Particle physics laboratory

At K Sureshkumar’s educational lab in Thiruvananthapuram, students understand basic physics concepts by experimenting on their own

National award-winning science teacher K Sureshkumar’s educational lab in Thiruvananthapuram allows high school students to conduct physics experiments and learn the concepts on their own

National award-winning science teacher K Sureshkumar’s educational lab in Thiruvananthapuram allows high school students to conduct physics experiments and learn the concepts on their own

To dispel a student’s doubt about a scientific fact, science teacher K Sureshkumar approached several prominent scholars in Kerala. Finding no satisfactory answer, he sent a letter to APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India. Not only did he clarify his doubt, but he also received a letter of appreciation from Kalam.

The 62-year-old national award-winning teacher (2012) says the mark of a good teacher is their ability to arouse a child’s curiosity and encourage them to ask questions. To practice what he preaches, in 2017 he opened an educational laboratory, Total Empowerment for Science Learning Activities, in Kootapara, near Karakulam, on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram.

Like many woke seniors, Suresh is ready to start a new career as a mentor and help children appreciate physics and its fundamental laws and concepts by giving them hands-on experience in his lab. In large, airy rooms overlooking the Karamana River, students discover the scientific facts taught in their textbooks. More than 100 experiments, mostly in physics, were housed in the 5,000 square foot building he built on 15 cents (or 6,534 square feet) of land.

K Sureshkumar

K Sureshkumar | Photo credit: special arrangement

Suresh insists that many students find science difficult because the concepts have not been clearly explained to them. “Unless the concept of a scientific principle is ingrained in their minds, not everyone finds it easy to grasp the abstract principles of physics,” he says.

Newton’s laws of motion, principles of light, sound waves, Ohm’s law, and the relationship between voltage, current, and resistance are just some of the concepts a student can see, do and learn on their own. Suresh says all the concepts and experiences are based on the Kerala curriculum and the Central Board of Secondary Education curriculum for grades eight, nine and ten. “In fact, we made sure that the experiments looked like those presented in the textbooks,” he adds.

Since not all the equipment is available on the market, Suresh, along with some of his students, manufactures it in a makeshift workshop on the first floor of his house. In Colony of Pandit in the city. Showing a model related to the mirage, he says that since it is not readily available in India, he asked one of his former students to get it from the United States.

Suresh is a four-time winner of the National NCERT Award for Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Training Institutions.

“When I was teaching, I used to bring some of this to my school and use it to teach my students. What should have taken at least half an hour to teach was easily passed on in ten minutes because I could show them what was written in their textbooks,” he says.

The lab was ready to move when the pandemic hit and Suresh was forced to shut it down. “It was a blow for us. Some devices got damaged and for two years I struggled to maintain them. Little by little, the students are coming back,” he says.

Students are charged ₹250 for a day and a student coming from a school is charged ₹200. As soon as the site reopened in April 2022, students from six to seven schools visited the laboratory.

Recently, as an advisor to a few selected schools, Suresh helped set up an open science lab at NVKS Secondary School at Attoor in neighboring Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Vimalasree L, principal of the school, says the open science park is a boon for children and teachers. She says: “The children play in the park every day and they understand for themselves how levers, pulleys, Newton’s laws of motion, principles of force, etc. work. Teachers find it easy when explaining the same concepts in class. Thanks to Suresh sir, learning has become a happy experience for both students and teachers.

Now that schools have resumed normal working hours, Suresh hopes students and teachers will use the facilities of this one-of-a-kind lab.

He also plans to open a business that manufactures and markets science equipment and devices for schools.