Thursday, 15 October 2015

Backyard Science

We at Ebase map each learning topic and theme to a practical activity and its real-life relevance, which makes Science Experiments and field trips a norm and aid in maximum retention. Our curriculum on sustainability works with 5 broad themes and we ensure learning about those broad themes with practicality.   

Weather Station Instruments: Global Warming which is leading to climate change and extreme climatic conditions all around the world has shown its fury on ladakh’s fragile ecosystem in the 2010 Cloud Burst at midnight which caused severe damage to life and livestock. People in Ladkah still recall it with sadness and till date there is a flash flood threat every second day. I experienced a flood in my very first week where school was cancelled for a week all over Leh and we had to evacuate the hostel and camp out in the cultural hall at a higher ground followed by two days of shoveling the and silt away from the roof tops, our rooms and the catchment area. This lead us to explore better ways for preparedness for these natural calamities, make weather station instruments from waste materials, learn the science behind weather forecasting, and do experiments through religious data collection and keeping daily weather logs.

A barometer: to measure wind pressure. 

An Anemometer: To check the Wind Speeds. 

A Wind Vane: to show the direction of the incoming wind. 

A Rain Guage. 

Soil erosion: Tracing back, the 2010 flood to the reasons for climate change and to ways to prevent various natural disasters, we came to a deeper understanding of how to mitigate the adverse effects of a flood through a simple solution of afforestation. Planting more trees prevents soil erosion as the root hold on the soil and not let the top soil wash away. This can be demonstrated by a simple experiment with waste water bottles slit in halves. Bottle one has only sand and represents a barren land, Bottle two has stones, cow dung, and wood pieces and represents fallow land; Bottle three has plants planted 2 weeks ago and represents a forest or a field. On pouring water at an incline we can see that that the cleanest water is collected from bottle number 3 in the glass jar below demonstrating that plants help prevent soil erosion or washing away of the topsoil.

sowing the seeds. 

Germination: even our plants have a great view! 

Notice how the water collected by bottle 3 runoff is a lot cleaner than the other two?  

Mini biogas plant: Sustainability encompasses clean energy resources and solar is the most popular in a place like Ladakh with abundant sunshine for 260 out of the 365 days. The E-base is completely solar powered even supplies excess power to the school office and the audio visual room, ensuring internet even during power cuts. Class 6 made a mini biogas plant with spare parts and with waste. That has been the running trend with all our experiments- The use of waste material. The kids never cease to surprise me with their innovative Jugaad thinking and find quick fix solutions to all road blocks. It was great to see how the girls didn’t cringe even once while mixing it even though the boys did and kept teasing them about it. The experiment was semi-successful as it did produce methane gas through anaerobic respiration but due to leaks in the pipes there was not a lot of methane gas collected, but there were signs of Methane gas the room smelled a certain way, distinct by the smell of methane and on taking a lit match stick to the nozzle of the tube containing the methane the, flame got sucked in and intensified proving the presence of methane gas. Yes methane is a green house gas but is a much better alternative to Smoke producing choolas causing respiratory diseases. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


“Reduce Reuse and Recycle”- has been a familiar slogan in schools and among EcoWorriors for about a decade now, but the new buzz word seems to be- “Upcycle”.  Type in Upcycle on Pinterest and you’ll see some beautiful, colorful and innovative uses of everyday discarded items. These easy-to-do quirky items are a great way to revamp your personal style, add bling to your accessories or compliment your cozy home corner while saving the environment.

Upcycle is a supplement in the process of reuse and recycle, where you can convert waste into something useful but tweaking it a little; in the process, reducing your own carbon foot print by increasing the life span of an item and keeping it from being kicked out of the system after a one time use. Upcycling things are a great creative outlet, turn trash to treasure, makes for the best personalized gifts and can sometimes be an amazing lesson in entrepreneurship!

Over the mini vacation we had during the Buddhist festival, a group of E-base enthusiasts came together and dedicated their time to find tin cans from all different wings from the campus and turn them into Candle Lanterns. They made 52 of them in just three days, painted them and stepped up to the challenged of selling them. The idea of the project was to visit all aspects of entrepreneurship- from devising an optimum method to make clean sharp holes in the cans without denting them to the arduous task of taking permission from the management for sell them to pricing them right to ensure profits to coping with losses and business stress.

The estimated profits were Rs. 11000. By the end of the three-day dead line they made Rs. 450 rupees by selling 4 and made a loss of 50 rupees since the paints cost Rs. 500 rupees. They analyzed why and where they went wrong, rethought their strategy, their pricing, their selling location, their buyers etc. The most valuable lesson learnt was that life and business is not always all hunky dory and one needs to pull oneself out of your lows and have plan B’s. The kids are now considering gifting the Tin Lanterns to the teachers on staff day. 

The Most Epic Musical Maestros

Design for change has a knack for bringing the best out of students everywhere around the world. It did the same with my kids as I taught them blissfully unaware of their hidden talents. Until..

The School Band decided to teach the younger kids music since they felt very strongly about spreading their love for music and dismiss the stereotype of kids choosing STEM subjects as career options, the importance laid on them and the lack of importance laid on Arts and its forms. As the kids started teaching music to the hostel kids,they realized they could teach it in school as well and in their journey through the process the entire project evolved to be a three-fold process. 

While teaching younger kids the basics of music, they realized they only had 3 bag pipes and 5 drums which was not enough for a class of 30 students and also became the limiting factor for other kids who wanted to join the school band. That's when they realized that they can use trash to play music and went on a spree to clean their campus and in order to get musical instuments. They also approached the famous Ladakhi Musician Mr. Angchuk Ralam, who taught them how to make innovative musical instruments, like a flute with a PVC pipe and shared the importance of the flute in their Traditional Ladakhi folk culture. 

They say the best way of learning is teaching others, and thats exactly what the kids did! and in the process learned of their own potential as a team and made a band called Tash Band to spread the message of saving the environment, share their love for music and their reverence for their Ladakhi culture. 

This was one of the hardest videos to edit and make it less than 3 mins because we had hours and hours of great footage of almost about two weeks of the project. For me, personally this project was an emotional journey of getting to know my kids, their outlook towards life and it was moving to see them talk about their passions with such gusto and the why they love music so much. Each one has a different reason and a story of what music means to them and how they learned music. I only wish I could include all in the video but due to a time constraint I couldn't but here are some of my favorite quotes. 

"You can't see music, but you can hear it and feel it" -Mipam, Class 10. (he said it in hindi and it sounded even more beautiful) To get to know your students beyond their knowledge, beyond their marks, beyond their behavior in class an eyeopening feeling. "I picked up an instrument for the first time when I sneaked into the marching band practice even though I wasn't a part of the band, and the instructor was shouting on all the kids for some reason, but while we were all getting Dandda and I just started playing it, it came to me naturally and everyone was shocked!"

"Music is my stress buster. If i've had a bad day at school I come back to my hostel room and just play my instrument and I feel better"-Nurbu, class 10, Head Boy

"When I was small I used to pretend play the drums with tin cans like the big bhayyas because I wanted to learn so bad." - Galdan, Class 8

"I was taught music by a now ex-student of the school. and i remeber there being only one keyboard and all the students wanting to learn. I was lucky enough to play my hands on it. but not everyone was that lucky. This project is my way of giving back to my school." -Kesang, Class 8

For those of you who have been waiting patiently for the video from the two weeks of music masti at school! Here you go!
*View on youtube with Subtitles/CC option* 

And it’s a wrap!

They say you can forget what you’ve read, you can forget what you’ve heard, you can forget what you have leanrt, but you can never forget how something makes you feel. This beautiful saying in Education terminology is called the Learning Pyramid attributed to the educator Prof. Edgar Dale and is represented by a triangle that shows the retention rates through various learning methods. 

In the past one week we have gone through each one of these steps right down to 90%. With the field trip to the Nang Village the students reached the 30% mark with the practical demonstrations of an Artificial Glacier, a Green House and a Compost Pit. On our return the students made their own low budget greenhouse with PVC pipes in under 30$ in under 3 hours as a part of a practical design challenge given to them. They followed it up with a demonstration of their greenhouse through a miniature replica in the assembly to all 490 other students of the school. Teaching others is indeed the best form of learning yourself.

All in all, they jumped right down in just one week and made me super proud. And to think this was the same bunch which threw my shoes on top of the school building once, makes it that much more special a project. 

10 Most Spectacular Experiences

Life is not measured the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away.
- Unknown 

#10: The largest Salt pans in the world- Bolivia!

#9: Skateboarding on the London Bridge, London


#8: Traffic Jam on the world's highest motorable road in the world due to snow fall, ladakh

#7: Snorkeling in Thailand

#6: The swing at the edge of the world, Ecuador


#5: International Antarctica Expedition, Antarctica

# 4: Climbing the second-highest active Volcano in the Andes, Ecuador

#3: The roller coaster in the Gunnies book of world records for the maximum number of twists, China

#2: Taking a dip in a volcanic crater, Ecuador

#1: Ladakh Marathon, India


Top #5 unforgettable fellowship memories

“The Memories Remain”

Here is a list of top 5 experiences made possible because of the Third pole Education Base Fellowship.

#1: The Ladakh Marathon: I’d count this in the top 10 experiences of my life list. Imagine running a marathon at 12000ft altitude at 6:00 am in the morning with freezing toes and fingers, Oxygen devoid thin cold air piercing your nostrils with every breath, leaky noses, winding narrow paths with idyllic sites, fluttering prayer flags, Gompas, Stupas, fresh water trickling because of melting glaciers, a motivating 11 year old not letting you stop even for a second, finishing Top 20, the unbearably painful stiffness after and the dichotomy of it all.     

#2: The International Buddhist festival of ladakh: Not only did I get to attend the internationally famous Buddhist Festival of Ladakh which is attended by followers from all over the world, I also got to be a part of the Organizing Team since Mahabhodhi International Meditation Center (my fellowship school campus) is the host for this magnificent festival each year. It was both grand in scale and impact and had reputed global and spiritual leaders from all over the world, like Baba Ramdev, the princess of Bhutan, the president of the Rotary Club Japan and my personal favorite Dr. Kiren Bedi, the first women IPS officer of India who gave the most motivating speech on women empowerment ever!! As a part of the organizing committee I was in the welcome committee with all other teachers and students in traditional Ladakhi wear to chaperon all the guests with a “Julley!” Hemis Monestary’s Mask dance was the cheery on the cake all the week long events, seminars, Buddhist film screenings and cultural nights.

#3: Field trip: This is what our field trips are about! Learning how to build Artificial Glaciers, Green Houses and Compost Pits in a beautiful village followed by a lunch picnic. Learning =100% Fun=100% Read more here. 

#4: The Best surprise birthday ever: The best surprise birthday party ever (after my 17th birthday) planned and organized by the coolest principal ever, with a cake finger food and people’s unconditional love to make me feel at home! Not to forget the wonderful gifts, cards, birthday songs in every period of the day and the long distance wishes pouring in on Facebook.

#5: My first Teacher’s day: Yes I have been teaching for over three years yet surprisingly I have never attended even one teachers day.  Except a Colombian teachers day which is very different from what we are used to here in India. It started with the students presenting each teacher with a Khatak followed by a series of games for all teachers till lunch time. We played every single birthday party game we used to play as kids from picking out floating vegetables in a bucket of water with only our mouths, to an obstacle course; musical chairs to modelling for a fashion show to catching a water balloons in teams. It was a lot of fun and a lot of bonding with all the other teachers. Dolma ma’am our principal was such a sport when it came to participating in all the games and she and I made a power team and won quite a few ‘Barone’ chocolates together and I also got the title of Miss. Mahabhodi, a crown and a sash for the best cat walk! Imagine that!    

Monday, 5 October 2015

3 Smart Classroom Management Tools to Revamp your Learning Space

At E-base, all classes are intended to be fun! But it a lot more difficult to ensure you are having fun and learning at the same time, than you think; as fun is usually associated with disorderliness and learning with structure. There 3 fun ways to seamlessly integrate the two.

Noise levels: One of the side effects of being teacher is that you will inevitably lose your voice at some point in a week. The noise level chart works great with the junior class students like class 1st, 2nd and 3rd. It works well in setting expectations of the class before you start and you must remember to start the class with that. It also helps to just point at the chart every time you hear an increase in voice levels, instead of increasing your voice levels and losing it.

Visual Learning Aids: Every child has a different learning style. Something that has helped me cater to all has been the Visual Learning Aid which is directed towards the visual learners (those who learn remember and retain better through visual props), but you can integrate the other learning styles into it like tactile and audiovisual. The idea for the visual aid dawned upon me from a new series I started watching called the misfits (which is hilarious!), and others like Sherlock and movies like mission impossible, Borne Identity, Gajani and the like. The way we have been conducting the and fromEbase sessions has been: to map all the information that we learn in every class, take active notes and also learn to take the right kinds of notes from a much younger age, filter out the unnecessary information and associated the information to the place of happening. This is usually relevant to the documentaries that we have been watching in our documentary film club, but can be the done the same way with projects involving research tools and every day classes. The research topic for class 5 students under biodiversity was a set of 11 animals that they had to find in groups from a set of books provided per group. The objective was to find as many animals possible in a 40 minute of a class. Once you have scanned an entire book you could choose to barter your book with another group. Working in teams of there were specific tasks assigned to each person, like one got to be a scanner, on the notes taker and another batterer. We got into the habit of notes taking for all our other classes and clubs, like the documentary film club and started associating stories to a place. Finally we connected all those places with the notes through colorful string and there you have a tool great for visual learners, a great review of duration of a course and also a colorful Hitman like movie addition to your class.

A snapshot of all that we learn during the course. 

Team Work Tracker: Classroom tracker is a great tool to keep track of individual student progress; but in a PBL class the best way to effectively track progress is using a team work tracker. This tool works great till middle school level, as the students really care about whether they are getting a black start or a blue one based on their team performance. You get to see some really interesting dynamics within a group, and to also see individual personalities transcend through the entire group and the group take on the qualities of their strong leaders. From the beginning we have been conducting sessions as teams, organizing team building exercises, brainstorming in groups and taking actions as teams with set tasks. It is a great way to introduce the kids to work-life functioning, teach them the need to interact with students/people with different temperaments, to get work done even with people who are not their best friends or chosen work buddies, and help them evolve from the team building till achieving end result. 

Team building with boys we would never choose to be in the same team with.