Dr. Varaprasad Kolla and Dr. Andrea Kolla, ITM university attended the Newton Bhabha-STEM Teacher Training Workshop organized by the Centre of Excellence in Science and Mathematics, IISER Pune. These workshops have inspired value addition to course curriculum, to say the least. In this example, Dr. Kolla engaged undergraduate students with the concept of organic farming and the issues that come with it. It was incorporated as a part of their Food and Soil Microbiology course for science undergraduates.
Dr. Kolla initiated farming on a small piece of the university land with the core idea of co-culturing medicinal plants as natural pesticides. Students planted onions for starters, followed by paddy. Paddy plantlets were transferred onto a bigger plot with successful outcome. The onus of soil inspection and preparation lied with the students and they could appreciate the contribution of soil parameters on the health of the crop.
Students were encouraged to choose the Madhuraj55 variety of paddy. The variety was developed by the scientists at Indira Gandhi Agriculture University (IGKV), Raipur and has been shown to have low glycemic index, i.e. delayed sugar release making it suitable for diabetic patients. The students cultivated mushrooms using the waste rice husk as raw material. Dr. Kolla claims that this activity not only imparted the knowledge of agricultural waste utilisation, but also opened them up to the idea of attending trainings to enhance their skill sets.
These ideas are initial steps to student engagement, much can be done in the area of research based techniques to inculcate curiosity and scientific outlook. Please share your opinions and ideas on the project. If you have tried something similar please let us know. The entire teaching community can benefit from your stories, challenges and success.