PUNE: Can a graphic novel teach schoolchildren the fundamentals of science? Lewitt Somarajan certainly thinks it’s possible.
Somarajan and his NGO, Life Lab, have released what they claim is India’s first graphic novel which integrates science with social and emotional learning. The Pune-based entrepreneur has also teamed up with the Delhi government to work with 1,100 schools and three lakh kids from Classes VI to VIII.
Somarajan, who hails from Kollam in Kerala, started work on the project soon after completing his chemical engineering course in 2009. He went on to work for NGOs involved in education.
“I got through the Teach for India fellowship in 2011 and for the next two years, taught Classes III and IV at a government school. It’s there that I realised I loved teaching,” he said.
But Somarajan soon noticed that certain students were struggling with the alphabet. “I thought, ‘how will they understand scientific concepts if their language capability itself remained underdeveloped’. Also, whatever was being taught was theoretical, with no emphasis on encouraging natural curiosity.”
He then came up with the idea of do-it-yourself kits that allowed students to perform science experiments using easily-available items. In 2013, he founded Life Lab, which set out to train teachers in the use of the kits.
“The trend of corporate social responsibility was catching up at the time and we were lucky to secure funding. We focussed on government schools as students in these schools were the most disadvantaged,” Somarajan said.
He started out with 25 schools under Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad corporations.
“We have worked with 37,000 kids from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. After the deal with the Delhi government, we will be training teachers, providing DIY kits and the graphic novels to the students there so that science becomes an experience for the children,” Somarajan said.