– This article is contributed by Dr. Rohini Karandikar
Do you know how the velcro- which is a part of bags, purses, and footwear was invented? A man named George de Mestral invented it, while he went hunting with his dog to a mountain. He saw that spines of a cocklebur plant got hooked to his pants and his dog’s fur. When he observed these spines under the microscope, he saw that these acted like ‘hooks’ and the fibers of his own pants were like ‘loops’. He then duplicated this to produce a velcro.
This invention was certainly an accident and George certainly had not ‘aimed’ to invent the velcro someday! Had George de Mestral not been a keen observer and an open thinker, the invention of the velcro would have been delayed.
Terms like ‘open thinking’, ‘critical observation’, ‘curiosity’ are often used by school science content developers who pitch their activities to schools. Content developers also need to convince the teacher on the content mapping well onto the school science syllabus. Why is syllabus important? Does the syllabus consider each child as different? Sadly, the ‘one size fits all’ rule doesn’t work in education. With each child’s curiosity being different than his/her peers, content developers face a tough situation when they try to design one which suits every child’s educational needs. So, any content which cannot be mapped directly onto the school science syllabus is termed ‘out of syllabus’ or ‘out of the curriculum’ and rarely makes it to classrooms.
Another way to look at ‘out-of syllabus’ stuff is to consider it an ill-structured problem. After all, real-life problems ARE like that. They never come with limits, hints and solutions. Educators have reported that students presented with ill-structured problems develop skills to gather information through different modes of inquiry, collaborate with peers and develop problem-solving and communication skills. So, if a learning module ‘appears’ to be outside the syllabus, the module would be likely to take the learner beyond the confines of the syllabus and allow them to think openly.
It is time we start considering novel content which is remotely linked to the syllabus as an opportunity for students to become keen observers and open, critical thinkers, much like George de Mestral!