Parent Dialogue on “Raising Joyful Learners!” @Tinker Fest

Tinker Fest-Joy of learningTinker Fest, organized by Imagin8ors and Tinkering Studio, Science Center, Singapore connects children, parents, educators and makers in a week-long celebration of the joy of learning’ through play, exploration and experimentation.  As a part of festival we got an opportunity to have a dialogue with parents on “Raising Joyful Learners“. Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning The insightful questions thrown into the arena made us pause and think. How do we, as parents, raise motivated, engaged learners who are prepared to conquer unforeseen challenges of tomorrow? How do we make learning joyful and fun for our children? What are the ways to build early foundation for joyful learning? Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning Our esteemed panelist included- Joanna Catalano (Head of Agency Relations for Asia Pacific, Google and Board Member of Female Founders) a mother of two who believes thateducation and technology combined will deliver  sustained creativity and adaptive problem solving abilities to our children. Anna Salaman (Executive Director, Playeum) an active champion for creativity in the lives of children. With an extensive background in arts and cultural programming, she has put her passion into practice at ArtScience Museum (Singapore), the Victoria & Albert Museum (UK) and the Discover Story Centre (UK). Charlie Ang (Venture Investor, Business Futurist, Start Up Promoter) is a “Future Parent” – he raises his two children to be future innovators and entrepreneurs and plans to help other parents do the same. Ei-Leen Tan (Deputy Director, Physical Sciences Department, Education Programmes Division, Science Centre Singaporeis one half of a pair o’ docs attempting to apply Piagetian principles to a 4 year old child with ideas of her own. Daniel Tan (Senior Director of Projects & Exhibition Division in the Science Centre Singapore)  father of 4 teenage children who encourages hands-on exploration for discovery and learning. He is also instrumental in initiating the development of the Tinkering Studio at the Science Centre. Tinker Fest-Joy of learning The session took off with parents tinkering with their children at the various stations set up inside the  Tinkering Studio. It was so precious to see the children take the lead with first-time -tinkerer parents. Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning The session moderator Balaji Ramanujan (President and Co-Founder Imagin8ors), then set the context about the new learning needs driven by a rapidly changing tech enabled world. Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning Anna Salaman brought forward the power of nurturing “intrinsic motivation” in children. Simple things like using less instructional language when we communicate with child, creating an environment that encourages self-directed exploration (e.g.. having varied types of materials lying around that the child can use), and providing more freedom to the child to set their own learning agenda helps with building the child’s intrinsic motivation. Tinker Fest -joy of learning Joanna Catalano talked about 21 Century skills like curiosity, diversity in approach and perspective, collaboration and motivation which would pave the path for the joyful learners. She believes that technology will play a big role in their lives and there was no separating them from it. It is up to parents to make technology work for us in an active way. Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning Daniel Tan felt that children should learn because the process brings joy not because of the result or awards that follow. That was the whole idea behind setting up the Tinkering Studio. He strongly emphasised that the knowledge the children gather by themselves, understanding through exploration shall stay with them forever. Maybe they may not understand the science behind it immediately but soon they will be able to connect the dots. Ergo relating better to the principles taught in the classrooms. Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning Ei-Leen Tan underlined how computers gave children a safe environment to learn new things in novel, interactive ways. But she felt that parents should watch out for – “Is the child programming the computer or is the computer programming the child?” She also shared how letting children create a mess is a necessary part of helping children explore and learn, and touched a chord with the audience when she spoke of the busy lifestyles we parents lead and how it is difficult to put all these principles into action. Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning Charlie Ang spoke about preparing our children for the future and developing the required skill-sets in them. The skill-sets of an successful individual today will not be relevant in 2030.  Our children will be the entrepreneurs and innovators of tomorrow and will use technology to solve problems. He shared how he converts even mundane tasks like shopping trips together into fun challenges and games his daughters and he play, that helps them learn something deeper. Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning As the talk progressed it became more interactive and parents in the audience chimed in with their views. Lup Wai a homemaker, blogger and mother to two adorable, creative children shared how she bonded with them over housework. While daily chores need to be finished, it need not be just a chore but an opportunity for parent and child to co-work and co-create. Children would find their ways to solve problems they faced, collaborate and develop empathy for their caregivers. Tinker Fest -Joy of Learning Ajay Sharma shared how he was  productively using screen and digital media to learn and bond with his daughter while he traveled. He shared a delightful story of seeing a sunflower plant grow from seed to flower and how his daughter clicked pictures and send it across to him, just so that daddy would know about how their plant was doing. Susanna Hasenoerhl, mom and founder of the joiceofcooking, spoke how she used sports as a fantastic and joyful medium of learning. She also made an insightful comment on the disconnect between the need to inspire joy in learning, and the rote learning still prevalent across many parts of the education system.  The panel spoke of how we parents need to add our voices to this debate and help accelerate change in education. Tinker Fest-Joy of Learning So many enriching thoughts, ideas and suggestions! As expected if you bring a few parents together you can find solutions for just about anything.  Each of our participants had their own strong value systems, perspectives and methodology. But all came together in agreeing on the critical role parents play in nurturing the spark of lifelong learning in children, of inspiring them to find joy in it!  

Managing Change With Kids

Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors Sometimes, I think change has been the one constant in our lives. By the time our younger fella was three, we’d moved across continents, homes and switched careers at least as many times. We were living out of suitcases. Family and friends floated in and out of the kids’ lives, depending on where we were. “Routine is important for kids”, people pointed out. I looked at two mopey little faces seeing their dad off, as he went away on yet another work trip and I worried. We had to get better at coping with change and fast. Put a date on it: We made count down calendars. As neither kid could read at the time, we made a poster that showed them what mum and dad were doing and how long they would be gone. I drew pictures of who would be around and of all the fun stuff they could do together. When it was time for me to move back home with them, I made another calendar- “In how many days is mum coming back? Isn’t that going to be fun?” Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors List everything: We had schedules of tasks for the nanny to supervise, lists of medicines and dosages that we updated as the kids grew, emergency numbers and, finally, instructions for grandparents to keep in mind as they kindly and generously took care of the kids. Breaking a big undertaking into bite-sized lists of tasks to accomplish,  made it less daunting. Acknowledge emotions: For our last big move, the kids were old enough to worry. Our four-year-old later confided in me, that at the time he had been convinced, his grandma would die if he moved away. “It’s been a year now and she is OK. So nothing bad happened when we left, right?” he asked. So we talked about feelings and that it’s okay to be anxious or sad or even angry. Take control: We prepared for our big move to Singapore with reconnaissance visits. The kids picked out stuff for the new house and more importantly, their room. On one such short visit, our older guy decided of his own volition to map out all the bridges on the Singapore river and walk across them. The younger one declared the evening we flew out, “Tonight is going to be Singapore night.” That became our mantra. Stretch yourself and commit: Raising kids takes a village and we needed to build one for ourselves each time we moved to a new place. It takes effort and time. We try to volunteer, give time and effort towards various causes and community events. It is rewarding to contribute and help others. It also helps forge genuine connections with like-minded people. So go ahead and participate in that neighborhood event, join that runners group, enroll your children in that Imagin8ors workshop or a football camp. Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors Face your anxieties: Along the way, we have made it a practice to talk to the kids in detail about upcoming changes- big or small and involve them as much as possible so that they feel in control. Mom/Dad have to travel for work- let’s look at the map and see where they are going. How many days till they return? Let’s learn the names and phone numbers to contact in case of emergencies. Let’s learn our address so that we always know how to get back home, if we are lost. Let’s have a family emergency plan. What time each day shall we facetime/skype? Best friend at school is relocating to another country- travails of being part of an expat community. Where are they moving to- what language do they speak in that country? Let’s learn a few words so we can use them with the friend. Do we have their email address so we can stay in touch? Let’s have play dates with new classmates. Start new traditions: We miss how grandma would feed us at mealtimes or tell stories at bedtime. Let us begin new traditions. Xmas tree! Bedtime music and reading! How about Friday night family cuddles? Movie nights and popcorn! Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors It has been a learning curve but seeing happy little faces tucked up in their beds safe at night, gives us a measure of peace. The munchkins now aged eight and six, make friends easily. They have happy memories and great friends from different countries. They are curious about the world and are confident in new settings. An on-going dialogue with our children and robust preparation helped us manage change. Learning from fellow expats and working parents has been invaluable. Have you had to handle big changes with your kids? Do you have any tips on how to help them cope? Kaumudi Goda is a mum, former attorney, current corp desk jockey, full time bookworm and pop-culture enthusiast. She has been a fan and supporter of Imagin8ors from inception. With her crew of three goofy boys (two munchkins and one overgrown football fanatic), KG has traveled extensively and lived in several places. She is happy to share her family’s hilarious adventures with the Imagin8ors community.  

Battleships & The Captain’s Boys – How Board Games can be a great way to impart Life Lessons.

Like the music he creates there is a beautiful symphony in all that he does. Father, musician, writer, maker and a fantastic mind, he reminds you of all that is good and pure in life. A curious and adventurous child Ragavan Manian, from Team Imagin8ors, explores and seeks new things with an infectious enthusiasm and zest. 

  My two little boys Karun (8 years) and Sunaad (5 years) play board games, whenever they are, well, bored! There are a host of games to choose from, with their interest area ranging from Myth and Mythology to Mickey Mouse! But the one game that has found a lot of favour recently is Battleships. According to Wikipedia, the Battleships board game has World War I origins, starting out as a paper and pencil game.
Picture courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Picture courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

To me and a host of adults out there who grew up on a steady diet of Herge’s famous  characters, a more apt reference would be the Tintin comic, Flight 714. If you haven’t read the pages where the sullen, stingy and scruple-free multi-billionaire Carreidas repeatedly flummoxes Capt. Haddock, then you’re missing something hilarious! But even as I enjoyed the comic and was intrigued by Battleships, I never got a chance to actually play the game, and it faded from my memory – that is, until it made a grand appearance in our household in the guise of my son’s birthday gift. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly both my little boys picked up this game. They are nearly three years apart, and in the early years, “three” represents a significant cognitive gap, separated by numerous cognitive milestones. Some examples:

Data source: www.understood.org

Their board games therefore tend to be divided into two neat piles. In line with his age and interests, the younger one prefers the motto of “have dice, will play”. He loves rolling the dice, driven by the sincere belief that he’s the “luckiest person in the family”. His cries of elation when he leads the board on the perennial family favourite “Snakes and Ladders”, or his shrieks of despair when he falls behind, have earned him the nickname of “Mr. Noisy” in our neighbourhood. The older one prefers intrigue (Scotland Yard, anyone?). He feels let down when “dumb luck” plays a significant part in a game, where he cannot ‘outsmart’ his opponent. Like many great board games “Battleships” tends to straddle the space between luck and logic. Yes there is a good deal of chance in the game, but it also requires strategic thinking. Children delight in shouting out the words, “a miss!”, “a hit!” and “a sink!”. There is implicit confrontation in those words; however no actual violence is inflicted. The vessels on the board don’t even sink when they’re sunk – they just end up looking more dressed up! The power of their thought processes in affecting the opponent’s fleet is a revelation – almost like a spooky action-at-a-distance effect. Abstraction and Generalization – Computational Thinking concepts that even adults have difficulty wrapping their heads around, form part and parcel of this game. The moments of silence and strategic thinking add to its old-world charm. Open Mic Imagin8ors Above all, this game demands that the players be principled – a facet of the Collaboration, that we need in dollops in the global citizens of a brave new world, in a time when the planet is ridden by the damage done by the collective greed of the past generations. The temptation to gain strategic advantage surreptitiously (a.k.a. Through peeking!) was initially so strong in the children that, during the first few rounds I had to step in and act as the Captain of the boys, to enforce ground rules and stringent penalties against ‘cheating’. But eventually they understand that it is a lot more fun and engaging to follow the rules. A fair game of  Battleships seems to teach long-term lessons that stick in more ways than one. Open Mic-imagin8ors Carreidas in Flight 714 was driven by the desire to win the game of Battleships at all costs against his opponent, the poor, sincere Captain Haddock. This may have helped the former win the game, but in the end his guile was exposed and the Captain’s Boys won the day! What board games rule your household? What life lessons have you been able to share through them? We would love to hear from you…

Mama See How I Grow!!!!

Amusing pic Children absorb a lot of things and bring out this knowledge in the most remarkable ways. Here is  the story of Nirmay and his amazing learning from nature, telling his mother “Mama See How I Grow!” As Bharti was watering the plants she noticed her four-year- old son Nirmay crouch down next to the flower pots. “Mom, I am a plant too, water me too”, he cooed. In an indulgent mood Bharti gently sprinkled some water on Nirmay. As the water fell on him, he slowly started straightening up “Mom see I am growing too”. Stories my dear friend Bharti shares about Nirmay always make me smile. But after the initial laugh, I am quite intrigued by the boy’s ability to apply his knowledge to his endearing antics. This is the concept of growth demonstrated in the simplest and most effective way. Has your child ever demonstrated a science concept or principle like this? Do share…

Learnings from the Kitchen Garden

open mic picture   Rachna Singh, a Singapore based mother of two daughters who are like chalk and cheese. A collector, a writer, a gardener,a mother and a terrific friend; she is indeed a force of nature. Picking up each new thing in life with such enthusiasm and energy she is a constant source of  inspiration to everyone around her. MAAAA….. I am bored. Oh dear Lord!!!….she is bored. AGAIN!!! And thus began the holidays for my five-year-old Eesha. A sack full of untapped energy, who needed to be positively and constructively challenged every waking hour. Ignoring her, I went about tending to my plants lovingly. “Can I do that please?” Eesha asked and I indulged her. This set the Sumerian wheel of gardening on the roll. In went the whole jug of water in a single plant and water spilled all over the place. It was time for her first lesson – “water conservation”. How to use water, a  scarce natural resource, without wasting it. When Eesha accidentally plucked out few healthy saplings along with the weeds, I told her about deforestation and imbalances in our ecological system. She absorbed all this new information not deterred by the big words thrown at her. An organic fertilizer made of egg shells, vegetable and fruit peels was our next project .She learnt about being cost effective and recycling. I did make a passing reference to soil pollution and how our fertilizer was more eco-friendly. She was struck by the term “eco-friendly”. “Ma, I think I‘ll call my next doll eco-friendly. Now that made me smile. In some mason jars we put layers of coloured pebbles and compost mixed soil and planted cacti plants with tiny red and yellow flowers. Forever the artist Eesha wrapped a dainty little green ribbon around the bottle. And our lovely glass garden terrarium was born. As I was snipping away some mint leaves, for my tea, I was tempted to start an herb garden and I shared this with Eesha. Jubilant at the idea we painted and decorated the cans. We personalised it with ladyfinger imprint patterns. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes and oriental capsicum all found a little can of their own. In the process, Eesha learnt the names and spellings of different herbs and understood the difference between herbs, fruits and vegetables. I also helped her understand the nutritional benefits of eating different coloured fresh produce. But would she have the patience to wait? I was in for an unexpected surprise. For the next two months, Eesha meticulously and lovingly looked after her plants. Few times, I also caught her spray bottle in hand talking sweet nothings to her baby plants. In August, my baby’s birthday month our herb garden was in full bloom, and what a sight. In a moment of pure genius Eesha suggested a gardening themed birthday party. I sure was impressed. Off we went to the market to collect our supplies. At her birthday party each kid was handed a clean empty can to decorate and plant herbs of their choice. Once they were done it was time to make their own vegetable pizzas. Oh the excitement of trimming fresh herbs and scattering it over their pizzas. We further topped it with colourful cherry tomatoes and capsicums. Everything from the kitchen garden. The kids polished off the pizzas in minutes. Amazed I mused, an activity meant to keep my kid busy in her holidays had reaped such rewards. I saw a more patient, knowledgeable, responsible and happy kid running around in the house. That night, she hugged me and said that this was her best birthday ever, I couldn’t help beaming and hugging her back. I knew she really meant it. Have you done something recently with your child which has reaped unexpected rewards? Do tell.  

 Mapping It Out

open mic pic- Imagin8ors     Sia Mitra blogger, painter, needlework artist, mother – a woman with fingers in many pies. Living a busy life juggling numerous interests and responsibilities, but her daughter always comes first. Doing many projects together is how this mother-daughter duo bond and have fun together. Hear this Delhi based powerhouse speak about one such holiday project. Rummaging through some old documents, one manic Sunday, I stumbled upon some old maps. They were detailed, familiar and drawn with exclusively me in mind, by my husband. Gazing at the yellowing paper, I wistfully recalled, how they used to be my sole guide before the smart phone. Peeping over my shoulder my seven–year-old daughter was intrigued, “What is that?” “It is a map, dear. “ As Darling Daughter ogled it, a fabulous idea germinated in my mind. “Would you like to make some maps?” My query was met with an enthusiastic affirmative. Cartography, the art of charting maps, initiated by the Greeks and Arabs, has been around for centuries and now it was time for the mother-daughter duo to get busy too. But first a quick lesson before we ventured into unchartered territories. “Listen,” I explained “A map is a pictorial representation of an area, with certain predefined symbols used to show the various objects. For example a box with a red cross depicts a hospital. Most of the symbols used in the map are defined and are called legend. Another important aspect of a map is the direction.” Next morning to understand directions better we stepped out in the garden. “Now which side is the sun?” I queried. Darling Daughter dutifully pointed towards the East. “Let us stand facing the sun. The direction you are facing now is East. Your back is towards the West. Your left hand depicts North and the Right depicts South.” This is the simplest way to get the hang of directions. Of course you can use an instrument called the compass to know the directions. The needle of the compass always points towards the North. In a map, it is customary to depict the orientation with the help of a North arrow. map pic 4 Armed with this knowledge we set off for a short stroll from Darling Daughter’s school (My School) to a nearby school (ABC School). As we walked, I asked her to make a note of the major landmarks we passed. After a leisurely stroll, we sat down on a park bench and drew a picture of the route, marking the landmarks. I encouraged her to draw as many items as she could. At this juncture we were not making maps to scale. After she finished, the following picture emerged. open mic imagin8ors -1 This was still a drawing and not a map. To achieve that we had to replace objects with symbols. I introduced her to some of the standard symbols used for map making. She designed the rest of the symbols herself. After some hectic designing these are the symbols we settled on. map pic 2 Now we inserted the symbols in our original picture. The general paths remaining the same. Now it looked more like a representative map :-

map pic 3

We both grinned ear to ear as we marched back clutching the map like a trophy.  Definitely a fun fruitful morning. Sadly before I could bask for two minutes in the glory of it all, I was bombarded with questions about distances and shortest route. Well what can I say, parenting and learning go hand in hand, so the lessons continue. Have you ever gotten your child to create a map? What was your experience like? Do share…  

All the World’s a Stage

All the worlds a stage

All the worlds a stage

Sailakshmi Deepak a friend with whom conversation never ends. Librarian, Blogger, Supermom, Maker and Commentator she is a multi-talented aficionado. Living in Dubai she is constantly looking for new experiences at the same time continuing old traditions. Her life is full of beautiful narratives woven around her two fantastic kids. At 40, my thirst for knowledge has gone up multi-fold. I thought it was because of Google, and the fact that I had become a librarian with access to a barrage of non-fiction books. I was wrong; I realised it is because of my 10 and 7-year-old boys. There was an endless stream of questions coming my way, and the more I looked for answers the greedier for information they got. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them! So, I did. Our favourite topic being religion, mythology, beliefs, etc., I grabbed a book called ‘Religions of the world’ from the children’s section and it became our bedtime ‘storybook’. I think l learnt more than I was trying to teach, and we had the most enriching discussions. Over the next two months, as we finished the book, we had all the information about the different religions; and am happy to let them decide what they want to grow up believing in. Hinduism piqued their interest, probably because they can relate to it. They now wanted to delve deeper into Indian mythology. We started with the fairly simple Ramayana, and then moved on to the more complex but interesting Mahabharata. As I read to them, we enjoyed the way many stories were woven together to make this epic. We then moved to Gita for Children, which I did not particularly enjoy, but they were obsessed. With this phase done over another 6 months, I needed a break. I wanted laughter before we went to bed. I was picking up Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss, but they did not want any of that. They wanted to soak in the heavy stuff. This time I was lost. We did not know what was going to be our next. The following morning when I was at the library, the first person who walked in, returned Marcia Williams’ comic strip book of Shakespeare Plays. Now, that was a sign. It called out to me; I wanted to get into it and discover the Bard. So I took it home and within a week, my boys and I were hooked. We tasted, bit into, chewed and gobbled it; and in a fortnight I went back to the library and got another one from the series. We soaked ourselves into this one too. I was now bringing home several versions of ‘Shakespeare for children’ and having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When we could not read, we were playing quizzes, word games and 20 questions based on his works. It has been about 8 months, and we are still in love, maybe more than ever before. In April we attended the Literature Festival which celebrated the Bard’s 400th death anniversary. Who had to be there in the author line up, having sessions on Shakespeare and signing her books? Marcia Williams. With more books signed by her, our bookshelves are bursting, and we have gone back to our favourite Much Ado about Nothing, Romeo & Juliet and Comedy of Errors. What about you? What are you and your kids reading right now ????

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