretical classes, the third year involves the students in research projects conducted in educational institutions. "Some of our students have worked nationally and internationally and they come back to JNP to give lectures to new students. Till date, more than 200 students have benefitted from this programme and I think the `500 they pay is worth it," he concludes.