Open day on National Science Day
Every year, the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education has an Open House on National Science Day (NSD), which falls on February 28. During this Open House, the centre witnesses over 2000 visitors which include students, teachers, teacher educators, and parents. On these occasions, D&T education group also arranges an array of activities aimed at sparking creative problem solving and expression and gives visitors opportunities to think, make and test. Some of the activities we plan also aim at popularising Design and Technology by giving a flavour of working with hands while using their imagination.
National Science Day 2020
Activity: Designing Flags
This activity involved designing a flag of a fictional country.
A flag may be defined as “a piece of cloth, usually rectangular and attached to a pole at one edge, that has a pattern that shows it represents a country or a group, or has a particular meaning” (Cambridge Dictionary). Thus flags are minimalistic and often bear abstract symbols which signify a deeper meaning.
For this activity, different design briefs with unique situations and fictitious country descriptions were developed for a range of age groups. The objective of this activity was to provide participants opportunities to; be creative, transform their ideas into effective and attractive visuals and work collaboratively. Through this activity, we tried to emphasize visual design and abstraction skills among students.
The students were given a particular design brief and they had to then generate ideas, visually communicate their design ideas through sketches, and also write about their design choices (such as colour selection, symbols). As visitors during NSD span varied ages, we categorised the design briefs into 3 sections; viz for grades 1 to 4 (6-10 years), for grades 5 to 9 (11- 15 years) and for grade 10 to under/post graduation (15 years and above).
Designing a flag can be a challenging activity especially for children as flags are iconic, minimalistic in visual design and often try to communicate a message. Keeping the constraints in mind, we listed a set of rules and a few design principles specific to the task of designing a flag, which acted as both design constraints and guidelines for the students.
Rules for Flag Designing: You have been given a design brief with information about a fictional country.
- Design a flag for that fictional country on the rectangular page provided.
- Your flag must be related to the design brief.
- You can use only 3 colours or less.
- No text is allowed.
- Your flag should be simple and be seen from far.
The five ‘flag design’ principles were:
- Keep It Simple: The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
- Meaningful Symbolism: The flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
- Only 2 or 3 Basic Colors: Limit the number of colors on the flag to three which contrast well and come from the standard color set.
- No Lettering or Seals: Never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seal.
- Be Distinctive or Be Related: Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.
Design Briefs: (for class 1 to 4 and for class 5 to 9)
- A country inhabited only by insects.
- A country inhabited only by plants and trees
- A country inhabited only by scientists.
- A country inhabited only by aliens.
- A country inhabited only by snakes.
- A country inhabited by people who can fly.
To add to the complexity of the task for older children, a design constraint was given in addition to the design brief. This was to make the task a bit more challenging for the students and also as an attempt to expose them (not explicitly) to visual techniques to achieve minimalism, abstraction and creative ways of drawing.
The design constraints were: 1) You can use only dots and dashes; 2) You can use only the following shapes: triangle, circle, rectangle, square
So, a group would pick a design brief and a design constraint. This meant, if a group picked up “A country inhabited only by insects” and “You can use only the following shapes: triangle, circle, rectangle, square”, it meant that their flag can only be composed of elements which used the given shapes.
Design Briefs: (for class 10 to UG-PG)
- It’s a coastal country where fishing is the main occupation.
- It is a country where music is the main occupation.
- A country whose motto is “unity in diversity”.
- A secret country about which nothing is known.
- A country comprising of three islands.
- A country which has daylight all through the year.
- A country with the highest biological diversity.
National Science Day 2019
Activity 1: Mystery Box
The activity of mystery boxes works on the principle of creative thinking. An integral part of the Design Thinking process is defining a meaningful and actionable problem statement, which aids in empathizing with the user and generating ideas. We had selected some professions and objects, made cards and kept them in a ‘Mystery Box’.
Mystery Box 1: Professions [Teacher, Barber, Electrician, Farmer, Dentist, Cook, Sweeper, Gardener, Tailor]
Mystery Box 2: Objects [Toolbox, Gloves, Shoes, Head gear, Glasses]
In this, students had to pick one card from each of the Mystery boxes and they had to design something new by combining the two cards.
Activity 2: Science Characters
This activity involved collaboratively designing a symbolic character based on the description of a science term. The character design process involves listing of ‘physical’ and ‘unique’ attributes. Getting children to make science characters can be a creative exercise and a good way to elicit their understanding of a particular science concept. For this activity, we had prepared science cards on which name and description of the character to be designed was printed. Students were given one of these cards and were asked to design/sketch their science character.
The terms that we gave to students include:
Red Giant: A ‘red giant’ is a star which is red in colour and huge and is going towards the end of its life. This phase occurs in all stars except the most biggest ones. During this phase, the outer layer of the star starts expanding making the star much bigger than its original size. The surface temperature of a red giant can be as high as 4700 Celsius.
Lymph nodes: These are small bean (or kidney shaped) shaped organs. They play a vital role in our body’s ability to fight off infections. They function as filters, capturing viruses, bacteria and other causes of illnesses before they can infect other parts of our body.
Covalent Bond: A covalent bond is a powerful chemical bond that involves the sharing of electron pairs between atoms. The balance of attractive and repulsive forces between atoms, when they share electrons, is known as covalent bonding.
Chloroplasts: These are small organelles inside the cells of plants and algae. They absorb light to make sugar in a process called photosynthesis. The sugar can be stored in the form of starch.