Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great Teacher Resources for Afterschool

Tulika Books has some really good resource books for teachers - on story telling and art for now. Here is the link to the website.

Take a look around - especially at their books for children. They are wonderful - imaginative stories, great production, charming illustrations. The only 'problem' is that they are a little expensive. So while they may be great for the library in a school or afterschool center, making a personal collection may not be affordable to many.

If not HomeSchool - Atleast AfterSchool?

I see afterschool programmes in India as very different in purpose from the ones in the western world. There the focus seems to be on 'keeping kids out of trouble' and to some extent on enrichment. Here, I think afterschool can have more 'radical' leanings - providing learning in a non-hierarchical, non-competitive, non-instructive, non-passive mode. Ok - I'll make that positive - egalitarian, cooperative, constructive and active. Sounds better?

Alternative education and homeschooling seem to be slowly taking root in India as well. Here is an article from Tehelka on homeschooling in India. But this route is not for everybody. While many parents may sincerely appreciate the need for alternative ways to engage with learning, they may not be 'radical' enough to break free from the system. Here is where afterschool programmes can play a role.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Afterschool Today...Make Children's Day Happy for ALL Children!

A day celebrating childhood! Your children will have a great day at school - with games, plays, competitions, and maybe sweet treats! How about a differently pitched programme for afterschool?

As children, they do have a responsibility for other children not as privileged as they are. How about a gentle reminder of this reality afterschool? After all, children's day is not just about feeling smug about yourself - it is about making sure that every child gets a safe, nurturing childhood.

Here are a few resources that can help:

UNICEF has a collection of good online games - children can learn about (and take action - though virtual) issues such as sanitation, water supply, fund raising for development, etc. Here is the link.

For a detailed report on the profile of children in India (health, nutrition, education,...) from the Government of India, click here.

Wishing a truly happy children's day for all children.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lies, damned lies and... for Afterschool

One of my (many, many) dream projects is to take statistics on human development and make math 'problems'. While I will do so some day, you can have a dig at it right away!

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) publishes the Human Development Reports. Here is the link to the statistics in the latest HDR 2007-2008. Pick up the data and use it in your afterschool math programme. Let children browse, compare, stare, gasp... and yes, make graphs.

This is one session that is bound to make an impact - who can be flippant about numbers which say the life expectancy in Zambia is 40 years while in Japan it is 82?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Muggu Kolam Rangoli for Afterschool!

A nice site on Muggu is ikolam. It is a community site - you can learn to make kolam patterns, contribute your own, take part in contests, etc. There is also a Kids section on the site. It does not have much but the two memory games based on kolam/muggu designs should be interesting.

The NCERT math textbooks now have exercises on kolam designs! So having kids to copy kolam patterns or conjure up some of their own can fit confortably into your afterschool math class!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Local History for Afterschool

Every city, town or village has its own history. While children may find world or national history boring - local history full of familiar names and places is bound to capture their attention.

Resources on local history are not easy to come by - unless you have a good circle of 'old friends' or enough money to buy coffee table books on city history!

The good folk weaving words on the internet however may have something for you! Here for instance is a great resource on Hyderabad at Narendra Luther's blog.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Moon Struck Afterschool!

Chandrayaan I has been launched. Here are some videos to relive the moment:

A You Tube video recorded 4 km from the launch site at Sriharikota.

Here is another You Tube video of the DD live telecast. It gives a feeling of 'being there'. Must point out to children how calm and composed the scientists are!

And from ISRO's own website are these video resources (you need to use Internet Explorer) - the DECU-ISRO video on the mission is good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Learn to Teach Afterschool!

This post is about eGyanKosh - "a National Digital Repository to store, index, preserve, distribute and share the digital learning resources" managed by the Indira Gandhi National Open Universiy (IGNOU).

eGyanKosh offers easy access to the course materials of IGNOU. There are a great number of courses in agriculture, information technology, education, sciences, social sciences, management, etc. - all accessible in PDF format after a simple, fast registration process.

As someone interested in education, you may wish to look up the course materials from the School of Education. I found the 'Content Based Methodology Courses' of the B.Ed programme quite interesting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Speedy Computation Afterschool

High speed computational skills are seemingly in demand - or the mushrooming of Abacus and 'Vedic' Mathematics programmes would have us believe. While computational skills are not an end in themselves, gaining proficiency in these will boost a child's confidence in math.

Here are some resources on 'Vedic' Mathematics:

First, I think it is important to read this article 'Myths and Reality: on Vedic Mathematics' by S. G. Dani of the School of Mathematics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

Next, here is an explanation of the 16 'sutras' that can help in speedy computation. This site is from the Math Resource Centre at IIT, Mumbai. Each of the sutras is explained with examples using Java Applets.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Food for Thought for Afterschool!

This post is about a resource on ecology - specifically on food chains and food webs. Indian textbooks usually carry the very boring insect - frog - snake - eagle example. Examples from the many foreign textbooks which students use at undergraduate and postgraduate levels are - well foreign!

What if you chanced upon a very well written, very Indian example illustrated with clear colour photographs? Well, here it is.

Dilip Amritphale and Sanotsh Sharma have put together an excellent piece in Resonance (January 2007) based on their field research on the food chains associated with Calotopis - a very common plant on India's wastelands. Read it yourself and share it with your students - it is sure to get them hooked on to nature study.

Play with Clay Afterschool!

I think its a great idea - having a place to 'make' your own ceramic stuff.

The Color Factory lets you choose a piece of ceramic (coffee mug, soap dish,...) then lets you paint your own design on it (yes, they give you the supplies). You leave the place with a receipt and collect your glazed and fired art piece in a couple of days. The pricing is reasonable too - my little one tried her hands on a little bird for Rs. 80. They also have take-away kits. Get the supplies from The Color Factory and give them the painted peice to glaze and fire for you.

They have outlets at Delhi, Gurgaon, Goa, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Actually, I haven't written all that they have to offer - so do visit the website.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

University on Video for Afterschool

The Indira Gandhi National Open University has its own You Tube channel. 20 of its schools (including science, social sciences, health, humanities, management, etc.) have over a 1000 videos up on the site.

Check them out!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Math Lab Ideas for Afterschool

From the Central Board of Secondary Education is this resource on math lab activities for standards 3 to 8. It is available at the website of the Directorate of Education, Government of the NCT of Delhi.

The resource is a 25 page document listing activities that help in strengthening math concepts.

More Textbooks for Afterschool

Here is the link to textbooks for standard 10 from the state of Karnataka, India.

More Math Afterschool!

Following up on my earlier posts on textbooks - here is the link to textbooks from Tamil Nadu.

English versions of math textbooks are available from standard 6 upwards.

Considering the reputation that Tamil Nadu has in mathematics - you would not want to miss these resources!

If textbooks of all states were accessible on the internet for math drills at home and afterschool - would worksheets be redundant?

Great Geography Resource for Afterschool!

Getting children to explore maps is a great way to get them hooked on to geography, culture, applications of mathematics.... you never know where a map can take you.

Here are some great resources for thematic maps:

The State of Environment Atlas of India put together by Development Alternatives and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. This atlas has 25 maps in .pdf format including maps showing soil types, water quality, forests, etc. It aso has an interactive map section - but I had no success exploring this - it seems to take forever to get working. The site also has links to the State of Environment Reports of various states. Do take a look at these - they can give children a very good picture of your state's resources, issues and initiatives at conservation. No textbook can come close!

The Census of India has a good section on maps - state maps, thematic maps, etc. Click here for the link to the Census of India's GIS section.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Textbooks from the Heart of India! - for Afterschool

I was in the 5th standard, I think, when I first saw a 'different' textbook - my cousins had come to India for the holidays and had brought their textbooks along. I drooled over the fine paper, the colour photographs and the friendly style.

Reading a different textbook can be a useful experience. Children have a tendency to stick to 'the right way' - which they believe is the way of their textbook. It is necessary to have them consider that there may be many right ways... and another textbook can help here.

Here is the link to textbooks from the heat of India - the state of Madhya Pradesh. While not all the links work, don't give up! I tried the links to the math textbooks - the ones for the 2nd, 3rd, 8th and 9th standards worked.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Folk Mathematics for Afterschool!

Remind yourself and your students that math should never lose its meaning!

A beautiful resource to help you do this is Numeracy Counts! a publication of the National Literacy Resource Centre. While it is basically meant for educators involved in adult literacy programmes, it is of relevance to every teacher and learner of mathematics.

The book explores 'folk mathematics' - math that is part of oral tradition, culture, art, language. It contains riddles, games, tricks and stories that are sure to delight. Best of all, as the source of this wonderful material is India's cultural context, it is sure to make you (and your students) get up and look around for more - in the muggus of their homes, in their grandmother's stories, in their kirana shop calculations...

Here is a pdf version of the book for download. Thanks to Arvind Gupta and Vidya Online.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Natural History for Afterschool

The Indian Academy of Sciences has an initiative called Project Landscape. This project seeks to provide field guides on the natural history of India for amateur naturalists and students. Here are some great resources that the project provides:

Here is an e-book on dragonflies and damselflies.
Here is an account on frogs and toads.
Here is an account on hunter plants.

Here are details of books published by Project Lifescape:

Amphibians of Peninsular India: A Lifescape - Amphibians of Peninsular India
By R. J. Ranjit Daniels, Indian Academy of Sciences
Published by Orient Blackswan, 2005
ISBN 8173715149, 9788173715143
268 pages

India, a Lifescape: Butterflies of Peninsular India
By Krushnamegh Kunte, Madhav Gadgil, Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian Academy of Sciences
Published by Orient Blackswan, 2000
ISBN 8173713545, 9788173713545
254 pages

Look up the e-books to enrich your afterschool biology programme. Also make sure your library has the Project Lifescape books.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tiger Time Afterschool!

Here are some resources for Tiger Time in your afterschool programme:

Sanctuary India has a website for its Kids for Tigers campaign. The site is very informative with details (and photographs) on tigers (fur, stripes, claws and all...!), their habits, threats to tigers and their habitat, advice on what children can do for tiger conservation, puzzles and games, etc.

The Project Tiger also has a website with a special section for children. It has facts (sub-species, range, population estimates), Tiger stories, Tiger pictures, etc.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

2 October at Afterschool

October 2 is the birth anniversary for Lal Bahadur Shastri - India's second prime minister.

This site from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India has a short biography on his life. It also has a biographical accounts of over 70 great personalities -most of them Indians.

Here is another more detailed account, also from the Government of India.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gandhigiri for Afterschool!

Tomorrow is October 2 - Gandhiji's birth anniversary. Here are some useful resources to help you infuse some Gandhigiri into your afterschoolers:

A neat set of nine short stories for children by Uma Shankar Joshi

A pictorial biography with interesting anecdotes

And not to be missed: A Pinch of Salt Rocks an Empire

Online books including The Story of My Experiments With Truth

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Draw the Best for Afterschool!

Here is a wonderful workbook on drawing from Eklavya. It is ready to use 'off-the-shelf'. More importantly, it will help you in designing more activities to help children draw creatively (rather than restricting themselves to copying a drawing).

Do not miss browing around Eklavya's site. There are some great books for download. Also, do look at the list of publications. You might like getting some for your afterschool library.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A great book for Afterschool

It is important for preteen and teenage children to read biographies - of political leaders, scientists, artists...and entrepreneurs. Thanks to Amar Chitra Katha - Indian children have access to life stories of many Indians who have made a difference in the political, historical, cultural, and industrial arena - Gandhiji, Shivaji, Meerabai, J.R.D. Tata... to name a few.

But a significant gap that needs filling up is life stories of 'extraordinary ordinary' Indians. People in flesh and blood who have done (and are still doing) things that are making a difference.

A new book on the scene which will help fill this gap is Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish by Rashmi Bansal. Published by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad it captures the 'inspiring stories of 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who chose to tread a path of their own making'.

While this book seems to target the young MBA graduate - the style is simple enough to make it relevant to those in the 12-17 age group.

I would recommend the book as a valuable addition to school and afterschool libraries.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Prepare for Disasters Afterschool!

Floods, fire, quakes...children hear news of these disasters with alarming frequency on the news. Disaster education is important for helping children be safe in the event of an actual disaster. It is also important for helping children feel reassured that they are 'prepared'.

What resources does India have on disaster education that you can use to build an afterschool module? The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has a National Disaster Management Division. Its website offers some useful resources for disaster education. For instance, there is a 26 page coloring book for children that has tips on safety measures during earthquakes, floods and fire. There is a 46 page handbook on school safety for administrators, principals and teachers. There is an Earth Quake Survival Pocket Guide. There is also a preview of a Vulnerability Atlas of India here. I found the 3 maps on areas prone to earth quakes, cyclones and floods interesting. They may be useful in sparking off a discussion with children on 'if we know the risk can we be better prepared?'.

Browse around...you are likely to find more stuff on the site. I just wish it was more organized...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mission Moon - Afterschool!

Get your afterschool programme to focus on India's first mission to the moon - and fast (the launch is due in a few weeks time)!

Chandrayaan-1 (Chandra- Moon , Yaan-vehicle) is a scientific investigation of the Moon by spacecraft. Chandrayaan-1 is the first Indian planetary science and exploration mission and will be launched soon from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota (SHAR), India.

The Indian Space Research Organization website has some good resources on the mission you can use. Here is a well-written booklet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Click! Click! Afterschool

NCERT has announced a photography contest for Indian children (12-18 year olds / standards 6-12). The announcement is here. The contest rules are here.

Here is another recent photography contest for children - Sanctuary Cub's contest themed on Climate Change. Sorry - entries closed on 15 September!

Meet Potter Afterschool!

Yes, the REAL potter - who can teach you to make pots yourself!

Pottery is catching up on the afterschool scene. Here is an article about pottery workshops in Hyderabad that got me looking around for more.

A listing of the pottery resources in other Indian cities:

Hyderabad: Saptaparni
Chennai: DakshinaChitra
Mumbai: Sophia
Delhi: Delhi Blue Pottery Trust

Create Comics Afterschool

Yes! Don't just stop at reading comics - you can try creating your own.

There are some great resources to help you craft a good afterschool literature activity for children. The newly revamped Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) website for starters - it has a Create with Us section where you are invited to share your own ACK story (if accepted it actually may get published!) and your art (for cover pages of ACK comics).

Another promising resource is ToonDoo - a very desi website with a global following. It is a cartoon strip creator (yes, only online) that lets you pick and choose your background, characters, etc. and type in your text to create a comic strip - just like that!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Resources for Afterschool

Spark-India is a teacher resource unit that brings quality teaching-learning materials. It offers audio, video, printed material.

What I like about Spark-India's books for children is that they are books with sense and sensibility. The publishing space in India is cluttered with any number of books for children that are just a bunch of badly written, badly illustrated and badly produced bunch of papers (with four colour printing on art paper!) bound together.

Spark-India's books are refreshingly different. An example is Spark-India's Empathy series 'designed to get children to understand and appreciate differences, whether related to physical and mental ability, personal choice or feeling'. The current titles in this series are The Helping Hand and The Little Grey Hare.

I have both the books. Both my daughter and I love them. And not without reason...

Let me tell you a little more about The Little Grey Hare. Anita R. Singh's writing is smart and sensible. Sarada Natarajan's illustrations are detailed and delightful. The best part for me was at the end of the book - with photographs and notes on the animals featured in the story complete with a map showing their range in the Indian sub-continent.

It is books of this quality that Indian children deserve - nothing less!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Learning Basket for Afterschool!

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has a learning basket on its website. The site offers interactive learning modules relevant to high school science - electricity, energy, cell division, genetics...

Navigation seems a challenge if you directly click on the links to the modules - so try right-clicking on the links and choose the 'open in new tab option'.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Media Literacy Afterschool

A young girl took her life over fear of the world coming to an end following the start of the LHC experiment. Amidst the fierce competition between TV channels for dishing out sensational news - a life is lost.

It brings home some harsh facts:
  • If you do not give people the right information - they will have access to only the wrong information
  • People have any number of information sources today - but do they have access to media literacy skills?
Media literacy should be a core part of any afterschool curriculum - how to access information and how to critically evaluate the information you access.

Afterschool services in India also need to have many avatars - there are thousands of school drops outs like the unfortunate 16 year old who will benefit from a non-formal flexible educational experience. Is there a local learning club that she could have gone to - to discuss her fears and to seek facts? I find it so disturbing that the child was constantly asking her family questions about the end of the world. She did not get her answer...

My dream is to have a network of afterschool learning centres that anyone can walk into - to learn and to share their own learning and life experience.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Happy Teachers Day!

Today is the birth day of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India. It is celebrated as Teacher's Day.

I had two wonderful teachers - Mrs. Kankana Rani Das and Mrs. Kameshwari who taught for a few years at St. Ann's Girls High School in Hyderabad (1980s). Thank you, teachers (with all my heart)!

Listen to a Tale Afterschool!

Another great education resource from India - good for afterschool time: Karadi Tales

Many of us are familiar with the Karadi plastic pouches hanging in book shops - with an audio CD and a book to go with it. I just stumbled upon their site...

What information does the site offer?
Karadi Path to language learning.
Karadi workshops on language learning, nursery rhymes and early learning (not updated?! events of 2007 are listed on the site).
Charkha audio books for young adults and adults

I like the concept behind Karadi. I just wish their rhymes rhymed a little better...!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Green Ganesha Afterschool!

Ganesh Puja or Vinayaka Chathurthi is tomorrow! What better activity than to let children make their own eco-friendly clay idols afterschool?

The activity has great educational value. For a good backgrounder, it is useful to refer to this study by researchers from the Kakatiya University (Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, India). Hyderabad is already getting more enthusiastic about eco-friendly idols - here is a news article on this. Also important to remember is that our ancestors (who were definitely more religious and traditional than our generation is) always used clay idols. Several families still follow this tradition - buy a freshly made simple clay idol - without any colour - on the morning of the puja.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

India for Afterschool!

India and loads of it - a great resource on India is Kamat's Potpourri. It is about 'history, mystery and diversity' of India - and it has about 18000 pictures - yes, 18000! There is so much on this site that you can browse and browse... Let me share one way I 'used' it - I hope to include art appreciation in my afterschool programme. I found a great deal about Indian painting on the site - from the cave paintings of Madhya Pradesh to Madhubani paintings to Moghul miniature painting...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Trained for Afterschool?

Where can you take training from to be an afterschool educator? I wish I knew!

But here is something that can help. The Indian Montessori Centre based at Bangalore offers courses in Montessori education. Of interest may be a 9 month online course. It is designed for parents,administrators of Montessori Houses of Children, people interested in learning about the Montessori method, and individuals who wish to pursue a career in Montessori education. The course is relevant for working with children under 6 years of age.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Experience Science Afterschool!

"Children experience science everyday from dawn to dusk. But, how much of this science do they truly analyze, appreciate, apply or even understand?" This question is from the Anubhava Science Centre's website. I think it expresses the core concern which led to its creation.

Anubhava Science Centre is a facility in Bangalore that lets children learn science by doing. It caters to children in the age group 5-10 years. Children spend time choosing and doing science experiments for an hour every week. (I like the choosing part the best - it is so tough for an adult to actually let a child choose!)

We need so many of such facilities - one in every residential locality!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alternative Education Afterschool

Here is a must visit resource on alternative education in India. It focuses on homeschooling and alternative schooling. There are a wealth of resources you can access through this site - home school groups, alternative schools, books, online resources, articles, inspiration...

Sending your child to an alternative school or deciding to home school is a big decision. Not everyone can consider taking it. I see afterschooling as an opportunity here. A parent can actively engage with the child's learning afterschool. If you believe in learning through exploration and action - partner with your child and learn together - every evening, every weekend, indeed all the time when you are together... Also, consider afterschool learning resource centres (like this one) - where the focus is on cooperative, active, project-based learning.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Theatre Appreciation Afterschool

There suddenly is a lot of theatre appreciation going on! The Actor’s Studio, a part of Samhaara is conducting theatre appreciation workshops for educational institutions in Hyderabad. The free workshops are being conducted in five phases. The first phase began on June 30 and will end on September 12.

Theatre has much to offer - creative expression, confidence, self-esteem, group interaction...

Seeing good theatre is of great educational value - especially when it helps you reconnect with your roots. The Surabhi theatre group is one such valuable resource. It's sheer magic for children to see their all-time favourite play - Maya Bazar. And then to attempt recreating the same magic themselves - that is one big afterschool science and art project!

Monday, August 25, 2008

School with Afterschool

Schools in India have started offering afterschool programmes. Wonder what took them so long! A lot of teachers, of course, offered tutions at their home. A great majority of children attended these tutions. In fact, goign to an afterschool tution is considered the norm for many. At about 6 or 7 in the evening, it is common to see children lugging their school bags home from the tution class.

A well-respected school in Hyderabad recently put out an ad in the newspaper for an afterschool programme. I should say it is a pioneering facility - considering the comprehensiveness and scale of what is being offered.

Schools have a ready advantage when it comes to offering afterschool services - they have everything at their disposal - qualified teachers, infrastructure and a 'captive' customer base. But for the children...

the good stuff -
  • you get to go to another good school - you benefit from teachers, infrastructure that your school may not offer
  • you get a place to go to afterschool - that is more secure than just staying at home all by yourself (if both parents are working, and there are no grandparents at home)
  • you get a range of activities to choose from (academic and non-academic) - a better alternative than watching TV

the bad stuff -
  • another school! come on!!
  • you need time to be a kid - in an environment that is as close to home as possible - you wouldn't want to sit in classrooms again!
  • will school teachers be different afterschool? afterschool programmes don't need teachers - they need mentors

This list needs adding to but I guess it is good for starters.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vidya Online Afterschool

A great resource this time: Vidya Online. The site describes itself as "online forum which will enable introspection, discussion and examination of issues in primary education".

It has 4 sections: Classroom support, Media resources, Bookshelf and E-courses. Together they offer ideas for activities, books, photographs and opportunity for attending an on-line course. The site has much to offer - the best way to get to know more is to visit it yourself!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Worksheets for Afterschool!

I know there are many free worksheets sites out there. But for some weird reason I scout around for worksheets made by Indian educators to feature on this blog. Here is one I recently found: Online Home Tutors. The site offers math (and English) worksheets. Math worksheets are available for grades 3 to 8 and include arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc. One minor irritant is that they aren't in .pdf format.

And if you're looking for worksheets for the K-2 age group, my site offers free illustrated worksheets.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Resources for Afterschool Science and Math

Getting into the IIT is a cherished dream for both teenagers and their parents. A good foundation - with strong conceptual understanding and problem solving skills - is what afterschool programs for teenagers can help to build.

Here is a good resource for IIT aspirants and their teachers: Make your way to the IITs. This site offers ebooks, tests, videos and several links. While the site is useful for high school (standards 9 to 12), I would highly recommend it for educators at the elementary levels (standards 6 to 8) too. Access to good reference material will make the teacher's treatment of science more contextual, in-depth and meaningful.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Get the Flag Code Right Afterschool!

The Flag Code of India, 2002 says "where the Flag is displayed in open, it should, as far as possible, be flown from sunrise to sunset, irrespective of weather conditions". While afterschool programs may not be able to hoist the flag, they can help children learn about the proper way to do it in school -

According to the Flag Code of India, 2002:

"The National Flag may be hoisted in educational institutions (schools, colleges, sports camps, scout camps, etc.) to inspire respect for the Flag. A model set of instructions for guidance is given below -
(i) The School will assemble in open square formation with pupils forming the three sides and the Flag-staff at the centre of the fourth side. The Headmaster, the pupil leader and the person unfurling the Flag (if other than the Headmaster) will stand three paces behind the Flag-staff.
(ii) The pupils will fall according to classes and in squads of ten (or other number according to strength). These squads will be arranged one behind the other. The pupil leader of the class will stand to the right of the first row of his class and the form master will stand three paces behind the last row of his class, towards the middle. The classes will be arranged along the square in the order of seniority with the senior most class at the right end.
(iii) The distance between each row should be at least one pace (30 inches); and the space between Form and Form should be the same.
(iv) When each Form or Class is ready, the Class leader will step forward and salute the selected school pupil leader. As soon as all the Forms are ready, the school pupil leader will step up to the Headmaster and salute him. The Headmaster will return the salute. Then, the Flag will be unfurled. The School pupil leader may assist.
(v) The School pupil leader in charge of the parade (or assembly) will call the parade to attention, just before the unfurling, and he will call them to the salute when the Flag flies out. The parade will keep at the salute for a brief interval, and then on the command “order”, the parade will come to the attention position.
(vi) The Flag Salutation will be followed by the National Anthem. The parade will be kept at the attention during this part of the function.
(vii) On all occasions when the pledge is taken, the pledge will follow the National Anthem. When taking the pledge the Assembly will stand to attention and the Headmaster will administer the pledge ceremoniously and the Assembly will repeat it after him.
(viii) In pledging allegiance to the National Flag, the practice to be adopted in Schools is as follows:-
Standing with folded hands, all repeat together the following pledge:
“I pledge allegiance to the National Flag and to the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic for which it stands.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time to Teach Afterschool?

The Times of India's Teach India campaign has generated some interest in volunteering. Teach India is a social initiative of the Times of India group. It brings together volunteers and about 60 NGOs in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The volunteers give time to teach children associated with the NGOs (two hours a week, for 3 months).

I participated in a seminar on urban development a couple of years ago - one of the speakers was a mayor from Germany. She remarked that one of the most striking difference between her city and mine was (no, not the usual - pollution, unruly traffic, poverty..) the lack of volunteering! In her city, she said, nearly everyone gives time - volunteering in a school, at a day care facility, a library, anywhere to work for their city! I would have felt better if she had pointed out the pollution instead!

How can afterschool time help to build a 'culture' of volunteering in children? One way is to get children to teach - less well off kids in the neighbourhood, younger kids in the same program, ... Teaching has this wonderful property - by teaching you learn like never before. So in a sense it is a great methodology that will help children learn better. You teach and therefore you learn (and vice versa).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Theater Workshops Afterschool

Theater for children is catching up in India with professional theater artists opening up programmes for theater appreciation.

A pioneer in this field (started in 2000), in Hyderabad is Vaishali Bisht. Her children's workshops reach kids in the age group of 6-12, and focus on using drama for the personality development. Physical expression, projection of voice, dialogue delivery, use of physical objects, role playing, and using theatre as a forum are some of topics explored over the 24 session weekend workshop.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Move it! Afterschool

Sports education used to be something most Indian parents thought about only when an Indian won an Olympic gold!

Thank fully, things have started changing...

Jelly Beans is a first-of-its-kind activity centre in Bangalore focusing on movement education for preschool and kindergarten children. It has 4 different programs tailored to age-groups from toddlers upwards. With a 1:7 trainer:child ratio, international standards, and a curriculum filled with non-competitive yet challenging activities, Jelly Beans is a useful service for children with no access to open play spaces and playmates.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Math Stories Afterschool

Hey Math! is an Indian company offering e-lessons on mathematics (to students in over 50 countries). The India edition for standards 6 - 10 is available at Rs. 1200 per class. Virtual manipulatives and animations bring alive math to the child. But wait, there is more...

This site has an interesting Math Stories section. Two stories are featured currently - I do hope more will follow.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympiads Afterschool?

A parent looking for a tutor to train her 8 year old for the science and Cyber Olympiads made me look up this website.

"The National Science Olympiad is an academic and scholastic aptitude competition encouraging learning in Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science." Students from the 3rd standard upwards can take the test.

The Cyber Olympiad is "a national level exam based on mental ability, logical & analytical reasoning and general questions on computers and information technology". It is open for students of standards 3 to 12.

This website offers resources (sample papers, reference books, periodicals, etc.) to help prepare for the Olympiads.

The sofworld website claims that over 2.5 lakh children took part in the eighth Science Olympiad (2005). Any test that 'measures up' a child against 'future competition' attracts parents. I personally would recommend testing services such as ASSET and Mind Spark offered by Education Initiatives. As the Mind Spark website says - when understanding happens, can marks be far behind?

Friday, August 8, 2008

More Comics for Afterschool!

What better way to teach children about money and banking than comics?

The Reserve Bank of India has undertaken a project - Project Financial Literacy. The objective is to disseminate information regarding the central bank and general banking concepts to school and college going children and others. Through this project, the RBI has come out with a set of four comics - they are available for download at the link mentioned. Browse around the site to find films and posters highlighting security features of Indian currency notes.

Use them as resources for an afterschool economics module.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I Spy Afterschool!

I did have a post or two earlier about nature education. Nature is one teaching-learning resource that is increasingly getting hard to come by in cities - or is it? Part of the problem may be that we aren't looking for it!

My afterschool centre is blessed with a small garden. And what a fantastic resource that is! It is not a prim and proper garden - just the right mix of orderliness and wilderness to give children enough to explore. Yesterday we had a treasure hunt. They had to hunt for a mushroom and 5 snail shells. What excitement! - rushing off, begging for clues and more clues, the thrill of discovery - and the learning (it doesn't look like the mushrooms at Reliance Fresh!). Today's hunt is even more special - they have to hunt around (very, very carefully) the leaves of just one bush to spot a wonderfully camouflaged caterpillar.

What if an afterschool centre has no garden? There is so much that can be done from the balcony! Bird watching, bird feeder, cloud watching, sun dials, rain gauges, potted plants,...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Afterschool or Afterschool?

I saw a banner fluttering on a neighborhood apartment yesterday. It had name with the subtitle - day care and after school. Am I having competition even before my own afterschool program fully takes off?

The banner got me thinking (again!) -

The general understanding seems to be that 'day care' is for children under 5 years of age (snacks, play) and afterschool is for older children (snacks, homework, music, dance, art, puzzles, etc.). The latter usually does not offer a structured learning experience - it is loose collection of hobby classes, play time, etc., that the child opts in and out of. Both these are intended to care for the child - every day - till the parent picks her up after work.

The other kind of afterschool programs are not focussed on providing alternative child care. They are primarily learning centres giving the child what she/he would not get in school - a new way of learning (independent, exploration), a new level of learning (going beyond the curriculum), and new resources to learn from (not just prescribed textbooks). These try to squeeze themselves into the child's packed schedule - homework, tution, etc. - and are generally limited to once or twice a week. Abacus classes, Robotics clubs, etc. fit in better here.

Should both these different programs be then referred to as afterschool?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Online Learning

How can Indian children get an international educational experience at costs that don't fleece their parents? The answer is online learning. There are many websites offering math practice online. One of them (that I haven't mentioned about in my earlier posts) is: Mathletics .

It offers unlimited math practice sessions at $ 99 per student for a 12 month period. Packages for schools are also available at $ 30 per student.

I wonder if sites such as this can offer special rates for afterschool centres. Must ask...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Science Club Afterschool

Any good afterschool programme must have a science component. It helps if your science club is part of a larger network. Vigyan Prasar supports science clubs though its programme VIPNET . While there are quite a number of science clubs across India and Andhra Pradesh - the programme does not seem to be very popular. Anantapur and Kurnool have a decent number of science clubs affiliated to VIPNET while Hyderabad has just a handful.

Being part of a network is a mutually enriching experience - for the network as well as for the members. In the current Indian scenario where there is no afterschool network - being part of science, math, art and literature networks can help afteschool centres to exchange experiences and agree on quality standards.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Catch the Eclipse Afterschool!

It is the day of the partial solar eclipse (in India) today - and it times itself so well for an afterschool program - starting at about 4.30 pm and ending at about 6 pm. The skies have a lot of cloud cover - so while I'm not sure what we can actually get to see from Hyderabad, there is a lot to do in any case: keeping a safe solar viewer ready at hand, digging out reference books for entries on eclipses, setting up a small demonstration on the eclipse and logging on to NASA TV for a live telecast!

The next solar eclipse (this one will be total) is due on 22 July 2009. So be sure to stock up your afterschool program with a astronomy kit from Vigyan Prasar. The kit has amongst other things a safe solar viewer, information cards and a small demo kit.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Afterschool Guidelines

Afterschool programmes in India are not yet structured as in several other countries. There are no guidelines to help you with key decisions such as the children : staff ratio. I found this document (13 Indicators of Quality Childcare - a research update prepared by the Pennsylvania State University) very useful.

It suggests a child : staff ratio for the 9-12 age group at 12 : 1 with a maximum group size of 24. Suits my own centre! On staff qualifications it says that the director of a child care centre must have an academic qualification in child development (or a related discipline - elementary education), qualification/experience in administration and teaching experience. It also says that centres shall have licensed teaching staff. Again, I'm quite close!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

India Goes for Gold Afterschool!

Indian students won four gold and one silver medal at the 39th International Physics Olympiad (IPO) that concluded on Monday in Hanoi, Vietnam. This is India's best performance ever in the physics olympiad.

The Indian participants were mentored at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), the nodal centre for India's science olympiad programme. The main activities of the HBCSE are: (a) Research and Development, (b) Teacher Orientation and Science Popularisation, and (c) Olympiads and other Students' Nurture Programmes. The HBCSE is a valuable resource for afterschool programmes.

The HBCSE website notes "One of the most painful lacunae in our school system is the absence of quality printed materials for teachers and students to supplement the textbooks. The lack of such resources probably contributes to the authoritarian and bookish approach to learning that is often seen in the classroom". HBCSE publishes quality co-curricular materials including teachers handbooks, student booklets on remedial algebra, a set of 3 books on a problem-solving approach to physics, etc.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Comics for Afterschool

A lot of us grew up with the Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) comics. Children these days have a lot of reading material to choose from - but ACK is not just a comic. It is an integral part of growing up in India. The comics seem to have finally caught up with the internet generation with the launch of their fresh website.

The site offers several deals on purchase of comics, free downloads, online games, etc. It is a good place to check on what is missing in your collection and order it right away.

Every afterschool library must stock the complete ACK set - it is such a great way to get children interested in history, mythology, culture and geography. I will be getting a set for my own afterschool center soon.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Abacus Afterschool

A very popular afterschool activity in India is learning the Abacus. There are several companies providing abacus learning programmes for children in the age group 5-15. Some of these companies are franchisees of larger firms located in the far east.

The programmes are typically organized into up to 7 levels. Each level represents a certain level of skill in both using the abacus and in mental arithmetic. Classes are usually held twice a week (for about 1-2 hours). The monthly fees range between Rs. 350 and Rs. 500.

Some of the popular abacus companies are:
UCMAS
Aloha
SIP Academy
Ideal Play Abacus
Brain-O-Brain

My own site www.kalyanis.com provides free course material (videos, worksheets) on learning to use the abacus. It focuses on beginning learners in the preschool and primary age range.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Worksheets for Afterschool

One of the easiest right things to do afterschool is to get children to work on worksheets (of course, if your afterschool program is only about working on worksheets - then it is hardly right!). With homework in India largely limited to exercises from the textbook, worksheets can be useful in several ways:

Revision: Working on 1 worksheet a day is a good way to revise math.
Motivation: It is easy to get a child to work on a worksheet. Being just one sheet they may seem less daunting. They are also generally well formatted (for example, with illustrations) and look friendly.

There are any number of websites offering free math worksheets. My own site (www.kalyanis.com) offers a small but growing collection of free worksheets on pre-primary and primary math. What makes these worksheets special is that they are rooted in the Indian context. I've also made these worksheets printer-friendly - they are in .pdf format. While they have illustrations - they are light on toner use!

Another site that seems useful is this. It is a commercial site offering worksheets for the pre-primary up to the 4th standard. They also offer 20 free samples.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Computers for Afterschool

Which is a good computer to buy for your afterschool program? This was the question I asked myself a few months ago while setting up my own afterschool program. There are several interesting options to look at:

The One Laptop Per Child program in India is now spreading to new locations. There are 6 pilot locations in the states of Maharashtra, UP, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka.

The use of thin client computing is also spreading. See this article for an idea of what this is about.

Free and open source software has much to offer. For starters there is the linux operating system Edubuntu created for use in educational settings.

But finally what matters (in my view) is what you do with the machines (whatever they are). I know schools and organizations where computers are used more as glorified type writers. You use it for nothing more than typing and formatting text - that too in the most mundane way possible. So choose any computer that your pocket can comfortably allow - spend time and energy on stocking it with the right software and on designing good activities and projects around it.

As for my afterschool centre, I chose standard PCs - but what I've stocked them with is super-standard!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tell a Story Afterschool!

The potential of digital storytelling for getting children to think (deeply!) and communicate is being recognized the world over. Sadly, this hasn't really taken off in India. Computer classes in and out of school are limited to dull assignments on word processing and making presentations (I asked one 8 year old what he did in computer class - he said he typed 'India is my country' over and over again!).

What a pleasure it is then, to discover a digital storytelling project right in my city! The Modern Story project collaborates with the Digital Equalizer initiative of the American India Foundation to introduce digital story telling to government secondary schools. The project currently reaches two schools in Andhra Pradesh. Their site offers interesting activities, lesson plans and chalk board views of lessons on digital storytelling. You can also see what the students participating in this project have created.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Peep into the 'hole-in-the-wall' AfterSchool!

Getting Indian children ready for the digital age has to be a thrust of afterschool programmes. A well known initiative in this direction is the Hole-in-the-Wall.

Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd. (HiWEL) is a joint venture between NIIT Ltd. and the International Finance Corporation. The initiative is about more than just setting up computers in playground walls for children to use on their own. It calls the approach - Minimally Invasive Education - meaning that children can learn to get together and use computers (for learning educational content) on their own. HiWEL has set up more than a 100 playground learning stations across the country so far.

PCs and the internet need to be as accessible as the STD/ISD booths all over India's cities, towns and villages. Sure we have internet cafes in urban centres - but these are not easy to set up (a room, 4-8 computers, furniture, UPS, etc.). Also they aren't 'transparent'. Safety of the child is an issue (for example, risk of exposure to adult content).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Headfake Textbooks for Afterschool!

You've heard 'headfake' before right? If not please look this up - its worth it!

Now talking about headfake textbooks relevant to Indian kids. There is a wonderful series of science (story) books by the IL&FS. I've got a few in my afterschool library. Just yesterday a 5th grader read one of the books - Camp Yellow Submarine - it gives a good intro to the structure and working of the digestive system. The storyline is an adventurous trip inside the body in a mini submarine. I handpicked the book for her as she had just finished the same lesson in school. It was a great way to reinforce and enrich what she had learned in school.

We need lots of books of this kind at costs that are affordable. Is anyone listening?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Go to the Guru Afterschool!

Math help afterschool all through the year for just about Rs. 2000? Making quality education accessible is one of the boons of IT.

MathGuru is an online math tutoring website. It provides neatly explained solutions to every math problem in the NCERT math textbooks from standards 6 to 12. You can view the samples on the site to get a feel of it. It would benefit students who can handle school math by themselves with a little extra help. A added benefit is that it gives space for self-learning. Rushing from school to tution to another tution eats away all time - where is the time for the student to learn by herself? Services like this are of special value to students who follow other prescribed texts at school. They give the child a chance to dive deep into another course text and benefit from additional practice and different treatment.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Turn to Textbooks Afterschool!!

Textbooks afterschool = Textbooks during school?

Not really. Children in India see just one prescribed textbook for each subject at each level. As schools often lack active libraries, and as learning usually does not go beyond memorizing the contents of the textbook - they do not refer to any other books. Most parents too believe that the textbook is the only thing the child must learn from.

How does an afterschool programme encourage reading outside the prescribed textbook in these circumstances? Luckily, we have several textbook publishers. There is of course the NCERT which designs the curriculum and has its own textbooks for the national CBSE syllabus. Then there are the various state boards printing their own textbooks for the schools following the state syllabus. Then there are any number of private textbook publishers.

It is quite an experience for the child to read the same lesson in another textbook - the way a concept is explained, the illustrations, and the review questions are all different. Checking another textbook to see what is similar or dissimilar as compared to the familiar one at school is a 'head fake' that reinforces and enriches learning.

So stock a lot of textbooks in your afterschool library!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Got a 'Room to Read' Afterschool?

Setting up a meaningful afterschool programme is a challenge. But you can look and learn - there are enough examples around. While afterschool programmes for a great majority of the 'privileged' children are limited to tutions or tv, there are a few (too few!!) innovative, well-designed, meaningful programmes reaching underprivileged children. Looking at these working models will help in two ways - designing programmes for any group of children and scaling up programmes for underprivileged children.

I looked up the Room to Read website just now. It is reassuring to know that my own afterschool programme also has the same contours - reading and computers (with science and math included). Room to Read's India operations started in 2003. The programme reaches rural and urban slum communities in five states (New Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh). By 2007 more than 1500 libraries and 16 computer and language labs were established through this programme.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Astronomy Afterschool

A readily available resource for learning science is the sky! Joining an astronomy club or starting one on your own is a good way to dwell deeper into the fascinating world of stars, eclipses, comets, etc.

The Astronomy Club of Hyderabad offers support to set up your own afterschool (or school) astronomy club. The Amateur Astronomers Association in Delhi is another resource. While it would be useful to give a complete listing of such organizations/institutions to help you find one in your city - this is beyond the scope of this blog. But a stroll through these two websites should provide you enough pointers and contacts to get info on your city/state.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On the Roads, Afterschool!

One thing that Indian kids need to learn about is traffic safety. Two reasons - to be safe on the roads, to help parents (and drivers) be good drivers!

I could not help thinking how useful well-structured traffic education is while attending a few sessions at a driving school. Do children have to be 18 to learn about road signs, about good road etiquette? I think not. We do have a few programmes in India that take traffic awareness to children.

The Chandigarh Traffic Police seems to have a well organized traffic awareness programme for school children. Its infrastructure includes a traffic park where children are "taken for a walk along the driver track and are familiarized with the meaning of different road signs and markings. They are taught to cross the road safely at the zebra crossing and are also taught the operation of the pelican traffic light installed outside some of the schools. The children are explained the meaning and operation of the Automatic Traffic Control Signals and the blinkers. They are taught the simple right of way rules in different situations such as at T-intersections, at the rotary etc."

In Hyderabad too there is a traffic awareness park located at the premises of the Jawahar Bal Bhavan (Public Gardens). However, I am unaware of any organized traffic education programme being run there.

I am sure that most cities (at least the state capitals) would have such facilities - these would be an important part of an afterschool programme.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Take a Test Afterschool!

Yes! Testing is serious afterschool business. Just a couple of years ago testing was limited to schools - tests that teachers put together for their own classes. Grades or ranks are then given which tell the child where she stands in her class (of 35-60 students depending on which school she goes to). More often than not there is no other feedback mechanism to tell the child where she has erred. But not any more...

A range of testing services are now available to Indian children - and these are not limited to school based tests alone. An early entrant to the testing field that has built a reputation for itself is Education Initiatives with its ASSET testing service. The ASSET tests can be taken online or through the school. A fairly new entrant is 24 x 7 Guru - a site which enables the child to take a test daily! Then there is MacMillan's International Assessment for Indian Students - this seems to be school-based, though.

My personal experience has been that tests help. A well-crafted test can provide the child meaningful challenge and valuable instant feedback. Why! my (soon to be) five year-old has gone beyond taking tests - she now gives me tests! I watch with delight how she takes time to compose the test paper. She then hands it over with a promise to help me with the answers if need be!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Train for the Olympiad Afterschool!

What gives gifted Indian students the motivation to keep going? One of the answers is the olympiads - competitive academic events that test the students ability to grasp and apply concepts - way beyond the exercises in the textbooks. Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education is the nodal centre for Olympiad programmes in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics and Astronomy. The programmes aim at promoting excellence in science and mathematics among pre-university students. The exams are held in several stages - starting from the local to international levels. Students short-listed in the initial rounds are provided specialized coaching to help them face the international exam. Students of the XI and XII standards are eligible to participate - while some (astronomy) also have a Junior level where students from VIII standard upwards can join.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Afterschool Online

It goes without saying that the internet provides a great resource for afterschool education. That said, there is a value for sites that are 'Indian' in content. One such example is this. It is a networking site focussed on academic improvement in children. The site provides networking space for students, teachers as well as parents. It has content (relevant to the CBSE curriculum), on-line tests, forums to ask questions, etc. Though registration is free, you may need to buy a few points to start off using some services. You spend and earn points depending on what you do at the site.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Skywatch Afterschool

The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune has a Scientific Public Outreach Programme (SciPOP). The SciPOP has several programmes reaching children both during and afterschool time. The 2nd saturday lecture and demonstration programme invites scientists to speak to kids in the 9th and 10th standards. For children in the age group 10-18 years, hands-on science workshops are organized. However, students must be in a group of about 40 and must be accompanied by their teachers to take part. On friday evenings a sky-watching programme is organized - this is open to all (with prior appointment). Campus visits can also be requested.

Academic institutions opening their doors to children is a sure shot way to generate interest in science and math. Afterschool centres also need to pursue links with such institutions - so that such learning opportunities do not get limited only to schools.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Afterschool Computer Clubhouse

The Intel Computer Clubhouse is an after-school program, where youth ages 8 to 18 have access to computers and mentoring. The focus is on learning by doing: creating digital artwork, making music and movies, designing websites, etc.

Intel India has partnered with NGOs to set up Computer Clubhouses in under privileged localities in India. The first Intel Computer Clubhouse was launched in New Delhi in December 2001 at the Katha Khazana, an NGO-run school for children from Govindpuri slum area in Delhi. The second clubhouse was set up in partnership with Children's Love Castle in Bangalore in December 2002.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Afterschool vacation camps on bioresources

The National Bioresource Development Board (NBDB) under the Department of Biotechnology been running a Vacation Training Programme on Bioresources since 2002. This 3-4 week programme is held annually for the children who have appeared in the class X board exams. The course consists of interactive lectures, hands-on lab & field work and individual projects on study of plants, animals, microbes of their area, web page designing on bioresources, simple biotechnology-based experiments etc. Since 2002, more than 40 programmes have been organized across the country.

The Department has now launched DNA clubs (DBT's Natural Resources Awareness clubs) in 145 schools across 23 states and UTs of the country. The Vacation Training Programme is now a part of the DNA club programme. These clubs will conduct a range of activities and provide hands-on learning opportunities focusing on bioresources. Regional Resource Agencies (RRAs) have been established at different locations in the country to facilitate this activity.

There is also a school contact programme through which quiz competitions, film shows etc are held in different schools at the regional and national levels. This programme is being hosted by National Geographic Channel.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Just how many Afterschool Programs out there?

There are several afterschool centres in Indian cities - but how many are there? what do they offer? This is one area where a rigorous search is needed.

They are several websites listing classifieds - one such site on Hyderabad city lists 120 entries under the category afterschool activities. Searching the same site for dance and music classes threw up 83 entries for music and 122 entries for dance. Even after accounting for cross-listing, that is a substantial number for one city. How about Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai? How about smaller cities and towns? A quick search only frustrated me - I know that there are lots - but they are not being captured!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Afterschool Science at the Museum

Did you know? - the first science museum in the country was set up in 1956 (I do not know yet which one it is!). The National Council of Science Museums has about 25 science museums across the country. Here is a map showing you their locations. Apart from these, there are science 'cities' set up state governments (for example, the Gujarat Science City, the Science City in Chennai). Then there are those set up by independent foundations (the Birla Science Museum in Hyderabad).

The Gujarat Science City has a variety of programmes and facilities for popularizing science. The facilities include exhibit halls on science and space, an energy park, a life science park, etc. The activities include a series of lectures on popular science topics, workshops on science for children, events to mark important days (such as the World Ozone Day), etc. Interestingly, they also have a training module on use of puppetry for science popularization - and a puppetry corner at the science city. The best part is that the science city is open till 9 pm.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Go to the Circus Afterschool!

The richness and range of afterschool programmes (what they are and can be) never ceases to amaze me! It's definitely not: anything goes afterschool! Rather, it is: there is so much meaningful learning to explore after school hours.

Edutopia's e-newsletter alerted me to the use of circus for education - and brought home the fact that I had no clue this was going on (shows how important it is to look out for information - something I hope to do with this blog)!

Between October 2007 and March 2008, Dreamtime Circus (USA) and Swechha (India) joined hands for a Circus for Change programme that toured several states in India reaching schools and communities supported by NGOs: "Performances will include an array of circus arts, music, and storytelling, and will communicate positive messages of hope, dreams, and respect for the earth and all humanity. In addition to performing, the Dreamtime troupe can hold workshops to teach a variety of basic circus arts to kids of all ages. These performances and workshops will provide a unique and creative venue for partnering organizations to raise awareness about their issues."

Searching specifically for the use of circus arts in afterschool I chanced upon this: Circus of the Kids. The potential of the circus for afterschool education in India is waiting to be tapped - it has a twin benefit - providing exciting afterschool education and giving artists (circus, folk) a forum to perform and teach.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Afterschool...Naturally!

The Bombay Natural History Society's Conservation Education Centre is located on 33 acres of forest land on the outskirts of Mumbai (earlier Bombay) city. It provides a range of 'afterschool' educational opportunities including nature trails, nature camps, special events (how about 'Breakfast with Butterflies'?!), and even distance learning courses. (BTW distance learning courses will be a separate post - there are so many great courses out there!) The centre also offers volunteering opportunities.

Several nature clubs/associations across the country offer a range of nature-related programmes:
The Birdwatcher's Association of Andhra Pradesh (of which I am a member) based in Hyderabad organizes monthly birdwatching trips and indoor meetings.
The Butterfly Conservation Society, also in Hyderabad, organizes similar programmes with a focus on butterflies.
Sundarvan, a nature discovery centre (and mini zoo) in Ahmedabad organizes nature camps at its campsites.

Opportunities provided by these institutions are valuable - they give children a chance to learn specialized skills (species identification, census, etc.), they give a real-life feel to science (especially important as many Indian schools do not have basic lab facilities), and build nature appreciation. These are what every good afterschool programme must aspire to achieve.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Science Education Afterschool

Another important area where afterschool programmes are active in India is science education. There are several institutions focusing on popularizing science. Some like the Jana Vignana Vedika focus on using science to counter superstitions, some like Ekalavya focus on promoting activity-based science education, some others like the Bombay Natural History Society focus on a specific agenda (in this case nature camps, eco-clubs, etc. for conservation). There is a lot of ground to cover in this blog! One step at a time. To start with one of my favourites:

The Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science Centre (or the VASCSC) located in Ahmedabad, India is an institution built (in the 1960s) by the visionary whose name it carries. Its campus offers several interactive science exhibits that children can fiddle with. There are well equipped physics, chemistry and biology labs. A small but resourceful science shop offers do-it-yourself science kits and puzzles for children as well as demonstration kits for teachers.

The VASCSC offers a range of programmes for children and teachers. These includes weekend clubs on science and math, summer workshops (science hobby workshops, math lab, computer workshops, etc.), teacher training programmes, etc. The centre also has several outreach activities.

The need for such institutions across the country is great. However, what we have are a handful scattered across India's gigantic landscape.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Afterschool has a long history in India...

Organized afterschool programmes as distinct from tution classes are seen as a fairly recent phenomenon in India (a trend related to the growing numbers of nuclear families with both parents working). However, there has been a rich history of afterschool programmes - the next few posts will focus on this.

The Balbhavan is an institution whose history goes back to the 1950s. The national (at Delhi) and state level units provide children a range of activities that complement/supplement school education including - science activities, performing arts, physical education, creative arts, etc. It is also a training resource centre for teachers offering training in visual arts, teaching methodology, etc.

The Balbhavan is probably the only (or one of the few) ways in which the Government supports afterschool programmes in the country.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Free Math Resources

This post is about my site: www.kalyanis.com. It offers resources on math relevant to the K-2 stage. There are illustrated math story worksheets and flash presentations that you can download for free and use. At this site I hope to build a substantial collection of resources for parents who teach their children after school.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Computers Afterschool and Dell

Talking about resources for afterschool, there seem to be some funding support available for programs run in a not-for-profit context serving underprivileged children. This post is about Dell's efforts.

Literacy India (an NGO) and Dell Foundation have just announced the opening of the first Dell Multimedia Computer Center in India (located in Bajgera Village in Gurgaon). The Dell Knowledge Center (with 20 desktops) will offer 13-19 year olds skills like multimedia, 3D imaging, sound and video editing, desktop publishing, etc.

This is not Dell's first foray into supporting computer education. Through its h.u.g. (helping u grow) program, it has supported:
- a Dell Computer Center for the children of the Parikrama Learning Center in Sahakarnagar, Bangalore reaching under-served children.
- a 'Learning into the Future-Preparing Youth for the Digital Age' program to the Hope Foundation in Hyderabad which provides computer education to under-privileged school children and college students.

If you are planning an afterschool computer/technology education program for under-privileged children, you could try tapping IT companies for support.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Afterschool on the Political Agenda?

I got a Google Alert this morning pointing to Barack Obama's promise on supporting afterschool programmes. I found the document The Blue Print for Change - Barack Obama's Plan for America and looked at the section on education. It says the plan is to "Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve one million more children" and "Expand Summer Learning Opportunities: Obama’s STEP UP plan addresses the achievement gap by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community organizations". (John McCain's site claims he "will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes" - I did not find a mention of afterschool, though).

Good to see afterschool on the election manifesto. Next stop, the manifesto of the Indian National Congress (why? simblee!). Will I find anything? Let's see...

The INC's 2004 manifesto says "The Congress pledges to raise public spending in education to at least 6% of GDP with at least half of this amount being spent in primary and secondary schools. A cess will he proposed on all central taxes to finance the commitment to universalize access to quality basic education. A National Commission on Education will be set up to allocate resources and monitor programmes for compliance with national priorities". Nothing beyond 'in school' learning.

What about the BJP? Its 2004 manifesto talks of 'Quality Education for All'but the strategy is largely about increasing access to education - except for one point "Improving the standards of education at all levels of the Educational Pyramid from primary to university". Again - nothing beyond the school system.

Why is that our leaders limit themselves to 'education = within the four walls of the school/university'? I wonder if the school system alone can wholly respond to the challenge of preparing children to face the future with confidence. The least our leaders can do is acknowledge the challenge and attempt to face it with a more comprehensive strategy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Puppets and Science

Today's newspaper had this piece Puppet classes make learning science fun. It describes an effort by the Indian Science Communication Society to help school students understand and communicate the science behind contemporary environmental issues (ground water exploitation, pollution, etc). The article says the children learnt to make puppets, write scripts, and enacted their puppet shows. The quotes the organizer "...We brought in puppetry because it made the whole experience of learning science rather joyful."

I think the value of this intervention lies in the opportunity it offers children to reinforce their learning of science (which is best learnt through explorations, experiments, etc.). Writing a script sharpens research and communication skills. What is the main message you wish to give your audience (is it the most important thing that needs to be told about this issue? will it help your audience do something about the issue? etc.)? How will you say it in a way that relates to your audience (what is it that they are interested in? what is it that they already know? what is the new stuff that you wish to tell them? etc.).

The article made me search a little on the use of puppets for science communication. And here is what I found:
A news item in Current Science (2003) on the efforts of The National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) introducing "the art of puppetry for science and technology communication for the first time in the country and has also developed a training module for the same use of puppetry for science". Organizations which have used puppetry in science communication include: Kainat Foundation, Kako (Bihar); SEARCH, Ghaziabad (U.P.); Students’ Welfare Society, Anantnag (J&K); Manthan Yuva Sangthan, Ranchi (Jharkhand); Gujarat Council of Science City, Gandhinagar (Gujarat).
The PUPPETS: Talking Science - Engaging Science project which explored "the use of puppets to engage and motivate children and promote conversations which help their learning in science. Puppets are used with primary school children to capture their interest, stimulate their thinking about science, challenge their ideas and model learning conversations". Among the positive outcomes listed, I found this the most interesting - "creating a context for the use of scientific vocabulary". The site also offers tips for teachers in using puppets. The tips range from little practical details ("Keep the puppet’s head down - it needs to make eye contact") to more profound stuff ("Your puppet needs to present a problem to the children for them to think about").

From what I have gathered so far (which is not much, mind you) I can sense a difference in approach in the two efforts mentioned above. The emphasis of the first is communicating about global/national/local issues. The second focuses on motivating children to think about solutions to everyday problems using science. The first is an advocacy tool, the second a teaching tool.