Float like a butterfly
Hands onChildren working on a science project with kits from Butterfly Fields; Sharat showing one of the many kits with which children learnPhoto K. R. DEEPAK
An initiative by an IIT-IIM Grad creates a world of hands-on learning experiences for children, writes PRABALIKA M. BORAH
11.59 pm was the cut off time for the IIT-Bombay students to dash off their resumes for placements. But after a chat with one of the professors, K. Sharat Chandra found himself at the crossroads. “I didn’t know what I should do. I was in a fix. The calculation which Handa sir — my professor who took classes in entrepreneurship at IIM-Ahmedabad — did convince me finally and I knew it is now or never,” he recollects.
That decision resulted in setting up of Butterfly Fields — a hands on learning approach system which comprises various kinds of activities, experiences in science and mathematics. The company provides low-cost models for application-oriented learning to children from eight to 16 years of age. They usually work with government and private schools and has developed models that integrate with the school curriculum, regardless of the Board the school is affiliated to.
“Initially, without any huge capital, I was able to make schools and parents agree with what I was looking to do,” says Sharat, who as an IIT student interned with a bank where he found he is doing nothing more than ‘better’ presentations and excel sheets. But the file load of mathematical analysis clicked. Even that was not enough to make K. Sharat Chandra accept a full time job in the bank. “Is that all I would do as an IITian? I questioned myself,” says Sharat.
During his IIM days, Sharat’s 24 classes with Handa which were 24 field trips had deeply sowed the roots of an entrepreneur. “But I kept wondering about the capital. Amidst this, my desire to visit a ‘foreign country’ was fulfilled through an exchange programme. I went to Germany and since it was all about gathering experience, I used to visit all places possible. This included the SME (small and medium enterprises) sector there,” he says.
What impressed him the most in Germany was the amount of innovation that was evident even at SME businesses, which he realised was because of an education system that encourages students to think out of the box, a complete contrast to the Indian system, where the application of what is learnt is completely ignored, with a greater focus on learning for exams.
“The kids in Germany knew little but it was in-depth knowledge unlike us where we are taught a lot but are flaky,” he adds.
Sharat and his team’s work began by demonstrating to students on subjects like motion, inertia, magnetic fields etc. “Children were seeing the practical explanation but even that wasn’t hands-on,” says Sharat.
Then one day, “Things just changed. After one such demonstration, the principal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan asked me how I could make this into a hands-on activity. It was possible but I wasn’t ready with a kit each for the children from Std VI to X at that point of time. I took some time but met the deadline,” smiles Sharat. Now students across the state learn science and math with these kits.
Butterfly Fields isn’t just about science projects since it is designed by an IIT+IIM. There are fun games as well and “my favourite is the trump card game where I beat most of the challengers,” he says with pride. “That’s also because I have designed it,” he says cheekily.