Young Scientists at work

Have you ever been so consumed by a project that it takes up all your spare time?  For the last few weeks, a group of 20 girls from 8th standard have been working very hard on research projects for a city-wide research competition, City as Lab. In this activity, students had to develop a research question, design an investigation to answer it, carry out the research, and then write it up as a formal research paper. Since we are always pressed for time at ALF, all the research work had to take place outside of regular ALF class time, meaning that students had to come to work on four Saturdays, and spend all their independent study time at ALF on their research projects.

Our first task was to go through some basics–what research is, what a hypothesis is, why we have to test hypotheses. To provide girls with some inspiration about things they could research in the city, we took a short walk round our local area.

Students look down on the incredibly polluted Mithi River, which became the subject of two investigations at ALF.
Students look down on the incredibly polluted Mithi River, which became the subject of two investigations at ALF.

Then, girls spent time deciding a topic they’d like to investigate, and coming up with a research question.

Chhaya, Firdosh and Kajal work on their research question.  They ended up studying the biodiversity level in BKC.
Chhaya, Firdosh and Kajal work on their research question. They ended up studying the biodiversity level in BKC.

Over the next few weeks, girls worked on their research with the careful guidance of their teachers. The various groups studied a wide range of things in the city, including particulate pollution levels, acid rain, biodiversity, ideas about diabetes, and ideas about the causes of sickness.

Samples of rainwater ready to be pH tested.
Samples of rainwater ready to be pH tested.
Suhana, Saima and Nisha testing their rainwater samples.
Suhana, Saima and Nisha testing their rainwater samples.
Fahima (and her partner Akanksha) collected nutrition diaries to analyse the nutrition of students in their school.
Fahima (and her partner Akanksha) collected nutrition diaries to analyse the nutrition of students in their school.
Part of a biodiversity tally.
Part of a biodiversity tally.
Sana and Ekra interview Stephen to find out how much he knows about what diabetes patients should eat.
Sana and Ekra interview Stephen to find out how much he knows about what diabetes patients should eat.

After weeks of hard work, students had collected data; however, the work was not over, as they still had to write their research papers!  Girls were very dedicated to writing up their papers, and by and large managed to stick to the formal requirements–each paper had to have an Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion section.

Sumaiya working away on her paper.
Sumaiya working away on her paper.

We submitted the papers on Friday, and now anxiously wait to hear whether any groups from ALF will be called to present their papers at the final conference in South Mumbai in a couple of week’s time. All girls are excited about attending the conference and meeting other student researchers from across the city.

Take a look at the research papers–we think they’re pretty impressive!

An investigation into people’s understanding of diabetes

An investigation of which road is the most polluted road in Dharavi

Biodiversity level near mithi river

effect of mithi river water on the growth and development of mustard plant

The study to find out the acidity of the rain water in Dharavi

A comparative study to find out the biodiversity levels in Dharavi and BKC

A comparative study to find out the effect on particulate pollution.

A Study of nutrition of Mumbai

An Investigation into people’s ideas about why they get Sick

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