Collaboratively Understanding Biology Education (CUBE) program is an alternative paradigm to integrate learning by-doing and research into school and college education system. It aims to trigger and nurture innovative, creative, investigative, research based and collaborative learning into education which can develop scientific thinking and scientific curiosity among students. CUBE program envisons to change biology teaching, in a way that biology which is taught should automatically reflect biology we do, engaging in an endeavour where students learn by being practically involved into it not only improves their ability to understand how biologists conduct research but it also prepare them to evaluate scientific claims in their day-to-day lives. This rightly falls under the mandate of “The Vision and Change: Call for Action” report,which inspires CUBE. Further 21st-century science students need to engage in authenticate discovery based exercises and integrate the research experiences and skills acquired into understanding, solving and making informed decisions on complex problems related to science and those encountered in their daily lives. To develop these aspects and innovative changes CUBE program was started in summer of 2012, at the Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education (HBCSE), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) with 18 students (from 4 colleges)in Mumbai most of them 1st and 2nd year undergraduates, since 2015 CUBE works in collaboration between Kishore Bharti organization and HBCSE, TIFR, today the program has reached to about 2000 students, involving more than 50 colleges and several schools, and has developed CUBE Hubs at more than 100 locations across India, some of the colleges which are part of CUBE Program are Sree Narayan College, Natika, Elphinstone College, Mumbai, RJ College, Mumbai, ANDC College, Delhi, Dr.Shyama Prasad Mukheerjee University, Ranchi, Somaiya College, Mumbai, M-Ward Govandi, TISS, Mumbai etc. CUBE Kishore Bharti program has also collaborated with Breakthrough Science Society, West Bengal and has been part of popularizing science across country.
CUBE program is distinct in the ways that it vertically integrates schools and college students, teachers and researchers together in a learning environment where school students learn along with college students, and vice versa, and through peer to peer collaborative learning by involving into hands-on activities, and research projects. Bringing research institutes together has helped not only to merge science institutes which are generally isolated with students but it also has enriched the relavance of how work which students do with frontier research. CUBE has been found that school students’ curiosity has brought various new dimensions of thinking about various topics including opening up new research areas. CUBE projects revolve around simple model systems which can be easily found anywhere and they are basic entry points to involve and engage students into interesting scientific endeavours and make their thoughts filled with curiosity. CUBE believes in collaboration as a means of advancing knowledge and research culture, for which it invites people from all sections of society including citizens to join and engage into science and citizen science projects, for which CUBE has a slogan,
“All Week, Meek and Geek are Welcome”
CUBE labs are very simple looking but discovery-based approach which is involved in each project and research questions build a scope for developing sophisticated ideas and even laying scope for developing frontiers questions which scientists engage in. Therefore CUBE follows, a quote as said by great Indian scientist Obaid Siddiqi that, “Sophistication is required in Mind not in Lab”
CUBE through its experience has found that students not only develop scientific, discovery based thinking and research attitude but also the topics discussed in CUBE help them to understand their school and college sullabus in a more better ways. CUBE also performs activity to develop Concept maps with projects which students do, which is called Context to Curriculum which shows how CUBE builds bridge with curriculum.
Through years of experience of CUBE program it has been found that CUBE pedagogy is efficient in its ways in not only involving students into research culture and getting them exposure to frontier research, but at the same time bringing their curriculum into relevance and advancing their concepts to higher levels. Analysing CUBE pedagogy, methods and cognitive and conceptual changes in students learning and doing research are part of research work on science education are integral to CUBE program.
CUBE program curremtly is also working with home labs, which are research activities students have started to perform at home by using simple model systems. CUBE program follows daily causerie or informal discussion, which currently takes place through online medium called CUBE Chatshaala where students daily share and discuss their work and several of scientific concepts through online means from acriss country which has briken all barriers of knowledge sharing and has advanced their ideas on science that science can be done even at home
CUBE conduct several daily activities and many workshops every year, such as CUBE Summer Workshop, CUBE Christmas Workshop, CUBE Diwali Workshop, along with National level conference and meets.
Here are some of the activities of CUBE;
CUBE Students in a peer-to-peer discussion about their research work in CUBE STEM Workshop, Feb, 2019
CUBE Lab discussions, in causerie in CUBE Summer sessions
Presentation during CUBE Summer workshop
School students engaged in observing and collecting their model plants from garden
A young school student using microscope to take photos of his organisms
CUBE Students observing their model system in microscope
School and College students working together on various projects
CUBE activities include involving students into various research projects with simple model systems, involving citizens into curiosity driven citizen science projects which involves collaboration, massive data collections, and analysis to inferences of natural phenomena. CUBE activities also involve causeries which are face to face regular duscussions and online Chatshaala which are online discussions where students get space to share their work, ask questions, develop ideas, develop theories, correct misconceptions and even publish their work collaboratively.
Simple Model Systems
CUBE labs involve in research on various model systems such as Moina, Drosophila, Earthworms, Snails, Nematodes, Protozoa, Bacteria, Rotifers, Hydra and even plant model systems such as Cardamine, Phyllanthus all of which can be grown and cultured in simple ways and at the same time can be used to address frontier biological questions such as Epigenetics, Learning & Memory, Regeneration, Decision making, Evolution, Genetic engineering and so on.
Hydra model is a classical model to study regeneration, which is being used in CUBE
Moina is a fresh water crustacean which is used in CUBE lab to study frontier areas like Epigenetics and Haemoglobin gene regulation
Drosophila is a model system which is most famous classical model to study areas like Learning and Memory, Evolution
Earthworm is a well known model to study regenerative biology and Stem cell research
Snail model is used in CUBE to study learning and memory
Butterfly model is used to study Mimicry, Evolution, Developmental biology, etc
CUBE Citizen Science Projects:
CUBE undertakes several citizen science projects to bring even common citizens to participate in science activities and learn science. Some of CUBE citizen science activities involve Tree Mapping, Mango Mapping project, Nail Growth study using Election-Ink Mark, Bird Behavior Watching, We & Weather, etc
Mango Mapping Activity, is a well known activity in CUBE where entries from across country are collected to know bhaviors such flowering, fruiting, leaf sprouting, etc in mango trees in different regions, further studenies are done to find out a common pattern in mango flowering, fruiting behaviors, and how does light period (photoperiodism) affects these patterns are studied by participants
Mango mapping study by CUBE students, in 2017 showing flowering patterns (in yellow) and fruiting patterns (in green)
Nail Growth Study, is another unique study initiated by CUBE which involves taking pictures of Nail with election ink mark every often and measure the nail growth. This gives an idea on nail growth rate in different populations, different age groups, etc and further this pattern can be compared with sereval medical conditions, or with different environmental conditions, etc. CUBE invites participation in Nail growth rate activity almost after every election
Tree Mapping Activity, involves mapping trees from such as Gulmohor, Copper pod, etc from across country and map it with latitude and logitude in Tree mapping portal developed by Gnowledge lab at HBCSE, TIFR. This activity will help us to know tree density, their behaviors and also locate places using trees as landmarks.
Image of Gulmohor tree mapped by participants engaging in Tree mapping activity
CUBE Chatshaala is an online mode of discussion, engagement, sharing and collaborating about project work which students do from their home labs, it has been success with more than 50 participants, participating in it almost on daily basis from different oarts of India which includes students, teachers and researchers as well
CUBE Home Labs:
CUBE Home labs are developed by students at their respective homes, showing that science can be done even in kitchen or balcony, CUBE has been initiating Home labs since past three years, but with lockdown during pandemic CUBE Home labs have become most important part of daily science activities.
Students from across country have been trying to modify and simplify theur research work so that they can do it with things obtained in their vicinity or kitchen, which could act as replacements for lab based chemicals, equipments, etc.
Students have developed ways to develop microscopes at home to capture microbes which need magnification to be seen. Other groups have developed alternative protocol to prepare culture mediums to grow organisms at home
Here are some pictures of activities done at CUBE Home labs;
Preparing culture medium for fruit flies at home lab in Kerala
Identifying local fruit flies with wing characters at home lab in Ranchi
Identifying fruit flies with different morphological characters at home labs in Kerala, Mumbai, West Bengal
Studying life cycle of Cardamine garden plant at home lab in Kerala
Studying life cycle of Common mormon butterfly at home lab in Kerala
This is map of CUBE Home labs across India participating almost on regular basis in CUBE home lab activities and online CUBE chatshaala
Context to Curriculum:
The map of concepts connecting to curriculum is built by students to find relevance of their project work with curriculum and bridge the gap between project and curriculum
Concept map on Earthworm model by CUBE participants
Concept map on Moina model by CUBE participants
Concept map on Cardamine model by CUBE participants
Concept map on Hydra model by CUBE participants
News Coverage of CUBE:
Article on contribution of CUBE published in DNA, in 2015
CUBE Structure & Pedagogy
CUBE Structure is complex it involves interaction between students, mentors with model systems and research questions. CUBE promotes constructionist pedagogy which believes in construction rather than instruction as a foundation of projects, further cube imbibes collaboration and group participation in building knowledge and constructing meanings, group cognition is basis of CUBE pedagogy.
CUBE also gives importance and priority to culture of science rather than content of science, and tries to inculcate research culture and sceintific methodology aong students so that they become creators of knowledge
Article published in India Bioscience, on initiation of CUBE program in 2012, and ideas and motivations behind it
Article published in India Bioscience in 2013, on Transforming Undergraduate Science Education through CUBE program
Article published in 2013 on simple model systems and sophisticated questions the scientific legacy of Obaid Siddiqi, who is one of the inspirations behind CUBE program
Publication on ‘Populating India with STEM Spectators: Gully Cricket Model of Spreading STEM Culture’ in Proceedings of the Conference on Integrating Science with Society, Jadhavpur University, Kolkata, Dec, 2018
Video Recordings on CUBE:
Video Recordings of Online CUBE Chatshaala, 2020
Video (Part-1) on CUBE-CLEAR Conference organized at HBCSE, TIFR, Feb, 2019
Video (Part-2) on CUBE-CLEAR Conference organized at HBCSE, TIFR, Feb, 2019
Video (Part-3) on CUBE-CLEAR Conference organized at HBCSE, TIFR, Feb, 2019
Talk by founder of CUBE Dr. MC Arunan at Jadhavpur University, Breakthrough Science Society, 15th-16th Dec, 2018
CUBE Winter Meet 2018 – CUBE Awards, Mango Phenology, CUBE Movies, Conclusion
CUBE Winter Meet 2018 – Studies on Model Systems — Moina, Mosquito, Snail, Cardamine, Rotifers
CUBE Winter Meet 2018 – Studies on Model Systems — Earthworm, Fruitfly (Drosophila)
CUBE Hubs Across Country:
This is the spread of CUBE participants from different parts of country who joined for CUBE Workshop in Feb, 2019