Spread the Smile, an annual initiative by Disha founded in 2012, intends to bring the joy of science and interactive teaching to school children in villages around Pune. STS’15, conducted last year, was a significant success in terms of overall organization. However, the variety of the demonstrations and their execution could be improved upon. For this purpose, in STS’16, we have concept based modules, prepared by our Disha Resource Team, which have enough number of experiments. Problems also arose in villages where the schools were located on the outskirts of the village. In such cases, we observed poor participation on Sunday mornings in these schools, as the students were busy in usual weekend tasks. So, this time we are planning to hold Sunday morning activities within the village, hoping to involve people outside the school as well.
STS’15 got overwhelming support from colleges throughout Pune. We also got positive feedback from most of them. Previously, though, they were disappointed as they didn’t play a major role in the designing of demos, which was mainly done in IISER. Most of them weren’t able to come to IISER for meetings and workshops. Taking this into account, we visited those colleges which showed good participation last time and collaborated with them. This helped us in exchange of ideas and we got some useful inputs from them. In addition, the village coordinators visited their assigned villages in advance so that they get an idea about details regarding students, schedules of classes, food availability, accommodation, and so on. This year we have planned for expeditions on the weekends 16-17 Jan, 23-24 Jan, 30-31 Jan and 7-8 Feb to the villages Wazegar, Saaygaon, Kaamthadi, Kule, Asde and Kashig. Of these, Kule, Asde, and Kashig have never been visited before under the STS program.
Spread the Smile has always been a meaningful experience for volunteers. They have benefitted from their glimpse of rural life, by getting out of their comfort zone. In the event of unforeseen problems, our volunteers have shown appreciable sense of responsibility and presence of mind, which such initiatives tend to develop in all of us. As organizers, we continue to learn and grow from our experiences, and try to plan better each year. Our biggest reward is, of course, witnessing the smile on those eager kids’ faces as they discover the joy of learning. Continuing our journey of 4 years, we will strive to make STS’16 an unforgettably pleasant experience for all the villagers as well as the volunteers.