By Praseeda Nair

DUBAI — Hydraulic pressure systems illustrated through a mini water mill, the inauguration of the Burj Khalifa re-enacted using alternative energy sources, the aerodynamics behind wind tunnel flight-testing — these are the fundamentals of real-world science, as explained by students from Grade 5 to 12, of the Millennium School, Dubai.

The school’s first science exhibition, held on Thursday, involved more than 1,200 students forming groups of twos or threes to present dioramas, working models and general scientific hypotheses based on a topic assigned to them a month in advance.

“It’s a tremendous learning experience for the students when they do things on their own. They may absorb about 70 per cent of what they learn in class, but what they find on their own is something that will stick with them for a long time,” Sreekumar K, the Head of the Science Department, said.

The school’s hallways were plastered with posters and signs advertising each room in quirky ways. One sign cautioned visitors of craters ahead (‘walk/fall at your own risk!’), as they entered a classroom that had been transformed into a walk-in solar system.

As visitors toured the fair, a common pattern seemed to emerge. Most of the boys preferred creating real-world working models, while the girls generally leaned towards theoretical science.

Aspiring doctors, Aishwarya Balakrishnan and Aditi Austin chose projects related to organ systems. Aditi had set up a blood pressure testing booth, offering visitors a free check-up. Aishwarya’s project was on the brain and various ‘fun’ hypotheses like the why and how of yawning.

“This is a great way to learn. We’re not confined to the classroom and are allowed to try out ideas that can’t be found in textbooks,” Aditi said. At the Boys’ wing, grand models involving circuitry and homemade pyrotechnics (of the baking soda and vinegar variety) were on display.

“Using a dynamo, we can demonstrate how LED lights, like the ones used to light up the Burj Khalifa, can be lit through kinetic energy,” 13-year old Aman Mihir said as his group mate Aiman Anees placed the dynamo against a moving bicycle wheel. The one-metre high model Burj Khalifa came to life almost instantly, as did the tiny LED street lights along the replica of Shaikh Zayed Road.

Other displays of high-tech wizardry included a water irrigation system, a model hydroelectric dam (designed specifically to service a neatly made plasticine village), and a wind tunnel to test aerodynamics of planes.

Younger students stuck to the basics, using household objects to illustrate simple scientific principles.

Eleven-year-old Vignesh Padmanabhan presented a jar of ‘dancing raisins,’ where the wrinkled surface of the dried fruit helped trap air bubbles in the soda solution.  “I found a similar experiment on Youtube,” the 6th grade student said.

“The Millennium School follows the CBSE(I)curriculum which stresses on project work and self-investigation. We’re doing away with bookish knowledge and focusing on practical learning. The amount of research the students put into each project, as well as how much they learn from viewing other exhibits, helps them pick up concepts that would usually take more than six months of classroom teaching,” Michael Guzder, Principal of school, told Khaleej Times.

“Exhibiting their work has clearly helped many students build on their speaking and presenting skills, their ability to work in teams, and of course, inculcating a natural curiosity towards science and world around them.”