Three shul-goers on a mission to deliver ‘jaw-dropping’ science lessons to slums of Mumbai

Three shul-goers on a mission to deliver ‘jaw-dropping’ science lessons to slums of Mumbai

Mill Hill synagogue members with “not a science GCSE among us” blog about their exploits helping the poorest in India's most populous seasons

Shanty dwellings next to railway tracks in Dharavi , Mumbai
Shanty dwellings next to railway tracks in Dharavi , Mumbai

Three Mill Hill Synagogue members with “not a science GCSE among us” have started teaching science to children in the slums of Mumbai as part of a six-week social action project.

Beverley Crowne, her husband Nicholas and best friend Anne-Marie Cooklin arrived earlier this week with a mission to deliver “jaw-dropping, practical science lessons,” with Beverley writing a blog about their exploits.

Their inspiration was Jacob Sztokman who, on his return from a business trip to India, couldn’t get the poverty he had seen out of his mind, and went back to set up Gabriel Project Mumbai, working in the city’s notorious Kalwa slum, helping some of the poorest children on the planet.

Beverley said Anne-Marie was “initially 150 percent resistant” she was talked round by the couple and her daughter, Rachel, and realised that – after working for the same company for 25 years – she could take a sabbatical.

The trio said: “We called Jacob, and he asked us to spend six weeks teaching science and art to primary schoolchildren and take English conversation classes with more mature students … crikey!”

The Crownes in India, lighting Chanukiahs

After Kalwa the three will move on to the rural Palghar district to deliver science lessons to children from 20 villages using equipment, training, lesson plans, work schemes and assessment tools from an organisation called Empiribox, which lets teachers with no specialist science knowledge conduct lessons and experiments.

“We were daunted at first,” said Beverley, “especially when we realised that we had so little science knowledge and would be working in classrooms with no electricity or water, teaching children who had never had a science lesson in their lives.”

Little girl with a model of a mouth, learning science in Mumbai

Before they left, the India-bound group tested the lesson plan out on pupils from Years 4, 5 and 6 at Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School, putting their new-found knowledge and skills to the test.

Over the afternoon on 7 December, the three would-be teachers taught children about potential and kinetic energy, devising trials for springy toys, rolling ball bearings down a runway and experimenting with different lengths and weights to see how they affected the swing of a pendulum.

Teachers at Etz Chaim gave it the thumbs-up and afterwards Anne Marie said: “I remember finding science dull at school, but all the interaction and practical sessions spark an enthusiasm for science and scientific thinking. It’s like a magic show!”

Their journey can be followed at the blog:

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