SAIIER 2018:STEM Land
Deep learning of Mathematics through EBD and materials
The tagline of STEM Land is learn, grow, work, teach which captures the essence of STEM Land:
- Exploring self-directed learning, and researching the use of technology in effective learning and learning environments.
- Exploring a learning organization as an environment where learning (unending education) and growth (constant progress) of its members and those they interact with is the primary goal, while still being effective in engaging in a real-world context.
- Providing opportunities (and mentoring) to youth in and around Auroville to become skilled in electronics, programming and teaching.
- Providing opportunities for skilled youth to engage with children in schools and move beyond simple procedural learning into application, problem solving and self-mastery.
- Exploring alternatives to examinations as a way for children to demonstrate mastery.
- Supporting those who want to see similar changes in their schools and organizations, through e.g. modules in specific topics, and teacher training.
Activities of the year:
Broadly, our activities this year were focused on creation of a STEM Land in Isai Ambalam School and our work with the children on real-life Education By Design (EBD) projects as part of the school transformation program. At Udavi School we consolidated our work and also set up an iSMART classroom that is used for teacher training as well as offering courses in electronics, Django Python, etc.
We got more rigorous in research and interacted with professors from IITB, Heidi Watts, etc. and took up three research projects this year. We presented two papers:
- epiSTEME7 Paper on “Fostering Responsibility for Learning”
- At Sinthanai Sangamam regarding “STEM Land at Isai Ambalam School”
We also made presentations about our work at the SAIIER gathering and at The Bridge Program (which connected visiting researchers with those in Auroville).
We have started bring out a quarterly newsletter that captures many of the happenings at STEM land. These are on our website, www.auraauro.com.
The first beneficiaries of STEM Land are the youth (ages 9+ this year) who are part of STEM Land; they had the opportunity to learn how to be good teachers and engineers, and to grow through exploring how they want to be and what they can do for society and community.
The other beneficiaries of the project were over 100 children that the youth of STEM Land interacted with in an intense fashion. The team also interacted with teachers and researchers in the field of education, which was enriching for us and hopefully for them as well.
We saw progress in the children:
- At Isai Ambalam – with their confidence, competence to handle acads and do real life projects, and their improved spoken English.
- At Udavi – with peer learning and interactions in multi-grade classes, as well as “Stewardship for New Emergence” tools being used by the children to create a learning community.
In our team, six out of nine members completed a 10-day silent meditation course which was hard, but has been useful to ground us in our work.
Two of the senior youth have relocated to the city to work. This brought us into a new phase, as no one had left the organization in the last three years. We started a new 2-month process called ‘boot camp’, inviting youth who were interested in learning and growing to come and intern with us and experience the rigor that we follow. We are happy that the ones who survived are part of STEM Land in some capacity.
Many members of the team continue to participate in, benefit from and organize the “Stewardship for New Emergence” programs both in English and Tamil (“Amma Appa program”). These tools have helped us handle various situations and to continue to progress as a team.
Some personal reflections from team members:
- The year 2017-2018, progress occurred in various aspects. I am able to notice a vast change in my inner being, and abilities as well. I have realized that happiness is something special that I create within me, and this emanates in all things that I do, and participate small or large. Supporting children in their growth and seeing them accomplish their goals gives a huge sense of awe, and responsibility. As a learner and technologist I have gained the confidence to support my fellow colleagues and learned from the team as a whole, this has made my knowledge rich and diversified. Each member of the team has a unique set of universal values, skills and accountability, and seeing them engaged with commitment gives me an adrenaline drive to progress towards perfection along by their sides.
- This year I enjoyed working with the 4th graders at Isai Ambalam. We had a lot of conversations which shifted the interaction between me and the children. We did a lot of hands-on activities and also built a honeybee model. While working on the activities I would get inputs from the children, and we would work from what they have told. Like that they were taking responsibility for their learning. This time I was rigorous in tracking the children's growth by tracking their homework and their tests. I had also applied what I learned from the D.El.Ed course on how to interact with a child and classroom interactions.
- While having conversations with the children I would always bring the aspect of the problems around us and deepen the conversation (e.g. pollution, importance of honeybees). I am proud of the 4th graders about what were able to accomplish this year.
- This year what was interesting for me that I realized that learning takes different pathways. In Udavi I was supporting all the multi-grade classes. I needed to be always ready to answer any questions the children ask. Since the children work on different topics and it is also multi-grade, the questions are diverse, and this makes me think more than what is needed for a blackboard teacher. Teaching them science, software and math at the same time makes it more interesting. I was always helped by the tools I learned from “Stewardship for New Emergence” workshop.
- It's almost an year since I joined STEM Land Aura Auro Design. The first thing that I learned in STEM Land was Scratch from an 8th grade child. It opened me up to learn more from children in STEM Land including printing 3D models, Alice, Geogebra, Goanimate, puzzles etc., and I’m still learning to solve the Rubik's Cube.
- I've been coordinating STEM Land at Udavi and supporting teachers during the class. I've got an opportunity to meet different people who come to STEM Land, and interacting with them was valuable. I've also interacted with volunteers and have learned technical skills from them. STEM Land provides a space to cover whatever I have missed learning in the past (when I was in school) and to visualize concepts. I learned to build a few electronics circuits, and also supported in creating a software for children to track their progress. I have learned to come out of my comfort zone to learn new things.
- I enjoyed presenting our poster in EpiSTEME7 in Mumbai and our paper at The Bridge Program. This gave an opportunity to interact with researchers. I am also part of the research team, and this makes me to analyze what I do with children. I’m grateful to each individual in our team for supporting me to learn and grow.
- My attitude towards learning has changed. For example, I used to feel bad or insulted when I don't know something (technically). But now this has changed. I feel ok, this is something I do not know, so let me learn it.
- The important thing I see is that whatever I learn I need to connect it real life and be able to apply it. Then only it is useful and I remember. Otherwise I would forget it.
- It is interesting for me to learn from the kids. I not only learned puzzles, mindstorms, Rubik's Cube (in progress) from children, I noticed they never give up in what they do. They continuously try without any fear. I am inspired by this quality and want to use it in my life.
- Sanjeev R.:
- I am grateful for the many challenges that came up in the last year that have supported me and the team to grow. A couple of the youth from the first year relocated to cities after 3 years. I realized that I had worked with the assumption that given an opportunity to learn and grow, a person would want to have a sense of community and contribute to where they are. I wondered if the intensity and rigour of our organization (we start the day at 7:00 a.m. working in two schools, and then engineering work till 4:30 p.m.) is resulting in burnout. It also made me reflect on what my role in the organization should be.
- In this time Ankit, who is traveling to all states of India on his cycle visiting and learning about alternative education initiatives, was at the school a couple of days. In one of our conversations regarding travel, I joked that I have become a tree and I do not travel. It will be 5 years (in a week) since I moved to Auroville, the longest I have lived in one place (continuously) in my life. Ankit just replied that trees are very welcoming.
- Some people sit in the shade of a tree for a short time, some will benefit from the fruits of it, and some will take the seed (essence of the tree) and plant it elsewhere and create more trees. A tree does not judge, it gives because that is its purpose. This is my role.
With new members and various teacher trainings being requested of us, we are looking at organizing ourselves to create modules that we can provide – making use of research, innovation and collating the projects done by children in each area of our work.