Wednesday 27 February 2019

Superb performance in the EI Asset 2018 examinations

MashaAllah excellent results in the EI Asset 2018 examinations.' The EI Asset examinations are a national benchmarking exam to evaluate "real learning" as opposed to "rote learning". About 4 lakh students in grades 3-10 from top Indian schools take the exam annually.

Al Qamar's superb performance is all the more special because it is a testimony to our unique approach to academics - the focus on real learning skills and de-emphasis on homework, tests and exams which we consider to be detrimental to real learning.

Here are the benchmark results for Al Qamar:
  • 4th & 6th grade English and Science averages among the top 10 Indian schools.
  • National (344 schools) - All classes average above/ within National averages.
  • South Zone (124 schools) - All subjects 35% above national averages except for 1 subject -class combination which was marginally above zonal average
  • Tamil Nadu (46 schools) - All subject/classes significantly above state average. In some cases, 50% above the state average.
Special Highlights:
  • 2 Outstanding performances (Ranked top 1%) - Safwan Samsudeen, Abdul Majid
  • 6 Distinguished performances (Ranked next 5%) - T. Asira, Fawzia, Hajira, Zoya, Hanan, Shahana, 
  • 12 Creditable performances (Ranked next 10%) - Abdurrahman Ibrahim, Hasif, Abdul Muiz, Hamdan, Khadijah, Maryam, Abdullah Ibrahim, Hasna, Ameeth, Anam, Tasneem, Fareeha
  • 30% of the participating students received Outstanding/ Distinguished or Creditable ranking.
  • 23/60 students rank in top quartile in English
  • 15/60  students rank in top quartile in Maths
  • 22/60 students rank in top quartile in Science

Here is the list of the top ranking students

English Maths Science
Top 10 percentile Abdul Muiz Fawzia Aafreen T. Asira
Fawzia Aafreen Hamdan Jabir Hasif Mustafa
Rafia Hajira Rafia Hajira Abdul Muiz
Zoya Taher Abdul Majid Syed Fawzia Aafreen
Hanan Samsudeen Safwan Samsudeen Zoya Taher
Abdul Majid Syed Maryam Dawood
Abdullah Ibrahim Sarah Malang
Anam Fathima Abdul Majid Syed
Hasna Jabir Anam Fathima
Ishaal Azeez Safwan Samsudeen
Safwan Samsudeen Tasneem Kausar
Shahana Syeda
Top 25 percentile Asira T. Asira Abdurrahman Ibrahim
Hasif Mustafa Abdurrahman Ibrahim Syeda Maryam
Rumaysa Iqbal Abdul Muiz Muhammed Ashfaque
Syeda Maryam Zoya Taher Rafia Hajira
Hamdan Jabir Hanan Samsudeen Hanan Samsudeen
Khadijah Sattar Khadijah Sattar Abdullah Ibrahim
Maryam Dawood Maryam Dawood Ahmed Afnan
Mohsin Maricar Mohsin Maricar Fareeha Rafeek
Muhiddin Tawfiq Fareeha Rafeek Hasna Jabir
Muhammed Shakil Shahana Syeda Muhammed Shakil
Tasneem Kausar Shahana Syeda

All praise is to Allah SWT. Congratulations to the students, teachers and parents for all the hard work, support and dua.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Pen Pals from across the world - Al Qamar & Montessori School of Maui

Building bridges, breaking barriers to build a peaceful world is an ingrained Montessori philosophy.  Very happy to share that Al Qamar Elementary kids have a pen pal program with the Montessori School of Maui in Hawaii, USA. 

Al Qamar students first wrote letters - describing themselves, their interests and favourites - like any an every 8 year old in the world.  The letters took painfully long to reach - what with Christmas Break there and Pongal break here. Then came the replies - enthusiastic, colourful, descriptive.

The connection between the children who have never seen each other, never spoken to each other, is just just heartwarming. And inspiring. 

Sunday 24 February 2019

Ecology Class with a Difference #13

Al Qamar students were privileged to participate in an initiative - the first of its kind in India - to put together and launch the Biomatrix floating islands on a river with the aim of purifying the polluted water body.  This was a part of the Ecology Class with the PFC.  Here are two accounts of the experience by our students. At the end is a nice video of a launch.

This class we went to the Madras Boat Club, a non governmental institution established on the Adyar river in the mid 1800s. At that time, the Adyar river was a clean river, with lots of beautiful scenery. That is why the club selected this as their location But after independence, years passed. Disaster began in the 21st century. Many big factories started releasing their water into the river. Commercial and residential encroachments also began. By now the river no longer housed the beauties as it did before. The fish died. The migratory birds stopped coming. Many of the boaters couldn't; boat anymore because of the stench. But now there are many initiatives, programmes and projects to conserve the river. Our trip was one of the programmes.

We were introduced to Mr. Kaelin and Ms. Lisa. who were heading a project to improve the Adyar river. They were from a company called BioMatrix, a Scotland based group who work on projects like this. So the solution this time to clean the river was the "floating islands". Floating islands are 2x1m pieces made with coconut fibre and plastic pipes held together by a plastic mesh, with four rows in between. The idea was to plant plants in the gaps and set them afloat in the river. When the roots grow, they will become home to micro organisms which would eat up the harmful bacteria in the river. Many birds and insects can also thrive on the surface. There are also floats hung under the island with a plastic mesh lining which would become home to the bacterial.

We were divided into groups to plan each island with plants they had provided. After finishing this we launched the islands into the river.

Syed Abdul Majid, Grade 6

Today we went to the Madras Boat Club. There we met people from Scotland who work with BioMatrix Solutions. They spoke about a floating island which is used to purify polluted later.   It is made of iron and PVC pipes and stuffed with coconut coir.

In the island, we planted some plants. The roots of these plants will float under water. The main purpose of the island is to form bacteria and other micro organisms which will stay in the roots of the plants. To live, they need food so they will eat up the nasty things in the water. Later there will be fishes which will come to eat. But in the polluted water, they can't breathe. So what they (Biomatrix) did is to put up several solar panels on the island which are going to provide oxygen for the fish. There will also be birds nesting and animals on the top of the island. So this will create a whole new ecosystem.

- S. Muhammed, 6th grade

Russian School of Maths 2019 results

MashaAllah great results in the Russian School of Maths online competition this year too.  5 students were ranked in the Silver category - "Competitive Internationally". Congratulations Safwan, Hanan, Abdul Majid, Khadijah and Ameeth!

Supernova - Al Qamar winners

While Al Qamar students participate in the Supernova as non competing participants, we do track their performance in comparison to the other school participants and then award them prizes.

Alhamdulillah, excellent performance this year by our students.  Please join me in congratulating:

1st Prize Mathlympiad 
Shahana Shameer & Tasneem Kausar

1st Prize – Maker Fest 
Abdullah Ibrahim, Abdullah Khalifatullah, S. Muhammed

1st Prize Strategy – Boys 
Shafeeq Ahmed

1st Prize Strategy – Girls 
Fareeha Rafeek

2nd Prize Science Quiz
Safwaan Samsudeen, Abdul Majid, S Muhammed

3rd Prize Mathlympiad 
Khadijah Abdul Sattar, Maryam Fahmida

All praise is to Allah SWT who has blessed us in manifold ways.

Nature Club Meeting #4

The topic was food waste management and the various ways which we can adopt to reduce and measure food waste. I started with a few questions - 'What is food waste?' 'How the children think food waste is generated?' 'What do they think can be done to reduce food waste?' 'What happens to excess or leftover food which are dumped into the landfill?'...As usual, the children gave some thoughtful answers. 

The idea was to give them an overview on the environmental and social impacts of food waste. This video here provided an outline on the amount of food that's wasted all over the world. It also showed the negative impacts on the society that result from excessive food waste and improper food waste management techniques. 

The discussion was not just centered around realizing the ways to reduce food waste, but to try and understand the main causes behind it. This video here takes us through a journey from a farm to a market in the USA, wherein they show how more than half of the production in a farm is wasted and it never reaches the market. 

The takeaway from this video was to help children understand the following things:
1. Sellers always target the 'best buyers' who are willing to pay a high price for the produce. The end result is the remaining products are never sold; particularly,  to those who need it and thus these end up in the landfill. 

2. Buyers are always hunting for fresh and clean produce, but it doesn't necessarily mean that crops that look slightly deformed or imperfect are bad for consumption. But, sadly, these crops are never carried to the market and they are left to rot in the open. 

3. Most of the produce that are sold under various tags - primary grade, secondary grade, and so on - are all the same. They are sorted based on colours and textures. 

If all these produce that are considered to be 'un-profitable' or 'unappreciative' or 'unattractive' are sold at affordable prices or at least to those who need them, then a large percentage of the global food waste problem can be solved to a great extent. Hence, the global issue of environmental pollution through the release of harmful gases from food degradation can be minimized too.  

I was glad to see that the children agree to the above issues and they also understand that by wasting so much of food that's being produced, we are wasting time, effort, water,electricity, soil and also large areas of land all over the world. 

To reinforce the idea of the relationship between global food production and depletion of natural resources, we played a small activity. The children were divided into two groups and were asked to fold two pieces of cloth - one medium and another large. They were asked to fold only once and pass it on to the next person in the team, till they can no longer fold the cloth pieces. 

This was done to build more depth to their understanding of natural resources and what happens when you are no longer allowed to use the resources due to over consumption [ in relation to the cloth getting soiled in the end]. Two different sizes of the cloth represent that irrespective of the amount of natural resources that we have, they do get depleted over time when you no longer take care of them. 

We wrapped up the session with another activity for the children to conduct a food waste audit in their classrooms - and find out how much waste they generate during their lunch break. It could be spillage, partially eaten food, food that gets spoiled and food that goes back to their home.

This audit will help them observe the food that gets wasted most and it could raise awareness in them and their families.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Visitor talk: Ashoka Fellow Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma

Very honoured have Ashoka Fellow Mr. Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma visit our school with Ramnath Chandrashekhar and Rachita  Sinha today.

Deep is the founder of Farm2Food, a social initiative in Assam which works with schools to establish sustainable farms while learning entrepreneurship. The organisation has worked with over 400 schools.

Al Qamar's Organic Terrace Garden team spoke to Deep about their failures and subsequent  successes in gardening. The GreenDreams team talked about their medicinal plant venture and the learning they've garnered.

We've requested Deep to organise a training programme for schools in Chennai with the aim of creating farmpreneur clubs here too. 

Friday 15 February 2019

Supernova '19, STEM Fest held

Supernova '19, the annual Al Qamar interschool STEM fest was held on 9th and 10th February. Over a 100 children participated in the events. Al Qamar students were non competing participants.

The Science quiz has challenging questions which involved data interpretation and inference. Children had to apply the concepts they've learned in different contexts.  The final round was a Science investigation, where children had to use a given hypothesis and material to conduct an experiment, record results and interpret the data.  This component was introduced to emphasise the importance of hands on science.

The MakerFest event had an engineering challenge where participant had to build a bridge of given specifications using a set amount of ice cream sticks.  Various very createive designs emerged. However the strongest bridge was the one which held the maximum weight - well reinforced with triangular shaped constructions.In the Strategy Games, participants played Blokus Duo identify and develop strategies. After a round of league play, the final competitors clashed in a round robin contest. 

The MakerFest event had an engineering challenge where participant had to build a bridge of given specifications using a set amount of ice cream sticks.  Various very creative designs emerged. However the strongest bridge was the one which held the maximum weight - well reinforced with triangular shaped constructions.

The Mathlympiad was the most grueling event of the day.  Teams started off with a written prelim and the top 11 teams qualified for the semi finals.  The semi final questions were well balanced with puzzles, logic problems and twisted math operation questions. The finals, which took place in the afternoon were tough - with classic mind benders - the chessboard and pebbles, the pirate and the diamond, the dark bridge to be crossed within a certain amount of time, alphanumeric puzzles, the Truth tellers and liars.  The children kept pace admirably and the final results were very very close.

Hauroon Jamal, Director, Al Qamar Academy, gave a talk on "Smart kids - a Routemap" which outlined dos and don'ts for handling smart children.  "Its about creating a thinking child, not stuffing knowledge" he reiterated. 

The event was a  great success with a great clash of minds. All praise to Allah SWT. 

Thursday 14 February 2019

Talk on American Sign Language

Upper Elementary students attended a fantastic talk on the American Sign Language today. Um Tawfiq, who learned ASL, started off by asking children why they'd like to learn sign language. "To share secrets" was by far the most popular response!

Um Tawfiq started by teaching expressions - happy, excited, tearful, sad. She then taught the children how to sign the alphabets. They even tried spelling their names in ASL.  MashaAllah kids picked up fast. Then she taught them colour names.

By the end, children could construct basic sentences - "I want more orange juice", "I am happy.", "I don't want".

At the end of the talk., Um Tawfeeq talked about how we need to be sensitive to people who are differently abled and to admire the effort they take over things that come naturally to us. She also encouraged children to use their talents to make or do something that makes life easier for a differently challenged person.

Au Revoir

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