Motivation

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Pakistan is going through a difficult period. On one hand, we are dealing with rising levels of societal polarization that is fueled by political, ethnic and religious associations, and economic disparity; andon the other hand, disciplines that are meant to cultivate rational discourse, reason and analysis are either met with suspicion or perceived as antithetical to our socio-cultural and religious values. As a result there is a citizenry that is unable to develop a passion for inquiry, creativity and innovation. In this climate of conspiracy theory, ignorance and a sense of frustration, there is a need for engaging citizens, of all socio-economic strata and stripes, around inquiry, creativity and a passion for innovation. The Lahore Science Mela (LSM) will be a step in this direction.

The second dimension of the need comes from our current curricular challenges and perceptions based on these. Science is considered boring, opaque and dry. Indeed, the approach taken by many in our schools and colleges emphasizes rote learning, memorization and stifle creativity, observation and inquiry. The Lahore Science Mela will aim to make science accessible and fun for everyone.

The third dimension is the lack of opportunity for ordinary citizens to engage in good, clean family fun. With museums either closed down or in urgent need of repairs, libraries all but absent and limited resources to enjoy the plays and theaters in expensive hotels that are beyond their means, the opportunity for typical Pakistan families to enjoy creativity and inquiry have nearly disappeared. The Lahore Science Mela aims to offer an opportunity that is exciting, engaging and accessible to all regardless of gender, age, socio-economic status and prior knowledge.

This Mela will be organized by the partnership of the Khwarizmi Science Society (http://www.khwarizmi.org) and the Ali Institute of Education (http://aie.edu.pk/).

Scope and Diversity

The idea is to have LSM in places that are easily accessible by the citizens of all means and provide activities that do not require any background in science. Hence, the LSM will appeal to a range of individuals, from professional scientists to children who never got a chance to go to school, from prolific writers and thinkers to the laity who, perhaps, cannot even read or write. Whether it is about gazing into the mysterious sky, observing the evolving color or textures of the kheer and firni(local desserts), finding the origin of Lahore’s January fog or uncovering what lies in the earth beneath our feet in “androonshehar”—theidea is simple: to arouse scientific curiosity and a passion for science and technology.

The LSM will rely on faculty at local academic institutions and professionals in industry and also provide an opportunity for university, college and school students to participate andvolunteer, thereby creating an opportunity for academics and students to engage with the citizenry. Students will get an opportunity to work on fun projects and will get to see the city and its people in a different light, and appreciate what life outside the classroom is all about.

The LSM will also have another core purpose. It will dispel the notion that science only meant for the privileged elite. By making the LSM open to all, we will demonstrate that science accepts all with open arms and an open heart. A young girl with little means and illiterate parents has just as much to offer, and just as much to gain, as an affluent businessman with deep pockets. We hope that the LSM will celebrate science as a grand equalizer, and as a means that leads to both intellectual and social sustainability, and economic well-being.