Ashland Inc. (NYSE: ASH), a global leader in providing specialty chemical solutions to customers in a wide range of consumer and industrial markets, today launched two Mobile Science Labs (MSL) in collaboration with Agastya International Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works with financially disadvantaged children through innovative, hands-on science education. The kickoff event held at The Leela Hotel in Mumbai was attended by Ashland leaders and employees, and Agastya representatives who demonstrated their pedagogy through live models. The vans will be operational in and around Ashland India offices in Mumbai and Hyderabad beginning August 5.
MSL is a very powerful and innovative instrument to revolutionize rural education and make education increasingly accessible. It is a catalytic channel that is fun, engaging and interactive, aimed to raise awareness among disadvantaged government school children of the value of learning science. The MSLs travel to remote schools with 100+ hands-on science models covering a wide range of topics in physics, chemistry and biology for Classes 5 through 10. The teaching approach is consistent with India’s National Curriculum Framework and the topics overlap the syllabus of National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
There are also experiments not directly correlated to the state syllabus that are intended to spark curiosity and encourage interaction and questions among the children. Children are better able to relate to concepts explained through interactive demonstrations rather than through rote learning. MSLs have been found to be highly effective in delivering large science fairs, and reaching community members through night visits too. Night community visits allow the students’ parents, family and community members to participate in learning sessions about various beneficial topics.
“At Ashland we believe good chemistry is not only about innovative, differentiated science, but also about the way people come together to make a difference,” said Luis Fernandez-Moreno, Ashland senior vice president and president of the Chemicals Group. “With a primary focus on education, the environment and health and human services initiatives, we provide support both financially and through hands-on involvement. We are glad to partner with Agastya for this important community initiative.”
“All companies today want to hire the best talent. Hence, it is also our responsibility to invest in expanding this pool for a sustained future. This partnership with Agastya to bring science in an innovative way to young children is a small step in that direction from Ashland,” said Nelson Corda, general manager, Consumer Specialties, Ashland Specialty Ingredients, Rest of Asia.
Added Sai Chandrasekhar, chief of operations, Agastya International Foundation: “Through the mobile science labs donated by Ashland, we plan to reach out to more than 16,000 students and their teachers. Teachers will be trained with an aim to disseminate knowledge and propagate creative-thinking and problem-solving skills.”
The community involvement plan for Ashland is a blended mix of both financial and engagement support. Employees would be participating in various programs that would require them to use their technical and professionals skills in the arena of social responsibility.