Agastya has renewed my hope

Somehow, despite the bumps, I slept for all three hours of our car ride into rural India. I didn't know what to expect, other than something to do with science, education and rural India. Even in my wildest imaginings I could not have come up with what we saw. I woke up as we transitioned from empty fields and dirt roads to a nice paved road and beautiful buildings all around us. We arrived at Agastya foundation and were greeted by teachers and one of the leaders of the foundation. We were given some time to adjust with tea, coffee and biscuits and then we were on our way to see the campus. We were first taken to a building that is devoted to creating scientific models for the children's use. They focus on making low cost models out of materials that are easily found so that a child can replicate it at home. Therefore most of their models are made on campus instead of buying costly materials that children couldn't make on their own. We then continued on to see classrooms for physics, biology, chemistry and astronomy- stopping in each to do an experiment. In the classrooms we were given the same activities that the children would learn. For example in the physics classroom, the teacher gave us each a cup with water and a straw that we cut in half. If you hold one straw in the water and the other at a 90 degree angle to the first and blow through the straw, then you create a vacuum that makes the first straw have low pressure, thus pulling in the water and squirting it out your straw. (Needless to say we ended up having a water fight after mastering the vacuum principle). In each classroom we had an activity and then we would be taught the rules or logic behind it. Even on our way between buildings we got to play on a swing set that was designed to teach children the laws of motion. The two swings were attached to a moving bar, and if only one person was pushed then it would also make the other person move. The more we saw, the more we realized that EVERYTHING was there for a reason. And everything was innovative; I never would have thought of all the models they had! They even had a functioning bike with square wheels to teach about how a wheel works. For any of you who have watched the movie "The Three Idiots" we all come to the conclusion that Agastya was exactly like the school that Rancho founded at the end of the movie. Agastya's method was to teach children through hands on experiments and application rather than memorization of text books. The teachers explained that there are about 30 children in a classroom with 2 teachers. In the class, the children will be broken up into groups of 5 to do the experiments and then they join together to explain why a model or experiment works in that way. Each teacher we met seemed so genuinely happy to be working there and it was inspiring to see how much they could create. The entire campus was full of models and innovations that were incredibly efficient, simple and original. I think that I can speak for our whole group when I say that we were blown away by the work being done at Agastya. It was amazing to me to see what one man can do when he has a clear vision and works hard to achieve that vision. The founder, Ramji Raghavan, is also an Ashoka fellow and I can see why he was chosen. After Dharavi I have been questioning the extent to which one individual can have an effect on others; however, Agastya has renewed my hope. Mr. Raghavan is affecting so many through his programs for students and teachers, and he created this school as an individual. I am astounded at how much he has achieved, and it gives me great hope for each individual on this trip and what we can all achieve when we put our minds to it. -Hannah B