Friday 27 December 2019

Bright Sparks 1st prize for Anam Fathima's The Door

Thrilled to announce that Anam Fathima won the 1st Prize in the Robinage national Bright Sparks competition for her story The Door. Check the thrilling story at

This brings us to the 3rd consecutive year that an Al Qamar student has won an award at the Bright Sparks competition. 

Monday 23 December 2019

Kids pen 200,000+ words for the Nanowimo challenge

“My mom was so pretty. The darkness of the night took refuge in her skin when the sun was out. Her long eyelashes were like a paintbrush that brought out her dark brown eyes of wisdom. Her lips were brown with a slight pigment of pink and a shine to finish, wich altogether spoke joy. Her nose was long but she never dared to lie. Her jet black curls flowed down her shoulder. Her long fingers of an artist were mostly used for fetching water from wells and washing dishes and clothes even though they were meant for so much more. Her clean face with no scars and bumps was what that caught eyes of people. Her soft skin was extremely elegant and whenever I touched her my hand would slip right off. She had a tall figure that suited her long face and long limbs that some people thought as a flow and some as beauty. The sad part was that her beauty was no use for saving her from a gun the nasty gunshot. The gunshot that stopped her heart from beating.”

These heartrending lines are just a few of the 200,000 words penned by Al Qamar students during Nanowrimo 2019. 

Nanowrimo is a writing challenge to draft an entire novel in just a month.  Students set word goals for their novels and strive the entire month to achieve the goals.  Over 50 Students from Montessori to 7th grade participated this year. 

The precursor to the novel writing challenge was a series of structured classes on creative writing. Using resources provided by Nanowrimo’s Young Writer Program, children learned how to create plots, build settings, portray characters, provide twists and turns in order to write a narrative. They students understood the importance of creating complex character with flaws and insecurities, the need for background research and the criticality of outlining a plot. 

The children’s novels covered myriad genres – from the hot favourite, horror and mystery to adventure, realistic fiction and fantasy. Protagonists scaled mountains, tracked criminals, dealt with loneliness and tragedy. They surmounted obstacles in the shape of villains or unfavourable circumstances. One fascinating novel had the protagonist slowly come to the realisation that she is actually an alien who has been left on earth and adopted as a human baby by a foster family. What is her destiny, she wonders, as she gazes at the night sky.
Interestingly the kids experimented with a variety of characters. For Ishal, her protagonist was a rock who longed for friendship. In Hasna’s fractured fairytale, the traditional villains in old favourite stories offered a defence of their actions.  Shahana’s gripping story has us guessing whether the protagonist is the murderer….. or not? Rayya’s heart-breaking tale discusses racism and oppression while Anam’s fantasy is about defeating a gold statue that creates mayhem.   

The students experimented with different voices – some novels were in 3rd person while others in first.   Safwan handled the transitions with aplomb as the narrative switched between two brothers while in Muhsin’s novel had multiple characters taking over the narrative.

The introductory workshops also dealt with localization of settings to give a voice to kids like themselves. “How many novels have you read with kids with names like yours?” was the leading question. “How many books describe the swaying coconut palms, the feel of beach sand on your face, the smells of vada frying in the streets?” Some of the children took up the challenge and created settings and characters with Indian names and Chennai settings. Asira’s story had a girl from Jupiter come visit Injambakkam and even meet the iconic Sekar Raghavan. Majid’s protagonist jetsetted between Oman and Chennai and even visiting T. Nagar while Hamza’s Salman is a beggar boy in Mumbai.

The school held a pizza party to celebrate the winner’s achievements at the end of Nanowrimo. There was an Author Reading at the party where kids read out extracts from their novels – much like a real event.  Several children have expressed an interest in the critical component of writing – revising and editing – the hard, gut wrenching work which must be done.  Extracts from the revised works will InshaAllah be collated and published as an anthology.  

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Bookworms inc. - a book blog by kids for kids

Bookworms Inc. - A book review blog - by kids, for kids 

Al Qamar students have written and InshaAllah will keep writing reviews of the myriad books they read. They enjoy sharing their opinions and insights.

Do subscribe to get notifications about latest posts.

Monday 9 December 2019

Nityanand Jayaraman visit

Al Qamar students were thrilled to have environmental activist  Nityanand Jayaraman come speak.  Here's a blogpost by one of the students who participated in the interaction:

Today, we talked about something we know in happening to something we have, But don't care about.

It is something not everyone has. Water. Our Beach. Our land.

We have 3 rivers in Chennai. Cooum, Kosasthaliyar, Adyar. And 4 estuaries. 3 from the river and one near the Kovalam boating house, flowing from Kovalam. This is all fresh water meeting the sea. And we want fresh water to drink, bath, brush, pretty much live. When we put bore wells take water from the ground,  or pollute the water, we are changing a major resource of our life.

 Look at Chennai, when we say wild things in nature, we think of Amazon Rainforest or the Niagara Falls. We don’t realize there is one wild thing near us which a lot of people haven't seen in their life. Bay of Bengal. It is crazy in there and how the fishes live, the pollution it intakes.

A lot of parts which have now been “developed” are on what used be a lake or an Eri.  What I am trying to say is, Chennai, most of the times has too much water or too little water. When we build houses or buildings on waterbodies, the water should fill up somewhere right?

According to Nityanand Uncle, there is a great relationship between the Earth and the sky. When we tend to come in between them, we are breaking the bond. They will do what ever they can to meet. So when the Waterford is now covered with “developed" stuff., the rain wants to fall on Earth. And it will. And that’s how our houses and buildings get flooded.

 What does flood mean? Something has reached it's maximum capacity and can’t take in anymore, it will tend to flow out. When we develop, we are changing the capacity of the water bodies with cement, roads, houses and much more. So you can’t blame nature if it's doing its job and WE come in the way.

What is  development really. It means to make something better, right? Better for people to live in and having enough resources. We should really change that people in that sentence and change it to living things. So when are developing India, are all living things and Earth getting what they need?’ Let’s take our cleaning drives for instance. They clean India right, but we really  are taking dumps from one place  and dumping it someplace else, that’s not cleaning, that’s moving. That place will still be trashed, still stink. Right? And we really need to think about what we do and really CLEAN India.

By Shahana Shameer, Grade 7

Visit to Kuppai Matters

Have you ever seen what happens to trash? It gets recycled or goes to the dump. But it also goes into the forests or the oceans and kills or harms the animals. You might think how it harms animals? I will give you a few examples - like a whale having plastic in its tummy, a cow contains plastic particles in its milk. One sad think is a turtle having a straw in its nose and it cried when the boaters tried to take it out. Last but eyeopening, a cow with 5 tons of plastic in its stomach. 

Now you know why I am here. I will tell you how to use waste. You have to give the proper recycling to things like water bottle without glue stickers. Things you can't recycle is chappati package because it has different materials like plastic and paint. 

For eggshells, fruit and vegetable peels, cut nails, leftover food, dead leaves, apple crusts, you can compost to make soil and you can plant a plant!

More ways are there like making your own paper, which you will do after. Using less plastic, thinking before you buy a package item, if you can recycle it or not.

One more thing is having 4 trash bins - one green, one blue, one red and one yellow. The green is for composting, blue is for things which you don;t know which bin it goes, yellow is for recycling. and red is for hazard thing like cat poop and dog poop. 

Now you know what to do with trash. 

You might have in mind how to compost? That I will tell you now.  First collect peels, eggshells, nails, apple crusts and left over food. Next take compost and add it to the peels and all that. Or add more, rotten bread, curd, milk, if you don't have compost. Finally keep on adding composting things and leave it for 40-45 days. 

By Mansoor Ahmed, Grade 5

Ecology Class - Year 2 : Visit to the Organic Farmers'` Market

What exactly does it mean to have organic products? A simple definition would be….anything in its true state where it hasn’t been tainted with harmful things like pesticides.

Being honest, using pesticides and artificial fertilizers do help, but here are quite a few disadvantages that will harm the product and will harm us in the long run.  Organic can also mean “pure” which doesn’t only apply to how produce is grown, it can also apply to the method in which it’s acquired or stock prices etc.

Basically, the more transparent your business is, the better. So, here’s the process in which food travels to markets and such (using fruit as an example).

Seems okay right? Well, actually, once you’ve studied the process properly, it’ll seem different.

When farmers give their produce to the middleman, the middleman gets to decide the price based on the season, demand, sales etc. And not based on the farmer’s own input cost, effort and time. Also, with this, there is more demand for produce when it is not the season. So, farmers would work hard to grow the produce and when its time to hand it to the middleman, only to get rejected.

Did you know that over 700 varieties of cotton in India have been replaced by American cotton, which also brought in the use of toxic dyes? Wow, how depressing. 

So, basically the motive of this whole talk was to make us think – do I know where all my food, clothes or really anything is coming from?

- Ishaal Abdul Azeez, Grade 7

Monday 2 December 2019

Workshop on Teaching Creative Writing

Al Qamar Academy conducted a workshop on November 16, 2019 on creative writing and I was looking forward to attending it. 
The facilitator Aneesa Jamal was very warm and welcoming, listened and acknowledged contributions from the participants and efficiently guided the discussions and was flexible, working well with emerging ideas.  It was great to learn the techniques on creative writing, the content being highly informative and the facilitator was well informed about the workshop subject. 
The workshop was led capably challenging the participants to think and get out of their comfort zone in a safe environment which helped us discover new ideas and getting new insights on the things we already knew.  The workshop also provided opportunities to interact and learn from others.
The workshop was engaging and interesting with useful exercises and the group size was appropriate for the purpose of the exercises.  The entire training was well structured with the exercises building on previous learning from the activities providing us opportunities to reflect and consolidate what we learned.  The session was well paced without any boring lags.
I appreciate the insight provided which is easily and immediately applicable.  I can't wait to teach my own students what I learned in just a few hours. 
It would have been better to have the workshop as a 2-day session providing more time for the different exercises, more discussions, debriefs, and asking good questions to facilitate more learning but on the overall it was a very knowledgeable workshop.

- Naqeeb Sultana, Teacher

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...