Chantal Mustoe and Jake Lever
Monday, October 1st 2018
My first day at the foundation. I joined the Jasmine class with Geetaji. So that I could understand the English level, Geetaji lead the class in reading “Nikhil in Trouble” from the Oxford English book. In batch 1, I worked with Afzlali and learned about his sight problems. I then helped out with the readings in the other two batches.
Wednesday October 3rd
We completed the comprehension exercises for the Oxford book story. Geetaji did a dictation exercise which I helped to mark. I got to see the children’s abilities at reading comprehension. Some of the children didn’t know how to rephrase text from the passage to answer the question. They really want to just copy a section from the passage. I tried to help them with changing pronouns so that their answers would make more sense. I also worked with Afzlali a little more to understand his problems with writing.
Thursday October 4th
My first time leading the class. We began with questions about what things did and did not involve science. I included jobs and subjects. After a few examples, I asked the children to confer with others on their table and provide an example of something that uses science and something that doesn’t. After some confusion about whether they should be writing things down, and whether they should just answer immediately, the children got the idea and started talking quietly. They gave some vary varied answers and were willing to enthusiastically answer whether some tasks needed science and some didn’t. I then asked the children to draw a scientist with scientific objects. They drew astronauts, chemicals, telescopes and a wide variety of scientific imagery. It was great! I then asked how many had drawn a male scientist. In all batches, most had thought of a man. So I highlighted that many scientists are women.
We then went on to what qualities made a good scientists and what qualities were bad. We talked about intelligence, general good qualities (e.g. friendliness, hard-working, etc) and also some bad qualities. The children gave some wonderful additions, including liar as one of the worst qualities for a scientist. I then moved onto curiosity and “why” questions. After some coaxing and examples of “why” questions (e.g. why can’t I buy mangos now?), they were willing to come up with their own “why” questions. For one batch, we had enough time to talk a bit more about some of the questions, but for the others, we finished there.
Monday October 8th
We used the ReadToMe program in the computer room with all three batches of Jasmine. It was my first time using the software so it took me a few minutes to understand the format and the tools. We also had some sound issues as the speakers on the projector are broken so we tried a few other solutions but ended up using the sound directly out the laptop, which was okay but not perfect. The passage was about keeping India clean which seemed to resonate with the children. I guess they have discussed this in their schools, including the national program to clean up India over the next five years. As well as the vocabulary that the system suggests, we went over some of the new terms. The children were very good at questioning new words that they hadn’t come across and seemed to enjoy my miming to explain many of them. I was impressed by all three batches, though the third was perhaps too eager to write things down and needed to be encouraged to actually read the passage. In the first and third batches, we had time for the children to read sentences individually which showed which of the children still have trouble pronouncing basic vocabulary.
Tuesday 9th October
An exciting start to the topic of Space. I hope to get across the idea of gravity, and that there are places where gravity is different. All the children seemed to be aware of gravity from school and knew the hindi name for it. For the first two batches, I did a classic experiment where you drop a heavy and a light object (in this case, my shoe and a pencil sharpener) and see which lands first. This was to let them see gravity more visually. They will both land at the same time as the weight doesn’t affect acceleration. Unfortunately most children were adamant that the shoe landed first and I had to use a smartphone to record it and slow it down to show that they landed at the same time. We then talked about if there is gravity in India and Canada and some smart children realised that there is gravity all around the Earth and perhaps not elsewhere. The video of the moon landing helped answer if there is gravity on the moon and the children seemed excited by that and found the astronauts having fun on the moon entertaining. We then worked on the “towel-wringing” experiment and all three batches were very happy to help with answers of where the water would go. The third batch were able to guess that in no-gravity that water wouldn’t go anywhere. Everyone then loved the answer video from Chris Hadfield about it. The third batch had enough time to start writing down questions that they would ask an astronaut.
Wednesday 10th October
Today I decided to focus on some of their English skills on the topic of space. To remind them of the concept of zero-gravity, we started (in every batch) with the OK Go music video that is filmed in zero gravity. This seemed to captivate most of the children. I asked the first batch, who hadn’t had a chance to draw any space items, to try drawing themselves in no gravity. As there was only two of them (due to schools being on holiday), we mostly did this and then we showed them some more no-gravity videos from Chris Hadfield. The other two batches were much larger and we focused on their ability to write full sentences. The second batch wrote about whether they wanted to live in space. The third batch, who had really engaged with Chris Hadfield’s video on water in space continued their topic of questions for astronauts. We made them write their questions on the board. A couple of the children were very engaged in spotting mistakes in others’ sentences. The most common issues were missing out “Is” or “Do” after the Why/How at the beginning of a sentence. They’re also obviously confused when to put “The” in and generally don’t.
Thursday 11th October
Today was the start of hands-on science. I checked that each batch was aware of the constellations and when I showed them the Big Dipper, almost every child knew it (with its Hindi name of course). Then we began the “Build a Constellation” activity. This involves attaching strings to a poster of a constellations and tying all the strings to a single washer. With beads on the strings, you can look through and see the beads (stars) of the constellation hanging in space. All the children seemed to love building them. I was impressed by the focus of some of the children who don’t always pay so much attention in class. The manual dexterity as they had to tie strings and thread beads was very impressive. If I told one group the next step, it quickly percolated to the other groups. The key to success is to not tangle the strings, which almost all the groups did a great job of avoiding. The second batch had so much fun that they took their constellations on a tour around the school to show the other teachers. Some of the children were excited to take them home and show their families while others were indifferent to that idea. The main lesson was that while a constellation contains stars which are close in the sky, the stars can be very far away from each other. Some stars are close to earth and some are far away. For first and second batch, I got them to put the beads randomly (i.e. some close and some far away). For third batch, I asked them to use the numbers for each star, so that a number with a lower distance is closer. I was surprised to find that some of them had difficulty finding the smallest number out of 7 numbers.
Monday October 15th
To remind the class about rockets, we started the class with the inspiring video of the SpaceX rocket that launches a satellite and then lands back at Cape Canaveral. The video showed the engineers’ excitement and a large proportion of them were women which we pointed out. After this all three batches worked on their rocket designs this lesson. They had to draw a rocket outline on folded color paper, cut it out and add more designs. In one batch, one child added an India flag and so all of the other children quickly added the motif. I noticed this quite a lot that the children had a hard time coming up with individual ideas and were glad when Geetaji or myself would put out an idea. We gave them more time and some of the designs become more personalized. We then stuck down the rocket designs with glue and added the straws which would be used for the race. At the end of the class, some of the children wanted to take them home so we let them, as long as they remembered to bring them back (which they did).
Monday October 22nd
The plan had been to do the rocket race in Jasmine this day. Geetaji and I did an experiment with one of the rockets in the morning and found it didn’t race very well. So we delayed it so that Chantal and I could make some adjustments to the rockets (needed bigger balloons). Instead, we moved Reading day to this day. We got out a selection of science books from the library at an appropriate level and let them choose their own books. Previously I had noticed that names seemed to trip them up as they would look up proper nouns in the dictionary. This time, I found that past participles seemed to confuse them as they often couldn’t find the past tense (or other form) of a verb in the dictionary. Geetaji also distributed their personal dictionaries which seemed to go down well. In fact, Sana (in 2nd batch) came back the next day with ~50 words written down.
Tuesday October 23rd
I decided to start Life week while we continued to fix the rocket issue. I started each batch with a quick game of FizzBuzz which tests their times tables and is a fun bit of competition. We then moved onto examples of things that are alive and things that are not alive. Most children cottoned on quickly and I got them to discuss more examples in small groups. Some of the suggestions were great, and Bharti in 3rd batch even came up with ‘ghost’ as a tricky one. The most common confusion was about whether plants are alive. Most of the children were aware that trees drink water and some knew they ate food from the soil. So they could guess that they were alive. I then pushed them and asked why a fan is not alive but a tiger is. I got them to discuss it together and all of the batches were able to come up with eating and breathing. We watched a short BBC nature video (Polar Bears or Clownfish) which gave them some more ideas. We then worked through different things (e.g. Lion, Computer) and asked whether they eat, drink, breath, move, grow. And then thought about which ones were important for life.
Wednesday October 24th
Having noticed some of their weaknesses in Reading Day, I decided to focus on some sentence writing exercises. The first batch had had real issues with past participles so I focussed on those and gave them sentences with missing verbs that they had to fill in. They found this fairly challenging so I will likely revisit this in more detail. The second and third batches had to complete sentences to do with Life Week. For second batch, they had to complete the verbs and for third batch, they had to complete the verbs and one other word. I provided the list of verbs and other words so it was a mix-and-match exercise. It requires some logic as there were a couple sentences with more than one solution but only one solution that fit all the sentences. I asked them to work in groups and was impressed, especially by third batch by their willingness to talk and figure it out. At the end, I went over the answers and some of the quieter children were willing to provide a few answers.
Thursday October 25th
Chantal and I had fixed the rocket issue so Jasmine had their rocket race today. I set up fishing line outside the classroom (tied to a window grate). The children affixed balloons to their rockets with elastic bands in the classroom and proceeded outside to race them. All the children had a great time. However there was quite the spectrum of children that were happy after 3 races (and had sore cheeks from blowing up the balloons) to several that kept wanting to race them. The rockets (mostly) raced very well. For those children, who were happy to have raced, I introduced a word race activity back in the classroom. This involves writing English words quickly that start with each letter from a target word. Harsh (in 2nd batch) really got into it and was suggesting larger and larger words. I ran it in groups when the children were less sure and individually for more confident children. This also gave me a bit more insight as there were a few children who have worse spelling than I had realised.
Wednesday October 31st
I wanted to individualise some of the upcoming Life activities and realised that I needed a way for the children to select random numbers (e.g. throw a dice). In all three batches, we made number pickers (which are like Origami fortune tellers). I made them use longer animal names on the outside and science words (that we had added to their personal dictionary) inside. This should hopefully bolster their spelling abilities. Some of the children had made them before and everyone was able to follow along and make their own within the class. In fact, two of the children (Sara and Sana) in second batch arrived with already made ones. I don’t know if they had talked to first batch and quickly made them, or they just happened to have some with them. But I was very impressed. First batch finished quickly enough that we played Fizz Buzz.
Thursday November 1st
We played FizzBuzz with the second and third batches as they didn’t get a game yesterday. Everyone understands it now and a small number of the children are very good at it. They seem to enjoy the competition. I’ve swapped up numbers to test out their different times tables too.
The children were introduced to DNA today. We started off with the concept of a recipe and all the batches had fun correcting me as I asked how to make a chapati. Naz, in third batch, even guessed that we were talking about recipes. She was the only one that knew the word. So then we talked about the recipe for life. I gave them a few examples of animal recipes which they guessed easily. First batch were very fast and we got onto the activity where they made their own animals using the number pickers. They started drawing them at the end of class. Second batch were a bit rowdy and didn’t progress as quickly. Third batch were well behaved. I also showed the classes an animal video and got them to vote on which one they wanted, to encourage some personal choice and make the class more interactive. They seemed to go down well.
Monday November 19th
Monday was my first class with Lily. We started with an icebreaker in all three batches so that I could try to learn their names and also get an idea of their vocab level. I then asked them to write down questions for me so that they could learn more about me. All batches covered the standard questions of age and family, but some children had some very insightful or challenging questions. Why India? Why teaching? And why do I like my sister? I then asked them questions and we began talking about science and what it was. This enabled me to learn what they are currently studying in school and their different interests. Third batch were all much more interested in English at school than in science. Then we began talking about what qualities make a good scientist. I was impressed by some of the general knowledge of the children. Finally we started on the concept of Why questions.
Tuesday November 20th
I used this class to gauge the English writing level in each batch. We introduced several rules of how to change a statement into a question, in order to help them form grammatically correct Why questions. After a few examples, I then set a few exercises for the children. The first batch got through it very quickly, so they started writing their own Why questions. Second batch found it a little more challenging and we had to go over some of them on the board.
Thursday November 22nd
Now that I have a better sense of their English skills and interests, I started the topic of space. We began with a game of Pictionary to see what vocabulary they already knew, and gauge what science they already knew about space. All three batches enjoyed the competitive aspect of it. We then talked about the Moon Landings and discussed a video of Apollo 11. Many of the children had some insightful questions about the event, though none of them had much knowledge of it. The name Neil Armstrong seemed somewhat familiar to a small number of them. Using this video and the discussion, they then began writing Why questions. Some of the children had learned from the previous grammar exercises and wrote very clear Why questions. We began discussing a small number of them before the end of class.
What did you learn this week?
To be better prepared for some of English grammar idiosyncrasies. I thought I knew all the correct rules for making Why questions but realised I actually needed to revisit some of them to make sure.
What was the most challenging moment of the week?
Trying to learn as many of the children’s names as I could. Still working on it (and will be for a while).
What was the most rewarding moment of the week?
Talking with the children about whether they would choose to go into space. It was wonderful to see them weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Also to ask those who definitely wanted to why they wanted to go.
What did you learn this week?
I learnt the power of inspiring videos and demonstrations to encourage the children to ask insightful questions. We watched videos of the Insight Mars lander, a zero-gravity music video and questions to an astronaut in space. We also demonstrated surface tension with a water cup. These all received impressive reactions from the children. In particular, the Mars Lander elicited questions for several days as the children wanted updates on the robot. Karan and Mayank in first batch come up with very insightful questions. And Utakarsh in second batch seems to enjoy trying to find questions that would stump me.
What was the most challenging moment of the week?
This week, I found balancing the different speeds of the batches a little challenging. The different batches worked at quite different speeds on the constellations. This was partly down to the different sizes in batches as first batch got through it very quickly.
What was the most rewarding moment of the week?
The teacher session (on Thursday) with Ruksar was particularly rewarding. We talked about a news article on a recent ethical crisis in genetics as a Chinese researcher edited a babies DNA without proper consent. I was impressed by Ruksar’s reading strategy as she skimmed a paragraph, asked about new vocabulary and then reread to fully understand it. This then lead to a discussion on interesting ethical scenarios and what a future with unregulated DNA editing could look like.
Monday December 10th
Ruksar had run the rocket activities the previous week while I had been ill. I wanted one final day on the space topic to talk about some of the scientific principles that the rockets used. We started off with an update on the Mars Insight rover. Utkarsh in second batch would often ask what the robot was doing now and they seemed interested by the sounds of Martian winds that the robot is sending back. We then talked about why the rockets worked and Newton’s laws of motion. They also enjoyed the video of the recent launch of a Chinese robot to the moon (Chang’4) and a demonstration of Newton’s third law by an astronaut on the International Space Station.
Tuesday December 11th
We started the topic of life (biology) today with questions about what makes things living. They enjoyed the challenge of coming up with actions that a monkey does but a pen does not. Two of the batches came up with stealing which was very entertaining. We then narrowed them down to which actions really define life. All three batches came up with excellent ideas and were rewarded with a video of a polar bear and her two cubs. We then began to ask Why questions about animals and some of the children (Miyank and Utkarsh) wrote down questions very quickly before leaving class.
Wednesday December 12th
Today the school times changed so the attendance was sporadic. There were so few children that we merged classes with Rose where Chantal was teaching about chemical reactions and volcanoes. We went out to the yard to build volcanoes and then returned to Rose to talk about different types of volcanoes and their lava. I was impressed by all of the Lily children who attended that day as they were very good with a new teacher and worked well with the Rose children.
Thursday December 13th
The attendance was actually slightly worse today so we again merged with Rose. Chantal moved on to testing for acids and bases which was a very hands-on activity. The first and third batch merged very well as the there were few children in Lily in first batch and first in Rose in third batch. Second batch was a bit busier and some of the children were moving through the activity much faster than others. Miyank, in particular, worked very well with the Rose boys in second batch. The activity involves looking at color changes and all the children were able to get good results and identify the most acidic fruit
What did you learn this week?
As I had missed out on it the previous week, I quickly caught up on the Little Prince so that I could participate in the reading during teacher session. There is quite a bit of tricky vocabulary and many specifically British-English words that the American volunteers didn’t know so I enjoyed refreshing my memory of these words and learning several new ones. Balderdash!
What was the most challenging moment of the week?
The change in the school times meant that Chantal and I had to adjust things. We realised that a class with a single student really wouldn’t work and that merging Rose and Lily for now would be the best solution. I was pleased to see the Lily children work well in the Rose class.
What was the most rewarding moment of the week?
It was wonderful to take the children out to the yard to let them get hands on building chemical volcanoes with vinegar and baking soda. Many of the other children outside came to watch. They got to see a colourful and exciting reaction in the volcanos that they built with a plastic bottle and a mound of sand. It was very refreshing to take the children out of the classroom.
I also had an interesting talk with Lalit from Rose and his college aspirations. He’s obviously very clever. I wonder if some intensive English tutoring or perhaps even a longer English language course overseas would be beneficial.
Monday December 17th
As this was the final week, Chantal and I wanted to make sure that we got through the last couple activities with the combined Rose/Lily class. I took the lead today and started introducing the idea of inheriting DNA from our parents. We started off talking about their favourite animals and watched a video about sea life. This moved on to the idea of recipes and the children had fun correcting me as I tried to “make a chapati”. We talked about cooking recipes and then life recipes, or DNA. Some of the children, (e.g. Mayank), already knew what DNA stood for. Finally we talked about whether the children looked more like their mothers or fathers and what physical traits they had in common with each of their parents. We then suggested that when they go home that night, they think about this and also for their siblings.
Tuesday December 18th
We brought the inheritance activity to a close today. We talked more about the DNA recipes that different animals have and then proposed the DNA recipes of two monsters (with associated art work). We then got the children to create the DNA recipe for the potential children of these two monsters so that each child would end up with a different DNA mix. They then had to draw the different monster children. This showed the children that, even though the DNA of the parents is the same, the mix can be quite different and so the children can look quite different. Some of the children, (for example Yusran), instantly understand the idea that we were mixing the traits of the two parents and went several steps further in the art work. It was really wonderful to see this. Chantal then wrapped up the class with a final chemistry activity involving testing different things for starch. They had all learned about carbohydrates and starch from Victoria so this was a nice activity to show them how chemists would check for it. They made some excellent inferences and showed their inquisitiveness by finding additional things to test, e.g. scrap paper and orange peel.
Wednesday December 19th
As our last day teaching the biology component, we had a final hands-on activity: extracting DNA from kiwi fruit. Having two volunteers proved very useful as there is substantial prep-work for this activity. While I introduced the topic, Chantal could prepare the chemicals before she took over to run the activity. I reminded the children about the DNA discussions that we had been having, and introduced the idea of cell as the building brick of all live. We then used an analogy to Amer Fort that the DNA is well protected with high walls inside this cell. Then Chantal took over and we started the activity with the children mashing up kiwi, filtering it and extracting the DNA. Most of the children followed the instructions perfectly and got very good results. We finished up with a few questions about why you might even want to get DNA and study it. Harsh remembered the idea of testing to see if two people are related. And then Utkarsh was surprised by the idea that fruit could get sick, and then looking at the DNA could help understand why fruit get sick.
Thursday December 20th
Our last day at the foundation and a very sad day, but also happy as we celebrated my birthday. We had a fun day with the children in all three batches. First batch organised a game of charades and we had a lot of fun as we all took turns with the topics that we had all written down. Second batch were more interested in building using the Jenga blocks. And third batch were most interested in our demonstrations of Scottish dancing and salsa. So three very different classes, but a wonderful relaxed experience with all the children. Simi, from Jasmine, also came over and gave me a very touching card and then had fun with some of the children with a puzzle that we gave them. And we fit in Secret Santa and a surprise birthday cake for me during the tea break. Then we both rushed off to the airport to get our flight to Mumbai. An emotional rollercoaster of a day.
What did you learn this week?
That for some of the more complicated activities, having two volunteers working in the same batch really helped with organisation. This was particularly true for the DNA extraction activity which had been more challenging to do with Jasmine but was a breeze with Rose/Lily.
What was the most challenging moment of the week?
We had planned to do chemistry activities on Monday but arrived to find that some of our supplies had gone bad over the weekend. Chantal and I quickly rejigged our plans and I started the DNA inheritance activity early. I wasn’t really sure how long we would take over it so that was a little bit of a worry but it all worked out well.
What was the most rewarding moment of the week?
All of Thursday was just wonderful with a very relaxed atmosphere with all batches and many birthday wishes from the children and teachers. It was a very magical experience that I won’t soon forget. One final note was that we were very pleased to decorate Rose and Lily with the rockets and I was impressed by the initiative taken by the third batch girls in Lil
Monday October 1st
Today Ruksar and I focused on introducing me to the class and making them feel comfortable around me. Our goal was to give them as many opportunities as possible to ask me questions and for me to ask them questions so I could get to know them too. First we played a name game. Each student came up with an English word and an action (optional); my example was “Silly Chantal” and my action was a silly shake while saying “Silly Chantal”. Ruksar was “Ruksar Rockstar!” Each student would say their word+name, then I would repeat it back to them to make sure I understood. I would add an action if they didn’t provide one, and then we would repeat the name+word+action together as a class. After going through the class once, we repeated it again but faster this time as the words and actions did not change. Then Ruksar had an excellent idea of giving the kids the option of learning more about me. We asked everyone to write down one or two questions (depending on the batch) for me. They read out their questions one-by-one and I answered them. There were some great questions like “what do you want to be?” “what will you teach?” and many questions about my family, favourite hobbies and favourite foods. After answering their questions, I then went to each student in turn to ask them a question about themselves. Ruksar and I felt that we achieved our goal as the lesson ended with many smiles and high-fives.
Wednesday October 3rd:
“What is science?”
Today, I posed the questions “What is science?” “Who uses science?” “What does a scientist look like?” before asking the students to draw a scientist. The 1st batch found the questions very challenging so we helped them understand how many different types of science there are by asking them to list some of their favourite things and then explaining how a scientist might be involved in that. For example, in fruit growing, a meteorologist would predict the weather. We skipped the second two questions for the second batch, and the third batch gave some excellent answers to who uses science like doctors, engineers, and, of course scientists. When drawing scientists, many of the students in the second batch drew an environmentalist with trees and flowers or a female teacher (when they remembered that I am a scientist J). One student asked us if it was OK to draw a woman scientist. I loved this question and Ruksar and I emphatically said yes! The prevalence of environmentalists in the drawings made sense as the students take EVS (or environmental science) in school. The drawings of the third batch were a little more varied with a few science labs and even a bacteriologist (Nikita’s drawing!). My plan is to ask the students to draw themselves as a scientist at the end of my month with Daisy to see how their perception of science has changed during the month.
Thursday October 4th:
“Puzzles and Problem Solving”
Today I wanted the children to use their creativity, curiosity and problem solving skills. I spent the morning prepping games with Jake. I was concerned that my planned logic puzzles from last night would be too difficult for the kids, so I found a few simpler puzzles online. We made tangrams and a sliding number puzzle using a cardboard cereal box. I painted the tangrams and two sets of 8 identical squares for an unusual overlapping puzzle challenge I found on the internet this morning. Jake also wrote out some math puzzles (Fill in the Operator and Fill in the Missing Digits in sum) along with a Find the number of triangles puzzle.
I think perhaps I overestimated the levels of the first two batches with the puzzle skills. The sliding 3-2-1 to 1-2-3 puzzle seemed to go down well with the first two batches as did the tangrams once I had drawn the solutions out for the kids to copy. As making the tangram pictures still requires special reasoning even when the solutions are provided, I found that this was still a sufficient challenge for the students. Unfortunately, the math problems were far too difficult for the students in the first two batches. While the students were able to answer simple arithmetic problems (+, -, and multiplication) that I gave them, the new representation of the problems was very confusing for them. I did notice that simple division problems (i.e. 12 divided by 1) were also difficult for students in the second batch. The overlapping coloured squares puzzle worked a little better for these two classes because the students were able to get close to the answer without it needing to be exactly correct (the same being true for the tangrams). The ‘finding triangles’ puzzles were again very difficult for the first and second batches, but both the ‘finding triangles’ and the tangrams were very good for introducing/reinforcing the following vocabulary words in the 1st and 2nd batches: sizes: small, medium, and big & shapes: triangle, square, rhombus. The group I was working with for the tangrams seemed to understand and remember these words after using them. The shapes of the tangram pictures (rabbit, bear, fish, bird, etc.) were also good for introducing vocab to the 2nd batch of the Daisy class.
Despite the puzzles being challenging, I think the first two lessons were still successful as Ruksar and I agreed that this was still an introduction to a different way of thinking for the students. I reminded myself that my goal was not to have the kids solve the problems but rather for them to learn to think outside of the box, a way of thinking where there are many methods of getting to the right answer. I want to teach exploration and curiosity. However, I have learned that the first two batches need a simpler lesson plan than the third.
The third batch was very different. The kids really enjoyed the logic puzzles. I felt that the level and variety of the puzzles was perfect for their understanding and interest. A large group of boys (~8 students) enthusiastically embarked upon the math puzzles together. Groups worked together to solve the tangram puzzles. While some of the tangram solutions were already drawn on the pages from the first and second batch, some students did successfully attempt the shapes without solutions! One girl in particular was very good and persistent with the ‘finding triangles’ puzzle. I was very impressed and told her so. Some of the younger students found the 3-2-1 puzzle satisfyingly easy and moved onto tangrams and the coloured squares. I would really like to make a more complex version of the 3-2-1 puzzle as so many found this conquerable and engaging (in all three batches!). An informal pole at the end of class showed that different students preferred different puzzles. There was no clear winner for a favourite. Overall, I thought this class was very successful in inspiring the students to think outside the box and explore different puzzles.
Friday October 5th:
1st batch: I read the “Rockets and Spaceships” book out loud. While the students didn’t understand all of the words I was reading, they seemed to understand enough of the words to understand the book. I took special care to read slowly, add in actions, and point to the pictures to help clarify the words I was reading. The students then chose their own books to read. If they found a word they didn’t know, we asked them to write it down and look up the definition in the dictionary. It seemed to work well. The students found the books engaging. One of the taller boys picked up the “Rockets and Spaceships” book to read on his own, and very diligently worked through every page. I was so impressed!
.2nd batch: Again, I read the “Rockets and Spaceships” book out loud. The students found this book very challenging to understand. I realized this when I paused and they would repeat the most recent word I had said and then ask what was in the pictures even though I had pointed out the words while reading. When I realized this, I switched tactics and instead turned the page, waited for the students to ask “Mam, what is that?” and then I would explain what was in the picture in the simplest manner I could think of. I think this worked much better, and while many were still a little confused, they were all very engaged. Abishek and a girl who usually sits at the table behind him are very advanced for this batch and were understanding everything easily. The girl (I’m still working on names) who sits behind him even knows the names of all 8 planets in our solar system! I was very impressed. We then handed out dictionaries in preparation for reading. However, when Ruksar and I asked them to look up the words “astronaut” and “space”, we quickly realized that they had never used a dictionary before. Instead, we spent the rest of the lesson showing them how to use dictionaries by looking up words that pertain to space.
3rd batch: For this batch, I assumed that reading the “Rockets and Spaceships” book slowly and out loud would be too simple, since most of them already know what rockets and spaceships are. Instead, we encouraged them to pick up their own books after they entered the class. We asked them to write down all the words they didn’t understand with the accompanying Hindi translation and English definition. This seemed to work very well, and the children enjoyed the different books. Many traded once they had finished so that they could explore a second or a third book! The only problem I noticed was that some students were more focused on writing down as many definitions as they thought we wanted rather than reading for the enjoyment of exploration. However, as they were learning new vocabulary words by doing this, I wasn’t overly concerned.
Monday October 8th:
All classes: Today was the official start of Space Week! Almost by accident all my lessons today became focused on gravity. I started every lesson with the globe, asking the students to find first India and then Canada and saying that I had taken a plane all the way around the world to come to Jaipur. Then I said that to get from Amer to Jaipur, you might take a car. So how do we get to space? Ruksar gave me the idea for this fun introduction!
1st batch: After the introduction we talked about people going to the moon before watching the Apollo 11 youtube video from the syllabus. We then talked about gravity vs. no gravity, and I dropped a shoe and an eraser and asked the kids which one they thought would drop first. This went down really well and the students were very engaged as I dropped both repeatedly and they tried to figure out which one landed first. We then talked about how there was no gravity in space and then watched Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s youtube video about wringing out a washcloth in space. I think the students loved this. I also showed a brief excerpt of an astronaut floating sideways in the international space station. We then spend the rest of the class drawing the moon, stars, planets, the international space station, an astronaut, something to do with gravity and the earth. We plan to take some time to finish these tomorrow.
2nd batch: The lesson was very similar to the first batch except we skipped the discussion of the moon and the first video as Ruksar and I thought the first video might be a little hard to follow for these students. Again, the students really enjoyed trying to figure out which dropped first: the shoe or the eraser!
3rd batch: As this batch is more advanced, I didn’t think it necessary for them to draw out words which they already know so the lesson for this class was a little different. I started with the same introduction on the globe (discussed above) and then moved onto what is gravity: shoe vs. eraser drop. Then I asked the students if they thought there was gravity on the moon. Some said yes, some said no. Then we watched the first video (same as first class) in which they saw the astronaut and the car driving on the moon. From this they could see that there is gravity on the moon, but it isn’t as strong as the gravity on the earth. I told them about the International Space Station which passes between the earth and the moon and I asked them if they thought there was gravity in space. Most knew that there was no gravity. We then watched the Chris Hadfield wringing the cloth out in space video which everyone really enjoyed. I then told them that Chris Hadfield had made the video because two young girls had asked him “what happens when you wring a washcloth out in space?” I then asked everyone to write down a question that they would have for an astronaut. Ruksar and I went around the room helping everyone with the grammar and spelling in their questions. We then wrote up some of the questions on the board and asked the students to copy them down in their notebooks. I plan to answer these questions to the best of my ability tomorrow with the help of Chris Hadfield’s videos where possible.
Tuesday October 9th:
Gravity and Constellations
1st and 2nd batch: In the first and second batch, I showed an “OK Go!” music video called “Upside Down and Inside Out” as it is recorded in a plane experiencing zero gravity. Balls, balloons, and people go floating and dancing around in zero gravity. Both groups were completely enthralled by the video and we watched it a second time in both classes. After watching the movie, I asked the students to draw a picture in zero gravity. At first some students were reluctant to draw people and objects sideways and upside down but once they realized it was OK, they had fun drawing everything floating. There was a lot of giggles and laughter as they drew objects floating around in space.
3rd batch: In the third batch I introduced the idea of a constellation (a group of stars in which someone has seen a picture and given it a name). I drew the Big Dipper up on the whiteboard and asked the students what they could see in the stars. I pointed out the saucepan and ladle and then they had a few suggestions. I then told them it was named Ursa Major, literally “Big Bear” and drew a bear in the stars. All at once, the students had many other suggestions of what the stars looked like. A fox, a dog, etc. I then drew the stars of Orion on the board and asked the students to connect the dots and try to find their own picture. There were some fantastic drawings of wings, birds, even a helmet! I then introduced the concept of a lightyear as a very large unit of distance that we use to measure how far away stars are. I said that it can take light from a star 100 years to get from the star to the earth and then showed them that when we turn on a light, light travels so fast that we see it almost immediately. We talked about how the sun is 8 light minutes away and the moon is only a couple of light seconds away.
Wednesday October 10th:
Sentences and Constellations
1st and 2nd batch: Today we worked on writing sentences about yesterday’s drawings in zero gravity. I gave the 1st batch fill-in-the-blank sentences such as “The _____ in my picture is ____.” This was very challenging for the first batch and most students wanted to put a noun in both spots. For 2nd batch, I made it a little easier with a suggestion from Ruksar by writing the entire sentence and then getting the students to copy the sentence and circle one of two options to complete the sentence. For example, “Astronauts/Dancers go to space”. The students did quite well with this activity and while we were going through the answers we acted out each one of the words, for example sleeping vs. floating.
3rd batch: Today we made constellations! It went really well. To begin with I distributed the tasks of (1) cutting out black squares, (2) folding the black squares in half and gluing them together and (3) cutting enough long bits of string amongst the class. Once we had the basic supplies, each group cut out their own constellation, glued it to the black background, poked holes in each star to draw a string through each star, adding beads to each string, and tying the strings to the washer that represents the Earth! They were enjoying themselves so much that they didn’t want to leave when the bell rang as they wanted to learn how to position the stars on the strings correctly! It was a very fun class!
Monday October 22nd
Even though most of the students were nearly finished with their rockets, there were 3-4 students in each class who had been absent on Friday and Monday so we spent a third day building rockets and encouraged any students who were nearly finished to add some more design. I was very impressed with their creativity. Abishek even drew an astronaut on a separate piece of paper and then cut a window in his rocket behind which he glued his astronaut. It looks very cool! Everyone was very engaged and working independently, so much so that Ruksar and I had little to do but walk around and provide encouragement.
Tuesday October 23rd
Jake and I discovered on Monday morning that the balloons we had weren’t big enough to power the rockets, so I postponed the rocket races. Instead, today all three classes started their personal dictionaries. I asked the classes for all the words they remembered from “Space Week” and we wrote the words on the board with their Hindi translations. We encouraged the students to draw small coloured pictures next to the definitions. All three classes were very engaged.
Wednesday October 24th:
Today we started our rocket racing in 1st and 3rd batch. First we attached the balloons. I explained to the kids that they would need to give them back to me to reuse once they were finished to be environmentally friendly and minimize pollution. Then I would take 4 students outside at a time, we would set up their rockets and then when they were ready, the rest of the class would come out to watch the race. Everyone had a lot of fun! In 2ndbatch, the students hadn’t glued in their straws yet so we spent the day gluing the straws and making some final artistic touches. Muscan and Kuldeep had been absent for the last few days so this also gave them time to make their rockets. Instead of helping them, some of the other students tried to do everything for Muscan and Kuldeep, particularly for Muscan as she is naturally shy and hesitant. I had to shoo the other students away and keep encouraging Muscan throughout the class but by the end of the class she seemed pleased with her rocket.
Thursday October 25th:
More Rocket Racing!
I wasn’t sure whether to start “Life Week” today or to continue with space with 1st and 2nd batch given that almost everyone had raced their rockets yesterday. Ruksar made the excellent suggestion that we stick to Space as yesterday had been very active with the rockets and it would be a lot to take in to start a new topic. As tomorrow is reading day and Rosenda had encouraged us to slow down with our syllabi if we felt like it would benefit the students, I thought Ruksar’s suggestion made a lot of sense. In 1st and 3rd batch, I gave students a chance to come outside and experiment with the rockets for longer. There were no organized races this time. I just wanted to give them a chance to experiment and play. This worked well with 1stbatch but not as well with 3rd as 3rd batch was more competitive today. Thus, 3rd batch devolved into mini races anyway. This is not a concern, just an observation
My absolute favourite part of today was working with 2nd batch. I didn’t do any organized races for 2nd batch, I just brought 4 students outside at a time and let them experiment and play. As many of the students are naturally shy and quiet this worked really well. A few of the students are reluctant to speak a single word in class (in English or Hindi), and they usually have wide-eyed timid expressions on their faces.
I chose 4 particularly timid students as the first group of rocket races (Nadeem, Sadik, Falak(?), and Kuldeep), and I have never seen them smile so much! They just blew up their balloons again and again and were grinning broadly the whole time. I accidentally let them play a little longer than I intended because I didn’t have the heart to stop them. Nadeem was so happy and Kuldeep was very creative in inventing ways to get his rocket to go faster and faster! The change is Nadeem was especially pronounced, as on Monday, he had apologized to Ruksar in Hindi for not making a very good rocket. Ruksar immediately told him that he had done a good job, but I don’t think he believed it until today when he saw that his rocket was one of the fastest! His reaction to racing his rocket melted our hearts.
Monday October 30th:
Today I began the section on “Life”. In every class we started by making two columns “Living” and “Non-living”. The students in all batches had any easy time telling me what belonged in the living category and what belonged in the non-living category. However, when I asked them what all living things had in common, they were very stumped. To help give them ideas, I asked 1st and 3rd batch to write sentences. They wrote 10 sentences starting with “I can ___”, 10 sentences starting with “All animals can ___” and 5 sentences starting with “Plants can ___”. I asked the students to put action words in the blanks. This was harder for the students than I anticipated. First because they were unfamiliar with the phrase “can do something” and secondly because it was hard for them to think of more than one or two action words. This surprised me as I know they know quite a few verbs, but I realized that it is much harder for them (and most probably anyone learning a new language) to generate words rather than understand words being used by someone else. Once everyone had finished most of the sentences in 1st and 3rd batches, I went through examples on the board. I then asked them what all living things can do, and together we wrote that all living things can eat, drink, breath, go to the toilet, get sick, and reproduce.
In 2nd batch, I started with the same activity of listing “living” and “non-living” things. They found this very easy. Then I created 3 circles on the board, and they drew 3 circles in their drawing books. In each circle, we wrote: “I can…”, “Animals can…” and “Plants can…”. As a class, we came up with ideas for what to put in each circle. Finally we circled what was the same in every circle: “eat, drink, breath, go to the toilet, get sick and make babies”. At the end of the class everyone wrote 6 sentences “All living things can… eat/drink/breath/go to the toilet/get sick/make babies.” This class was the most successful of the 3 I think.
Thursday November 2nd:
Origami tools for understanding life
I have been concerned on how best to get across the idea of DNA to my classes, and Jake had a fun idea of using origami tip-tops to choose numbers to generate pictures of aliens. This is how the tip-tops work: The tip-tops have 4 animals on the top. One animal is chosen and then the letters are spelled out while moving the tip top to reveal 4 of 8 space words. Another word is chosen and then spelled out until another 4 space words are revealed (either the same 4 or the hidden 4). Again, a space word is chosen, but this time the tip-top is opened to reveal a number underneath.
The kids had a lot of fun today. After asking if they had made tip-tops before (many of the older girls had but very few others), I introduced the idea of origami, the art of paper folding. I showed them an origami bird, a ball, a cup and an elephant that Jake and I had made before class, and explained that this art form was from Japan (pointed on globe), just like Mehndi is from India. We then each folded a tip-top, and they patiently worked together as a class while we worked our way through each of the folds. I then asked them to draw and write the names of 4 animals of their choice on the outside of the tip-tops. They then chose 8 space words from their personal dictionaries to draw inside the tip-tops, and then finally they added the numbers. For the remaining few minutes of class they played with their tip-tops.
Also, as my voice is still sore from being sick, we listened to the first few minutes of Gustav Holst’s symphony to Jupiter during meditation. This was a fun change from “breath in and breath out”, and I would like to use music in meditation more often. However, I will need borrow better speakers to attach to my laptop as it was hard to hear the softer parts of the symphony.
Monday November 19
Today was my first day with Rose class. We did some intro-name activities where we said an adjective that starts with the same letter as our names and did an action to match the adjective. Afterwards we discussed what scientists study, what makes a good scientist and curiosity. I emphasized that curiosity and creativity in science is much more important than being clever and studying hard. To teach curiosity, I asked first batch to come up with “why” questions. I didn’t get as far with 1st and 3rd batches so we’ll discuss “why” questions tomorrow. I had so much fun with the classes today. They were engaged, enthusiastic, and excited!
Tuesday November 20
I was so impressed by the “why” questions from both my first and third batches today! Today each batch was different as I decided to answer each of their “why” questions to the best of my ability. They asked questions like “why did the earth form?” “why is India so polluted?” “why can we see colour?” “why did scientists think that atoms had electrons?”. In first and second batch we had fun illustrating how planets and why the earth spins by going out into the courtyard and pretending to be rocks and dust in space. We walked randomly in our own circles and let “gravity” pull us into the center until we had all become one spinning planet together. I also explained the different theories of how the moon might have formed using water bottles crashing into each other. As their were only 2 students in 2nd batch, we finished very quickly and had some fun doing random science experiments. We played with surface tension by overfilling a cup of water, and then we made a simple pendulum and watched how it lost energy and height after it started swinging. In third batch, we finished introductions and only just started with our exploration of curiosity. I will answer 3rd batches “why” questions on Thursday.
Thursday November 22
Today in teacher session Victoria and CJ taught us about Thanksgiving traditions and everyone said what they were thankful for. Lilima brought up the idea that Thanksgiving is actually a sad holiday for Native Americans which prompted another good discussion.
Payal and I had so much fun with the batches today! As they had shown curiosity in asking their “why” questions I thought we should move onto creativity and problem solving, also very important parts of being a scientist. To do this I brought in the logic puzzles that Jake and I had made for Daisy and Jasmine. The puzzles were a perfect level for Rose class. The students were challenged but very engaged. Two of the girls even showed that my answer for one of the puzzles was incorrect and I helped them to prove it to me by drawing out all the different answers. I told them I was so proud of them and that they should be very proud of themselves.
What did you learn this week?
I learned that I cannot respond to all of Lolit’s questions and responses. He has so many good questions and always has a cheeky answer to everything. In order for the other students to get the most out of class, I have started answering his questions about electrons after class and inviting anyone else who is interested to stay and listen.
What was the most challenging moment of the week?
The most challenging aspect of the week is figuring out when 2nd batch is enjoying themselves. I find 1st and 3rd batch very easy to read by comparison, but as 2nd batch is small and the boys are shy, I’m still trying to figure out when they are most interested.
What was the most rewarding moment of the week?
The most rewarding aspect of this week was getting to know Rose class. They are all so enthusiastic and curious. I loved answering their questions and watching them solve the logic puzzles.
Monday November 26th
For the first day of space week I showed 4-5 videos in each class and encouraged them to ask questions. I showed videos about the moon landing, zero gravity, images and videos of mars and the moon. We discussed the fact that the viewed from the moon, the earth look like the moon viewed from earth in that it goes through cycles – full earth, half earth, crescent earth – as this was clearly visible in the videos. We also discussed the mars lander which would be attempting to land later that night, and why there is a high chance of mars landers failing. For 2nd and 3rd batches, I also showed them a app which they can get for free to see the exact positions of the stars and planets around the earth as you move your phone and we also discussed how you can tell different types of stars apart by looking at their color spectrums. To help illustrate this, I let everyone try on diffraction glasses which show all the different rainbow colors in light.
Tuesday November 27th
We started today by talking about the Mars lander Insight which successfully landed on Mars last night and had already sent back its first photo! The first batch had so many more questions that I just spent the day answering them. I also showed first batch the Star Chart app and the diffraction glasses that I had showed 2nd and 3rd yesterday. We also discussed how do scientists know how far away stars are and related this to how our brain knows the distance from our eyes to our fingers by the changing angles of our eyes. In 2nd and 3rd batch, we started constellations and I challenged the students by getting them to convert light years into string length by assuming 3cm was equal to 100 light years. While this was challenging at first, after showing an example of the math, the students could do this without too much difficulty and I am very glad I added this extra challenge.
Wednesday November 28th
In 1st batch we discussed how scientists calculate distance to the stars and started our constellations. Today 2nd and 3rd batch finished their constellations. We talked about how the constellations look completely different from different angles and that an alien on a different planet would see different patterns and pictures than we see on earth.
Thursday November 29th
Today 1st batch finished their constellations. To give 1st batch time to catch up, I came up with the idea to an engineering challenge for 2nd batch and a puzzle day for 3rd batch. I told the students that I thought an engineering challenge was particularly appropriate as we are transitioning from being astrophysicists (in our studies of the planets and the stars) to aeronautical engineers (building rockets). The engineering challenge (more in the questions below) went so well with 2nd batch that I decided to do the same with 3rd batch.
What did you learn this week? This week I learned that the best way to keep 2nd batch engaged and happy. I noticed that they enjoy challenging projects on which they can work independently or in pairs/groups. Math problems and logic problems are the best. It was this realization that gave me the idea to do an engineering challenge in which each pair was given 10 sheets of recycled paper to build a tower which can stand by itself and take weight. The 4 students present in 2nd batch on Tower day built fantastic towers. They were clearly thinking about the stability and practicalities of engineering. There hard work resulted in 2 towers that were a mere few centimeters different in height. All 4 boys were so proud of themselves!
What was the most challenging moment of the week? I’m not sure if this was the most challenging part of the week but the following experience was very frustrating for me. After 2nd batch had excelled at building paper towers, Payal and I were excited to give 3rd batch a chance to do the towers too. The atmosphere in the room was completely different. Rather than thinking about stability and weight-bearing, the students were only concerned in building the tallest structure. Watching this competitiveness trump logic was very frustrating for me. This resulted in 3 of the 5 towers not being able to stand by themselves let alone bear weight. I could see the flaws in the designs as they were building the towers and I was torn between wanting to help them and giving the space to figure it out for themselves as second batch had. I decided to give them the space to figure it out but I’m still not sure if this was best. I tried to turn it into a learning experience afterwards by referring to the beginning of the class where we had discussed that the sloped sides of triangles and arches were much better at bearing weight than a square (which just collapses) by showing that the two towers which had succeeded had both employed either cones or triangles in their designs. If I was to run this lesson again with 3rd batch, I would encourage them to draw their designs first before giving them the recycled paper. After seeing the designs, I could point out to each group the engineering challenges so they could consider modifying the design before beginning to build. While I was frustrated and uncertain during this class, I think the students really enjoyed themselves doing an open-ended building project. As my main goal is for science to be fun and approachable for the students, I would still consider this class a success despite my own frustrations.
.What was the most rewarding moment of the week?
One of the most rewarding parts of this week were watching 2nd batch build their towers, specifically their trial and error as they experimented with different designs until they found something that worked. This was truly wonderful. The other rewarding part of this week was answering questions with 1st batch. Even though this put them one day behind the other classes, I had so much fun explaining the answers to their questions including what is a black hole and why isn’t Pluto a planet. As a class, they are so engaged and insatiably curious, I find it truly gratifying to answer their questions to the best of my ability.
Friday Dec 2:
Today we started to build rockets as I had promised the students that we would start on rockets by the end of the week. They were so excited, engaged and focused. Many of the students asked if they could come in on Saturday to finish them as soon as possible!
Monday Dec 3:
Finishing Rockets and Racing Practice
We finished building the rockets today and started practicing with the races. In each batch, the students took some time to figure out how to make their rockets as fast as possible.
Tuesday Dec 4:
Today we spent about half of the day racing the rockets. We then discussed why the rockets go (air pushing on air – Newton’s 2nd Law of Physics and gravity) and why the rockets stop (no more air and friction). From this the students could figure out that they could improve the rockets by maximizing air and gravity (bigger balloons and holding the string higher) and minimizing friction (lighter rockets and oil on the string). I told them that this is what engineering is all about: building something, understanding what makes it more or less efficient, and then redesigning the machine to improve its function. We finished the class with a writing activity where the students answered what they learned, what was their favorite lesson and whether they would be an aeronautical engineer who builds rockets or a astrophysicist who studies space if they had to pick one. I particularly liked the last question even though the students found it tricky. For those who struggled, I explained that it was really asking them whether they enjoyed learning about space or building things that would go to space more. I then took some time to correct the grammar in each student’s notebook. I was pleased to note that after I made the corrections, each student was keen to see what errors they had made and how they could improve.
Wednesday Dec 5:
Intro to chemistry
Today was awesome! After asking the students what they thought chemistry was, I showed them a demo of using purple cabbage juice as a pH indicator (pink for acid, purple for neutral and blue/green for base). I then combined the acid and the base (vinegar and baking soda) to make a reaction that releases lots of carbon dioxide which we caught in a balloon. We all had so much fun! They are excited for more chemistry next week! We finished the class by writing chemistry “Why?” questions which I will answer at the beginning of class on Monday.
What did you learn this week? What was the most rewarding moment this week? This week I learned how to get 2nd batch out of their shells. While they were making rockets, I asked them what the Hindi translations for different space objects were. I then tried to form Hindi sentences and the boys corrected me by explaining in English what grammatical errors I had made. This was the most they have spoken to me in English so I was very excited! They also seemed to have opened up a little as they were the rowdiest they have ever been on Wednesday during the chemistry demos. I even had to be a little stern (looking at them with raised eyebrows until they were quiet). I think this is a very good sign!
I also learned that some of the students in third batch enjoyed the day we built towers the most in Space Week! Last week I found this class the most frustrating because half of the towers were not successful and I wasn’t sure whether I should have been giving them more hints. Learning this taught me that it doesn’t matter whether things worked as the students enjoyed the challenge and creative freedom! This was very gratifying.
What was the most challenging moment this week?
The most challenging moment of this week was when 2nd batch was rowdy for the first time! It was unexpected so I wasn’t sure how best to get them to listen as I didn’t want to discourage their enthusiasm. After a minute or two I realized that the best way to get them to listen was not to talk (a strategy suggested by Victoria a few weeks ago) as at least one of them is always wanting to learn more and will get the rest to quiet down. These guys are so awesome!
Monday Dec 10
Today, in first and second batch, we talked about the properties of water and how molecules speed up when you change state from solid to liquid to gas. We had fun doing a molecular dance in the courtyard pretending to be first a slow moving solid, then picking up our pace as a liquid and finally running around as a gas. We talked about how hot water can dissolve your sugar in your tea faster than cold, it can help wash clothes as it will remove dirt faster and how we need the energy from hot water to make daal faster (as we know that soaking lentils in cold must be done all night!). We also did an experiment to show how dye disperses faster in hot water than cold but unfortunately the colours we used weren’t sufficiently water soluble for the students to see this easily. Instead we moved onto my plan for Tuesday where the students overfill a glass of water to see the surface tension. They thought this was very cool!
In third batch, I repeated the intro to chemistry lecture that I had given to first and second explaining that chemical reactions can be seen by a change in colour, temperature or state of matter. I used vinegar, baking soda and purple cabbage juice to demo this and we all had a lot of fun. The students also figured out that the room in their house where the most chemical reactions occur is the kitchen! Last week first batch said to me, “Mam, all our mums are chemists!” That made me very happy.
Tuesday Dec 11
As I had already covered most of my lesson plan for today in yesterday’s class I made today an impromptu reading day. Also, it’s been a few days since we worked on our English so I thought it was a good time. After a few hours of searching through online chemistry articles, I decided to get the class to read an article I’d written with a friend of mine who is a cartoonist. My friend drew some awesome cartoons for the article which I thought provided fun visuals for the kids. The article also talks about how we control and manipulate an invisible world in chemistry and as we’re doing chemical tests later this week I thought it introduce this topic well. We got about half way through the article in 1st and 3rd batch as they were very diligent with writing down new words in their dictionaries. I think they enjoyed the article and was impressed by their comprehension of the abstract ideas. We took breaks to dance like water molecules and carbon dioxide molecules too! 2nd batch was so keen we finished the entire article! I was so impressed by their reading comprehension skills as they were far more advanced than I expected based on how much they talk, easily on the same level as the other two batches.
Wednesday Dec 12
Today we combined Rose and Lily classes as I decided to move on to chemical volcanoes and Jake and I thought it would be fun for his students to join us given as many of them are prepping for their exams and our class sizes are so small. We went out into the playground and built our chemical volcanoes and then came in and learned about different types of volcanoes and why some volcanoes explode and some are gentle. We used flour water to illustrate the difference between the two.
Thursday Dec 13
Today we combined Rose and Lily again as yesterday worked so well. Also, there was only one student in Rose in 3rd batch who wasn’t studying for exams and 1 in Lily for 1st batch so it works really well for these batches in particular. We used purple cabbage juice to test the pH of potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, solid detergent, soap, sugar water and filter water. Jake and I were so impressed by the students’ lab technique! I am excited to get them to do a starch iodine test next week!
The most rewarding part of this week was building the volcanoes and doing the chemical tests with the students. I think they were having fun and so were Jake and I! The most challenging part of the week was figuring out what to do for Tuesday’s class. I wasn’t ready to move onto Wednesday’s class as I didn’t have everything prepped for the volcanoes so I spent ages online trying to find a suitable article to read. I was so bored by everything I found that I ended up going with something I had written with a friend. I’d really wanted to find something that introduced acids and bases by talking about how blood pH controls the way we breath or anything similar but there was simply nothing engaging online! Perhaps I will write my own in the new year! J As I mentioned earlier, I learned that 2nd batch’s reading comprehension is far beyond what I expected. I am so glad I chose the article for Tuesday’s class as I think they learned a lot as they brought the molecular dancing up again on Wednesday! I am so impressed by them!
Monday Dec 17th
We changed up our lesson plans for today as the iodine solution I prepped last week for experiments today had decomposed over the weekend. This was the most challenging moment of the week as Jake and I had to quickly redo our lesson plan for today. First, I showed the students the iodine bottle which had been orange-brown last week and had become pale yellow as it was a great example of colour change showing us that a chemical reaction had happened. Then, Jake took the class as we transitioned into biology. It was awesome to have an opportunity to observe the students during class and help out when needed. It was a great learning opportunity for me too as I really like the way Jake takes time to break down concepts. He discussed DNA as a recipe for life and got the students to mark down their different physical traits as being more like their mum or their dad to get across the idea of DNA inheritance. He covered the topic a little slower than I would and it worked really well for the students. It was a good reminder for me that I often go too fast if I don’t think something will be engaging, but watching Jake teach reminded me that you can always come up with creative ways to make a topic more stimulating.
Tuesday Dec 18th
Today we continued with the idea of DNA and inheritance by making alien babies! Jake found two alien cartoons that a friend of his had created, and the class used these as parents to make their own aliens. Each alien was different as we used a dice roll app to determine if the aliens’ traits would be more like mum or dad. This class was so cool as everyone’s aliens looked very different from each other but you could still see the similarities to their parents. It worked as a fantastic illustration of why siblings look different even though they get their DNA from the same two people. Yesterday, Lalit asked a great question: Why don’t we all have the same DNA if we evolved from a common ancestor? And this activity was a fun way to illustrate the answer! The students got really into creating their aliens with careful details and colouring. At the end of the class, I did a demo of how we can test for the presence of starch using an iodine solution. I had wanted to do this yesterday to complete the chemistry section but my iodine solution had decomposed over the weekend as iodine is light sensitive. I prepped another solution so the students could see chapatis, flour, potato and rice turn blue in the presence of iodine while iodine stays orange in the presence of fruits and vegetables. The experiment actually worked really well as a transition into tomorrow when we will be combining everything we’ve learned in a biochemistry experiment!
Wednesday Dec 19th
Today we united the last two weeks of learning first about chemistry and then about biology by doing DNA extraction, i.e. using chemistry to understand biological molecules! It felt like the perfect last day of materials. My most rewarding moment of this week happened in first batch today when the students asked if they could add iodine and purple cabbage juice to the kiwis we were using for DNA extraction. They wanted to test the pH and for the presence of starch in kiwis! It was this kind of curiousity that I have been hoping to inspire and it was so amazing to see it! All three batches really enjoyed extracting the kiwi DNA. For the last week or so, the students ask me almost every day if they can do experiments, and I love saying “Yes! We are doing experiments today!”.
Thursday Dec 20th
Today was our last day at the Tushita foundation so we let each batch decide what they wanted to do. First batch asked if they could play charades. We had so much fun acting out different words and it was good for their English too as we let them explain the rules to us. Second batch enjoyed playing Jenga and figuring out an engineering cup-spoon puzzle that we’d prepared. After some time I took most of the Rose and Lily boys down to the playground and Jake stayed with the girls and Utkarsh in the courtyard outside the Rose and Lily classrooms. Jake said that as soon as the boys disappeared, the girls started building structures with the Jenga blocks and trying out the engineering challenge. In third batch, we decorated the classrooms with rockets and Jake and I showed the classes some traditional Scottish dancing after some very insistent requests from the students. Today was just a very lovely day where everyone got to do exactly what they wanted. There were lots of hugs and tearful goodbyes, and I told the students that if they ever have science questions or any other queries for us, they are always welcome to reach out to us through the teachers or email or facebook. I wanted them to know that even though I’m not there I am always happy to be a resource for them. I will miss everyone at the foundation very much.