Monthly Archives: December 2008

the spirit of christmas

©Universal Press Syndicate. Original work by Bill Watterson.

©Universal Press Syndicate. Original work by Bill Watterson.

As usual, the day before the actual Christmas, it was celebrated with much gusto at Namma Shaale – on 24th December itself.

The children had been toiling for quite a while to set up a cute ‘nativity’ scene, preparing to sing quite a few carols, with some background music to boot – what with the erdkinder supporting the music sessions with a drum set and couple of electric guitars. Good ol’ trustworthy Anthony set up the mike system and the forenoon session came to a close with all children having fun and veggie burgers and much else from the famed  amma bakery of Banawadi!

The afternoon was quite novel in the sense that – all children and adults associated with the school had been asked (a couple of weeks earlier) to come up with homemade/handmade gifts – to be given to another child/adult from the school. Lots had been drawn and the lot of these folks were decided and each gifter (argh!) knew and got to spend sometime (in a structured manner)  with the giftee (argh! argh!!) – so that gifts could be appropriately thought about and worked upon.

All in all (it is not just another brick in the wall), I must say that this was a very good success, in the sense that the range of gifts that were made (and handed over on 24th) was very wide and there were quite a few targetted and cute ones – of course, all painstakingly handmade.  Of course, the ‘adults’ (‘teachers’ in Montessoriese) had taken extra care to come up with their ideas and it is amazing that they had the time do these – what with their nammashaale responsibilites and home related ones.

Apparently many parents seem to have caught on to the nammashaale zeitgeist and have suitably pitched in. They have had their creative juices flowing too, and with their ideas getting translated to a good form by their children – the effect was so nice… The children are truly gifted!  (and let us hope that those few parents who couldn’t spend as much time, energy etc with their children, would do that the next time)

What fun we had – and how nice it was, NOT to share any commercially made flimsy & gross contraption – and to talk (show off) in detail about how a gift was made…

It is really incredible, if one lets the children be, me thinks.

And for once, we proved the inimitable Bill Watterson wrong about our own kahlweens, I mean! 🙂

Visit: Foundation for the Revitalization of Local Health Traditions

Last monday (15th December, 2008) children with the upper elementary group and the erdkinder visited  FRLHT– its medicinal farm and office, off Yelahanka, Bangalore. This is a short report on the visit. (in all, some 20 children and 4 adults took part) 

Prior to the visit, the children with the upper elementary have been working on the various ways of taxonomizing and identifying the plants (based on various parts of their ‘bodies’ – I mean, plants’) and have been feverishly labouring on leaf, flower samples, reports and stuff. The erdkinder, on their part, had been getting trained for the past several weeks at a nearby horticultural farm of APD (Association of People with Disabilities) on various aspects of horticulture – in a hands-on kind of way. 

We left at circa 10 AM. Namma Shaale is about 15 kms from FRLHT farm and, we travelled by the school bus and happily avoided all the traffic snarls of the city (as we decided to take a ‘short-cut’ thru the picturesque route of kannur-kogilu-yelahanka). 

On reaching FRLHT, we were courteously shown around the farm. The consultants from FRLHT – Sri Sriram and Smt Pushpa, enthusiastically took us around their nursery, patiently explaining to us the various features of herbs, their curative properties and much else.

We also visited their Zodiac Garden (a circular garden, comprising the mappings of zodiacal signs to trees/plants), Gauri-vrath Garden (they had an arrangement of some 24 herbs around a waterbody, apparently, all used during this vrath), Endangered species (‘red list’) garden and a water garden.

Apparently, there are experiments going on in the hospital (FRLHT has an hospital and a research centre) about the curative possibilities of the association of human beings and plants – falling under the same zodiacal signs. We should get more details later…

The consultants allowed the children to taste and smell various herbs and, obvioulsy, the children too took it like a herd of goats would take to a lush garden. Seriously. They were hell bent on tasting every leaf and flower, literally unherd of in the entire history of Namma Shaale! 

They took an apparent liking to arisi tippili / pippali (Piper longum) and madhunaashini (Gymnema sylvestre) – the former for its cough-syrup-like-aftertaste and the latter for the magical vanishing of the ability to taste sweetness/sugar for some half-an-hour after one munched on it. 

Of course, we saw to it that what they ate were not dangerous at all, so fellow parents, don’t you worry.

Post a hasty lunch, we went to FRLHT’s annexe and saw the herbs preserved in green house under humidifiers. And of course, all of us loved to get nicely drenched in the cool drizzle of the humidifiers, what with the sweltering heat outside… The children of course wanted to spend some more time, some more time AND some more time…

But, by then, it was time for us to get back. 😦

We have decided to go back to the FRLHT nursery to get plants and saplings for the school herbal garden, as soon as we could.  As a followup activity, the children plan to write reports and discuss herbs & health traditions. May be we could have a herbarium too, what do you think?

Finally — Kudos to FRLHT folks for their attempts to preserve a facet of our rich heritage – and thanks a lot to them too, for all the time and energy spent with us!

James Clavell on Education

James is a guy better known for his novel – Shogun and a few others. But, not many folks realize that he was also an able teller of short stories. For a parallel case from the realm of the debilitating pulp, Jeffrey Archer (whose name should be familiar) also happens to be a reasonable short story writer.

But, am digressing…

I had read this story of James Clavell –  The Children’s story,  many years back – and now, thanks to the efforts of Arvind Gupta, this is available online and I read it again, oh, the horror, the horror… with shades of the ‘animal farm,’ ‘keep the aspidistra flying’ and ‘1984;’ it is a very short *horror* scienc_fiction (or is it really?) bereft of blood & gore or hitech hijinks and so please read it – it would take just 10 minutes, max. It is also a telling comment on what ‘education’ can do to our thoughts and ourselves.

This brings up Dharampal and his great research work on Indian Education prior to the advent of the Brits –  ‘The Beautiful Tree’ – but would reserve it for later…

Experiment: You *are* powerful!

Did this experiment with the children, after I completed (and they assimilated, hopefully) the prerequisites. It was fun.  We climbed up and down the stairs of the over head water  tank – located at some 11 meters from the ground level.

We plan to have a couple of hours of discussion dealing with the subject, (with the children) and will post the details / feedback later.

The following text gives the ‘template’ for doing the experiment.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of what power, work and force mean.

Suggested Target group age band: Elementary – or as soon as children know how power and work are related – energy is the capacity to do work, that is.

Since, how to conduct and record properly formed / controlled experiments has been taught to Erdkinder, it is apt for them too.

Goal(s):

  1. Understanding the units of work (Joules), force (Newtons), energy (Watts)
  2. To know how they are related
  3. What are potential and kinetic energies
  4. To explore whether there are other kinds of energies

Ingredients/Apparatus required: A stop clock (a wrist watch would do too); measuring tape/ruler; weighing machine; a few flights of stairs; children whose energies need to be taken out; the usual notebook and pencil.

Experimental procedure: Time how long it takes a child to walk up a set of flights of stairs; measure the height from the bottom to the top of the flights, If needed, measure the height of one step and multiply it by the number of steps.

Take the mass (not weight!) of the child (measure it with the weighing machine; wonder why it is called the weighing machine, though!).

Computation:

Take the weight of the child in Newtons (mass (= in kgs) X g (= acceleration due to gravity – circa 9.81 meters x second-2 – for easy computation, you can use 10 meters x second-2)) and multiply the total height scaled. This would give the gain of potential energy by the child when he/she goes up.

The work done is in Joules – which is actually kgs X meters X second-2 X meters

Now divide this gain in potential energy by time taken (in seconds) to give the child’s power in Watts.

All children can do this computation. If there are issues of physical inabilities/disabilities, then the adult would have this child do the compute/time etc.

Suggestions:

The children can take turns and measure their power – while one climbs up, the other can time it, etc.

It would be ideal if there are many flights of stairs, but if not one can try climbing the railings of over head tank or if this not available, may be one can even walk.

  • Driving home: Work done = force x distance moved in the direction of the force
  • Driving home: Energy is the capacity to do work
  • Driving home: Power is the energy transferred in a given time; or the capability to do energy transfer in a give time.

Effect: The linking of the text-bookish understanding of force, power and work to something concrete that all of us do on a daily basis. And, the fact that we can measure our power output in a fun way. Thusly, the power of wow!.

Questions for discussion: All thru the presentation, questions from children need to be positively encouraged; to elicit the opinions of children the following types of questions can be posed:

  1. What is your weight in Newtons? (mass in kgs x ‘accleration due to gravity’ in meters/second2)
  2. What would be your weight on say, Moon.
  3. Why can’t I measure the time of my coming down the stairs. (actually you can do that; the thing is there would be a decrease in potential energy and the force of the earth (gravitation) would help you unlike while going up)
  4. What happens when – I carry on my back someone else and walk up? Would he/she have done some work too? Is there a difference in energy of both? What about the power of the person carried?
  5. What could happen if there were no gravity? What would be the difference if we were doing the experiment on the moon?
  6. If the children run up the stairs as opposed to walking up, does it make a difference to their power? (can it be linked to the formula)
  7. If they carry an additional weight, would it make a difference to the power or the work done? To know this does something need to remain constant?
  8. Is there a connection between the power of the individuals and say incandescent bulb wattage ratings such as 100W or 60W or something? Do they actually measure the same? Are we talking about similar things here?
  9. In the same vein, is there any connection to the power output of the vehicles?
  10. If we use or expend/exert similar energy/power while riding bicycles as with walking or climbing, how come we go much faster for the same power output?

Eventually the children should be able to zero-in on the principles behind the effect on their own, but if not, they can be given clues and similar effects.

Closure: There should be definite closure to the demo – repeating and reaffirming the basic principle involved; can take the form of ‘Look, this is what I did and this is what happened. Do we agree that this could be a reason? What do you think happened? Was it <any of the (off tangent) suggestions from the children> or <any of the correct explanations>.’

This will close the activity at the class / environment.

Records / notes: These should be created by the adults for each instance of the experiment – typically as appendices to the same document so that ‘lessons learnt’ could be captured and disseminated later on. This could be some interesting diversions or some interesting questions etc etc.

Precautions: Safety first – the adult has to do the climbing at least once (to see if the stairs or slippery or corroded or whatever danger that could lurk in there) and if the railings are not safe, then walking on the road can be resorted to instead.

Children should not be allowed to crowd around the railing area. No need for any cheerleading or catcalls as this is a ‘scientific’ experiment.

Suggested activities: The children, as a way of reinforcing their learning, should do these; these typically could take the form of the following:

  1. Encouraging them to perform the experiment at home – for the benefit of parents. (may be)
  2. Conducting a quiz on the factoids (oral / written) the following day.
  3. Extensions that the children can be prompted to explore. Are kinetic and potential energies related?
  4. Can the child ‘increase’ its power output – if so how (stamina is the other word for power in the human context and so regular training would help – coupez la difficulte en quatre)
  5. Assuming that the kids do the timing/climbing everyday – can the children draw a graph showing how their power is increasing over a period of time?

Sources:

  1. My impromptu experiments with a few adolescent children many years back. I think any self respecting physics book would cover this kind of experiments and therefore there is nothing major or new here at all.
  2. There could be quite a few websites dealing with the stuff. In any case, NO claims to originality are being made here. And we don’t claim any copyright either!
  3. The purpose of putting up this stuff is to enable others use the method or the madness, if they so desire.
  4. Please refer to the earlier post – these experiments can be done at home too!

Please feel free to comment on the content and style. Suggestions for improvement of the procedure  or feedback after using the idea are welcome.

🙂

Earth Child

A few days back, I was in the workshop, trying to rig up an experiment for my Erdkinder (“earth children’ in german, ‘adolescents’ in Montessoriese, children in the age band 12-15 years).

Presently two little heads pop up thru the crack in the door, suitably armed with chubby cheeks and big eyes. Eminently edible, I thought!

They want to know whether they can come in, and I wave them in.

So these two 4.5 year olds land up (one, my son) and are very curious about what I am doing. I tell them and ask the other child – Okay young man, where do you live.

I expect a mundane or a routine answer such as a Kalyan nagar or a Koramangala or a Hennur – and keep whittling the piece of wood that I was working on.

But the child says – Earth!

*goosebumps*

Truly a world citizen, I think – so aware at the tender age of four and a half!

How many times in one’s life that one is suddenly ambushed by the innocence and wisdom of the children. I felt so privileged….

Apparently, their adult (‘teacher’ in  Montessoriese) in their environment (‘class room’ in Montessoriese) had been singing them a song about the solar system and a line was there to the effect that we live on Earth.

What a cute internalization!

I see that the gestalt effect has gotten completely watered down in this post – but you know what I mean…

Empty-purse Barefoot Experiments that make interesting demos in school or at home…

The basic Montessori curriculum has tonne loads of nice presentations and experiments (and Namma Shaale is well equipped with all these), and if only one has the time to sit with the children, he/she would be amazed at the kind of depth and breadth of knowledge any child has.

The framework attempted to be presented here is merely one of probably very many ways of adding more to the bucket, so that interesting activities can be done with the children, with a view to consolidating their ideas about the universe.

This document has to be read from the perspective of a non-montessori trained person, who means well, and who likes working with the enthusiastic and marvellous Erdkinder at Namma Shaale.

Your comments are most welcome.

——-

Notes / preamble:

The idea is to document the various interesting experiments (that can lead to Aha! type discoveries by children – in sciences and humanities) which can be undertaken with a little bit of care and preparation – but with very little investment (if any) by way of equipment.

If an adult has sufficient resilience and some reasonable grounding in liberal arts, she/he would find it easier to do the experiments and elicit the opinions of the children – so there is no need for an erudite science expert or ‘resource person’ to deliver the fun ideas – as the idea of documenting these experiments is to dispense with these.

All along the presentation, the ‘stealing of thunder’ from children would sought to be avoided and the children would merely be nudged towards discovering the law or the principle behind what’s happening – provided they have the prerequisites in place.

The experiments need to be part of a framework (eventually) of experiments that all children need to be exposed to – at the level of Erdkinder. And by way of reverse integration, all these experiments have to link back to concepts / presentations made as part of the primary and elementary curricula in the school.

The time taken per experiment will vary between 15 mins to 20 minutes excluding discussions – but this has to be recorded and averaged as we collect more data.

All the experiments would tend the follow the following format – and there shall be one parent document per experiment.

Prerequisites: What are the things / nuggets of information that the children need to know before they can appreciate the experiment or the effect.

Suggested Target group age band: This would vary anywhere between primary to elementary to erdkinder – that is from may be 6 years to 15 years (and more). But this ageband criterion is not to be treated very strictly – if from the perspective of ‘readyness’ of a child or a given group the experiment would merit presentation, so be it.

Goal(s): What are the factoids that can be practically seen and verified by children and what are they expected to do.

Ingredients/Apparatus required: This set of items should be kept ready before beginning the presentation, unless an ‘effect’ is sought to be created in the minds of children, by ‘casually’ taking an otherwise dull and mundane thing or a set of objects and creating an Aha! situation.

Experimental procedure: This will be detailed and if necessary, should have diagrams.

Effect: The details of the experiment will lead to this and this will be rather cute or counterintuitive in most of the cases – to capture the imagination of the child. Or it is so common that we take it for granted, but the principle behind this is so very cute. So the effect should be able to clearly demo the principle and which is sought to be ‘discovered’ by children.

Questions for discussion: All thru the presentation, questions from children need to be positively encouraged; to elicit the opinions of children the following types of questions can be posed:

o Why – this prodding will work normally

o Why not – this kind of prodding will produce amazing results and will truly be real learning for adults too!

o What happens when – To make the children think about the given framework and what can be thought within the framework

o What could happen if / if not – These are gadenken experiments and children would enjoy these modes of questions; these are out of the framework or the basic context of the experiment.

Eventually the children should be able to zero-in on the principles behind the effect on their own, but if not, they can be given clues and similar effects.

Closure: There should be definite closure to the demo – repeating and reaffirming the basic principle involved; can take the form of ‘Look, this is what I did and this is what happened. Do we agree that this could be a reason? What do you think happened? Was it <any of the (off tangent) suggestions from the children> or <any of the correct explanations>.’

This will close the activity at the class / environment.

Records / notes: These should be created by the adults for each instance of the experiment – typically as appendices to the same document so that ‘lessons learnt’ could be captured and disseminated later on. This could be some interesting diversions or some interesting questions etc etc.

Precautions: The usual stuff – but that which cannot be ignored!

Suggested activities: These should be done by the children as a way of reinforcing their learning; these typically could take the form of the following:

o Encouraging them to perform the experiments at home – for the benefit of parents. (may be)

o Conducting a quiz on the factoids (oral / written) the following day.

o Extensions that the children can be prompted to explore.

Sources: Wherever possible there should be citations. We can also openly share our documentation.

Revision history:

$$ Created: 18th August;      ver 0.1    $$

$$ Revised: 15th December; ver 0.2    $$

Again, comments are welcome.

Short films made by Namma Shaale Erdkinder…

Once again, this is a slightly dated information.

Last year the Erdkinder (a few of whom took the ‘secondary school leaving certificate’ exams (1oth standard) under various streams last academic year – 2007-8) managed to can short films, each with a duration of circa 3 minutes, under the guidance of Sanjay Nambiar.

There was a news coverage  by Deccan Herald about this.

http://www.deccanherald.com/CONTENT/Oct132007/metrosat2007101230201.asp

But as it happens with any news reportage, Deccan Herald got some details wrong. The children made about 5 films (and not 20)  but each of them did EVERYTHING that has to be done in a typical film – from planning to production to post production to screening and handling questions with panache.

Incidentally, Sanjay’s children  go to Namma Shaale.

Namma Shaale info

Thanks to Jayashree Janardhan Ashok, there is this info available off Learning Network, India.

http://www.learningnet-india.org/groups/karnataka/NammaShaale/index.php