Saturday 27 July 2019

Communications Class for 4th graders

Communications Classes have started up for Grade 4 with Future Impact.  The year long classes will help children develop the basics of communication.

The first class had the children warming up to the young and enthusiastic instructor.  She divided the children into groups. Each child had to introduce his/ her teammates and narrate an interesting anecdote about them. Kids discovered facets about their friends they hadn't know before. When it came to speaking, they came up enthusiastically and spoke.

In the second class, chidlren had to choose a favourite sport or hobby and speak about it to the group.  The inventive fellows even decided to demo kho kho, much to the amusement of the instructor.

Visit to Guindy Snake Park

The Elementary children visited the Guindy Snake Park. The trip was organised by Comunitree. After the visit, the Forest Officers from the park kindly visited the school and held an informational session for the children. Here is an account by a child:

First we started to go on a van.  I chatted and sand with my friends all the way.  And when we reached Guindy Park, my partners were Safiyya and Afiya. In Guindy Park, my teacher took me and my partners to the Snake Park. There were many kinds of different snakes over there. Best of all I loved the python and cobra. I saw crocodiles and alligators. I saw a Nile Crocodile. I touched a turtle and an iguana. It was so cute.  I loved it.

The caretakers of the park told me that all the snakes can't hear, but tthey have a sense of vibration. Snakes come in different patterns and different colours. The caretaker told us that all the snakes are harmless and non venomous. Only 4 snakes are venomous. They are the Cobra, Krait, Saw Scaled Viper and Russels' Viper.  All the snakes are harmless only if we harm them, they would harm us back.  If one of the venomous snakes bites you, you may face death. So please don't harm or kill snakes. 

After these lessons, a caretaker taught us a small craft. It was how to make a "Snake Spring" using paper plates. Then we went and played in the park. It was so fun. I loved the giant slide.

By Athiya, Grade 4

Friday 26 July 2019

Learning about Fossils

The Grade 7 had a short workshop on Fossils as a part of their Ecology class.  The speaker talked about the process of fossilization and excavation. He showed a slideshow with local sites in Tamil Nadu where fossils have been found. The children got to see, hold and touch the different types of fossils. They also had a fun activity where they recreated the fossilization process.  

Here is a write up by the students:

A fossil is any preserved remains, impression, trace of any dead organism buried underground. There are many types of ways in which fossils form:

·        Impression Fossils – Where the organism or its part, trace or trail rots and only its impression remains and gets fossilized.
·         Petrification – o   Animal -  When an animal dies it falls in the water. It settles in the layer of the sediment, then it gets embedded. Then it is covered by sediment. Over the ages, it gets fossilized. It takes at least 10,000 years or more for it to become a fossil.  Water is essential for fossilization.
o   Plant – The plant falls on the sediment layer, then it settles and gets embedded.
·         Compression fossils – fossils which have got compressed like coal
·         Freezing – A fossil preserved in ice
·         Amberization – Amber is a resin which a plant sends out in times when a plant is wounded. If an organism sits on it , it’ll get stuck and the resin will harden capturing the organism in it.

How to excavate a fossil
·         Remove the overburden
·         Take out the fossil with a curved hammer at 45o angle
·         Brush off the dust on it
·         Plastering – cover one side with plaster
·         Jacketing – Plastering from all sides
·         Labeling - Labeling the fossil

-  By Shahana Shameer, Safwan Samsudeen & Abdullah Ibrahim, Grade 7

Perieri Lake Restoration

Ecology classes with PFC started up. Grade 7 is going through the Year 2 of the program. This year the focus will be to study human-environment impact in local areas and the work being done to minimize the damage.  The year started up with a visit to see the lake restoration work being done by PFC in Siruseri, in conjunction with TCS & IIT-Madras.  Here is a account written by the children after the trip:

Periari Lake, in Siruseri is being restored. The 100 acre lake which is actually an Eri, used to be used by the Siruseri locals. Till big buildings came up, it was unpolluted. There are actually two Eries connected by a waterway, next to each other, but when the big buildings  built, there were built on the waterway. 

When the floods came in 2015, the lake/Erie filled with water from other Eries and it started flowing through the waterway. The buildings go flooded because it was on the way to the other Erie. The buildings were damaged. Another outlet for the water was near the Siruseri village so they got flooded too.

Then the lake dried up.

What is restoration?
Restoration basically means getting something to what it actually was. In ecological restoration, the ecosystem is restored to its original status before human impact.

Who is involved in this?
The Pitchandikulum Forest Consultant team planned the lake to be ecologically restored. The Civil Engineering department from IIT Madras designed it. TCS is investing in it. The most important people are the Siruseri people themselves. They are the ones living there and know more about the Eri than anyone else.

Why is it getting restored?
This particular Eri, Perieri, is a water supplier to 1/4th of Chennai. This comes in the Pallikarnai watershed. This eri used to be surrounded with agricultural lands and forests. But now there are only apartments and IT offices. The eri has dried up. The ecosystem there is ruined.
When agricultural lands were there, the eri was used for so many things:
·         Drinking water
·         Preventing landfills
·         Baths
·         Washing clothes
·         Wildlife
·         Swimming
·         Fishing

A respondent to the PFC survey among the locals who used to live near the Eri, said, “We used to swim there, but now our grandchildren don’t have a chance.”
How it is being restored

While restoring a lake, you clean it up and make it a sustainable home for organisms like fish, birds, and land organisms which live nearby. You can make islands and hills and plant with trees so birds can nest.  When water is there, algae come. If algae are there, fish come. If fish are there, birds come. If birds are there, land animals will come.
The eri is being desilted. Desilting is where you remove the sand from down which accumulates so that the lake doesn’t turn into a marshland.  The clay mud is being dug out and used to make 3 big hills – which are watchouts for the public on the side. 2-3 islands are being built for birds, plants etc.
The spillway, which is where the water exits the eri. Siruseri was flooded in the 2015 floods because, the eri was full and the spillway was towards the village.  During the restoration, the spillway is being moved.
The restoration will help not only wildlife and the earth, but the people living there too. There is so much waste that it just ends up in the landfills in todays world. But in the olden days, there used to be circular movement. Organic waste was thrown into the eri, the fishes would eat it and so on. The Eri restoration is going to help the circular movement come back and for wildlife preservation.  

By Shahana Shameer, Abdullah Ibrahim, Safwan Samsudeen Grade 7

Wednesday 17 July 2019

News Corner in Elementary

Interesting articles from the Hindu in School daily are cut up and put on the noticeboard.

A teacher led discussion at the end of the day gets kids up to date with news . Articles on geography, science, environment and history along with fun stuff like 10 mintute challenge and comics make the Newsboard all the more interesting. Children automatically gravitate towards the colourful display and start reading.

This is one of the  several creative ways to encourage children to develop their reading fluency, comprehension and interest. Additionally, the newspaper habit it inculcated from a young age

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Elementary's Terrace Garden

Planting season commences with Elementary students sowing seeds - kirai, spinach, amaranthus, gourd, lady's finger, chili ....

They're already waiting for these plants to quickly grow so they can sell off their harvest....😁

Tuesday 9 July 2019

Science class with a difference - Grade 4, Chapter 1

Unit 1 Chapter 1
Sun, wind, clouds and rain

Section 1
This year the class is much bigger than the ones I’ve taught earlier. Almost 20 students. So, discussion and class management become much more real issues. I hope that the quality of the class doesn’t decline. The  ground rules – Speak after raising your hand, listen to each other, don’t carry on side conversations were set at the beginning of the class.

I asked the children “What is the weather in Chennai like?” Some said its summer, winter, spring and autumn.  They have confused weather with season, but I left the distinction for a later discussion, when the idea will become clearer. We focussed on their classification of 4 seasons. I asked them “When is it hot?” We counted the “hot” months – when they feel really hot and sweaty – April, May, June, July, August.  Some said September was cool –their assumption may be based more on the American books they read rather than noticing actual local weather.  I asked them how they had felt during the Haj activity last year (held at the end of August) – and they said “HOT!” So we realised that September had also been hot. And was a part of summer rather than autumn. S mentioned that leaves fall in autumn. I asked them when do the mango trees shed leaves here. They had noticed that the mango tree shed leaves in March/ April – when the weather was turning hot.

Coming to October, they remembered that rains had come. F said rains ended in December. They all remembered how cold they felt in December. Interestingly, they didn’t remember January as cold till I asked them. Even February was cold. I asked if they wore sweaters during the cold weather. They laughed. This was a good point to clarify that Chennai has what’s called a warm winter. Then we went onto March. March was hot – we had Open Day and they had all sweated. So, we concluded that Chennai has 3 kinds of weather – hot, monsoon/ rainy and cold (relatively)

Next, I asked a different child to read out each stanza of the poem and posed questions that were asked. M said he noticed the weather each day when he was in his Ur (native place). He would go out and check. A lot of kids had noticed that the weather changes through the day – it starts off as hot and then becomes cool. AI mentioned that he had noticed that the wind during the night is cool, but during the day is hot. We discussed what the weather would be like during the upcoming Eid vacation. Someone said “Cold” but everyone laughed. “It will be hot!”. I asked about when school would reopen after vacation next year. That memory is still fresh in their minds – “It will be hot!”
We discussed what all they see in the sky. I specified they should mention things related to weather – so aeroplanes were out. They all talked about clouds, sun, stars, moon etc. One child said “Breeze”. I asked if he could see the breeze in the sky? Unfortunately, the discussion got pulled in a different direction, otherwise this would have been a great point of discussion.

We went onto the chapter. Chennai is currently reeling under a severe drought. However, most children living on the ECR, still have water in the bore wells and haven’t faced the difficulties the rest of the city is facing. However, they’ve noticed pictures of the dry Chembarambakkam Lake in the newspapers.  One child mentioned how they get tanker water. Everyone including little children, is conscious of any forecast of rain. One child mentioned how the monsoon will start on July 9th.  I clarified to them how the South West Monsoon has come to Mumbai and we are going to get rains as a fall out of that. Our monsoon only comes in October – November.

We read the haiku poems. Some children guessed it was Japanese. But they didn’t show much interest in exploring it further.

Next, I asked the children to go downstairs, observe what the weather was like and note it in the workbook.  It was a beautiful day for observation. Sunny, but cloudy. White clouds with dark ones. Wispy and thick clouds. Breezy in bits with sudden strong gusts. They were really excited in seeing a big black rain bearing cloud come suddenly. “Rain, its raining!” But it actually wasn’t even drizzling.  I’ve noticed that children like to write answers in absolutes – and their perception of reality was coloured by that. So, when they saw a black cloud, they felt it was raining. In writing their observations, some children argued it was cloudy, some said sunny. Some said they were feeling hot. Others said, its cloudy so it’s cold. This was another point for a longer discussion – but by now the kids were fading out/hungry for lunch so engaging them was not possible.  We read out the story and they added some description, but weren’t very creative. I decided this was a good point to close the class.
In preparation for the upcoming class, I bought a room thermometer. Unfortunately, only a digital one was available – with alarms, times, humidity etc.  I felt the extra information sometimes distracts children from the I order 2 “regular” thermometers with only the temperature measure from Amazon. 

Day 2

Today we discussed how to fill out the weather chart in their workbook.  We talked about the importance of making the observation at the same time every day.  I told them they needed to record how hot/cold, breezy/ still, cloudy/ clear parameters. They needed a lot of clarification on exactly where to fill what information. I think children get overly anxious to do the “right” thing, make no “mistake”, that they suspend their own judgement, relying entirely on the teacher to tell them what to do. This must be addressed in future classes.

We went onto Section 3. We discussed how some children had felt hot during the previous class, while others (seeing the cloud cover) had said it was cold. I asked them if there’s an objective way to assess if it is hot or cold. They said we could use a thermometer.

I asked if they had seen a thermometer earlier. Someone said, “My mom uses one when I have fever.” I asked them “How high has your fever gone when you were sick?” Some said “1000”, others said “1020”. I asked them why we couldn’t use a “fever” thermometer to measure room temperature through the day. AI said “The fever thermometer has a sensor. It needs to be clasped under the tongue or under the arm to measure temperature. It can’t just measure room temperature”.  I also mentioned how the fever temperature variation is very miniscule and needs finer measurement. But a room temperature measures greater variation.  I’m not sure they got the point. I’ll have to demo it.  They are going to record the temperature across the day from Monday once the regular thermometers arrive.
 I showed the digital thermometer to the children. They were quite excited. Some recognised the percentage sign in the humidity indicator. As I had thought, they were quite taken in by the varied information displayed.  They knew the unit of measurement – it wasn’t apples or shoes as I suggested humorously but Celsius.

After the class, I messaged the parents on Whatsapp that the children had to record the weather in their workbooks over the upcoming weekend. I asked the parents to simply help the children set an alarm for the 2 times of the day that we were recording the weather – morning 9am and afternoon 2pm.  The children could also record at night around 8 if they wished.  Parents were specifically told not to dictate answers but to let the children do their work independently. Similarly, the class teachers were also told to remind the children to record the weather daily for a month at 9am and 2pm. 

We moved onto doing the exercise where Apu had recorded the temperature across the day.  I asked the children to read the instructions and fill the graphs. I wanted to see if they could work it out. Most children did struggle – but the struggle was useful as it forced them to engage with the task rather than relying on the teacher to orally explain. The good thing was that eventually they all (with few exceptions) figured it out – no mean achievement.
The children were told to continue with 4B at home – recording the daily maximum temperature.  A lot of children do not get the newspaper at home. But most parents have Accuweather on their phone – which also provides a nice line graph with the hourly temperature. The children were asked to record the daily maximum using the Accuweather.  Another Whatsapp message was sent to the parents asking them to help the children, and reminding them not to let the children Google the information without their supervision.

Day 3

Today we just reviewed how they filled out the weather chart. Some children were on the ball, but others had done it intermittently.  A regular reminder and check will help ensure that children fill out the chart. The session also helped them clarify any questions – do I fill it out twice etc.

Day 4

Our thermometers arrived today! I showed the group the thermometer. I asked them what it measured. S said “Weather!”. Then he thought about it and said “Temperature”.  I asked the children what the thermometer reminded them of. Samara said “a body thermometer” – the old mercury style one, not the digital one.  Acknowledging her response as a good observation, I also asked them if it reminded them of a scale – with cm on one side and inches on the other. This one has Fahrenheit on one side and Celsius on the other.  I asked them “Can we record the temperature on one as a Fahrenheit and on the other as Celsius.?” Most children were inclined to disagree. However, Samara again popped up – “Yes, but it will be confusing.” That was a good leap in logic by her. I told them that we are going to be recording the temperature daily at 2pm in the workbook.  We again discussed why we need to record at the same time daily. 

I then divided them up into batches to explain how the thermometer is actually to be read.  Other batches were given the responsibility of reading Section 4a and doing the experiment (watching a dry leaf blow).

I showed the thermometer to the children who were with me. First, I read the Celsius side – starting from 40, 30, 20, 10, 0! I asked how come the numbers are decreasing as they go up the scale. Abdurrahman said “It’s measuring the cold.” They don’t know negative numbers yet, but intuitively understood the concept. I marked a “-“ in front of those numbers. Then we proceeded up the scale. I asked them what is the dash halfway between 30 and 40. Most children correctly guessed it was 35. Then we saw the red line stopped at the mark below that – so the temperature was 34oC.
Then the fun began. We moved to the Fahrenheit side of the scale. This was given in gaps of 20. Once we crossed 80, I asked them what the dash between 80-100 represented. Most replied “85”. So I counted up – 86, 87, 88, 89, 100! They were puzzled but realised their guess was wrong. Shayan worked it out – Its “90!”  Then they observed that the red line had crossed 90. I asked them what the mark above 90 represented. “91”! Again, I counted up – “91, 92, 93, 94, 100! How can that be? Is something wrong?” They quickly caught on – each mark represented a difference of 2o!  They recorded the temperature in their workbooks. Then they raced out to record the weather and conduct the leaf experiment.

Once the children gathered together again after the crushed leaf experiment (some didn’t return – they were happily playing in the playground), we discussed their observations. Asira said she had trouble crushing the leaf to tiny bits which would fly in the wind. It took her 2 rounds to do so. She said she stood with her arm outstretched with the leaf bits in her hand. “The wind came from the South and blew it away!”. Nora found the breeze from the East blew her leaf bits away and while Rumaysa said it was the breeze from the West.  I asked if they knew the directions (Frankly I was surprised). They said they all pray to the West, and its opposite side was East. There was slight confusion in the North and South, but most children knew which was which. I guess they’ve done this in Montessori.

The children were reminded to record the weather daily in their weather chart. Now they also have to record the temperature at 2:00pm. And go home and record the daily maximum temperature. 

After the class as most kids dashed off, a few came up to me with questions – “Why is it not hot under trees?” “What makes clouds?” “How does the air form?”  I was delighted and immediately encouraged them to note the questions down in their workbook in the Ask A Question section. Two kids obviously discussed what they were going to ask, possibly one copied from the other – probably a response to my delight at the fact that they actually had questions!

Friday 5 July 2019

Paper Collection Drive

A Paper Collection Drive held at Al Qamar Academy in association with CommuniTree.

Lower Elementary children formed a Paper Collection Committee. They designed a cool flyer which exhorted parents to send in their waste paper.

Today the paper was taken for weighing. They children were delighted that they collected 42 kg of paper.  They were rewarded with a cool eco friendly pencil made out of recycled material - one pencil per kg of paper! They're really excited about using these cool colourful pencils they've earned.
Thanks Comunitree for organising this.

Au Revoir

  Au Revoir  The crucible moment came for me when, 16 years ago, I pulled my 7 year old son from school. Once again. Thrice in four years. W...