A geologist reaches out
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Addressing a motley bunch of young students at the American Centre in Kolkata earlier this week, Nigel Hughes talked about the basic tenets of historical geology to instill in them a scientific bent of mind.
A professor of geology at the University of California, Riverside, and a strong advocate for scientific outreach to young children, Nigel released his book, Monishar pathorer bon (Monisha and the stone forest), inspired by the Geological Society of India's outreach mission to school students.
The book, about a young girl's discovery of a stone tree inspires young minds to devise their own dekho, bhabo, abar dekho approach of looking, thinking and then looking again at the world.
Based on scientific facts, acute observation and reason-based deductions, the book demonstrates the young girl's quest to attain knowledge about gatchpathor (petrified tree), which eventually leads her to understand the precarious relationship man shares with nature.
It is through the means of this story that Nigel introduces to the young children the basic principles of geology, urging them on to a self-exploratory path.
Hughes said the book is an attempt to reach out to underprivileged children in India and Bangladesh, and show them that one does not need specialised education or training to attain knowledge.
The book, he added, provides them with the stimulus to develop a scientific method of thinking and help them understand the planet better.
The book has already reached 1,500 students in West Bengal through 16 interactive sessions held by Nigel last year. He will be travelling to Bangladesh later this week to conduct similar sessions.
He has been working in the Himalayan region as a paleontologist for two decades to understand the evolution of Earth and life.
Having spent a considerable amount of time in India, particularly in West Bengal, he fell back on his own experiences in the country to set his book in rural Bengal.