Stars of Easy English: Learning Together

English was once outside the scope of classroom life in Chinnamma’s Nali-Kali* section at the Government Higher Primary School, Kolathur, Hoskote block. The English period went by, 3 to 4 p.m. every day, in dull tedium. The less than 10 children in Nali-Kali – Chinnamma has the 4th grade there as well – did not know a single thing other than the alphabet, she confesses. The class 1 and 2 textbooks open on the floor, most of it going over their heads. It felt weighty and overwhelming. “Very heavy,” as Mangala Mary in another school remarked. Chinnamma was helpless, she says, tied down to matter she could not understand, much less teach.

It was then that EASY English came into class. Chinnamma was open to its methods, its imaginative approach. “It’s a great help to us. In these times you have to know English.” But there was a catch, and that was technology, the new learning matrix in class. Three years away from retirement, she still says, “I don’t want to go into the Internet and all that,” and has used the same basic-edition mobile phone for the last 20 years.



Overcoming resistance was a large part of her conversion story. Today: “I keep the Tab open and the textbook open and integrate. To tell you honestly, I use only the Tab. The same lessons are there in the Tab, and much easier too. I often don’t open the textbook at all.” But Chinnamma continues to be technology-averse. She shuns a smartphone, in fact does not know what it is. Were it not for the inducements of the Tab she would not have crossed her mental barrier.



As for English, she says, “I’m only learning, still.” Chinnamma’s students too, along with her, are learning. “They’re improving slowly.” That is said with deliberate restraint, even a critical tone there. They are moving up, not as much perhaps as in the other schools, but they can answer most of the 23 questions and instructions Chinnamma has framed for them on a chart.

Some examples: “What is your name?’ “What is your father’s name?” What is your mother’s name?” “What is the first sound of your name?” “Which animal gives milk?” “Can you jump?” “Touch the board.” “Show me your nose.” Though whole-sentence answers are not within reach yet, the programme has made English comprehensible. The children understand the questions posed.



Action songs are their forte, a passion. The children know a repertoire of 10 rhymes, the tally way more than they ever knew before. It does not take much to trigger them, they are willing singers and movers. A regaling happens every time the Akshara team visits, and during the English period. The big, semi-dark room reverberates as the children stand in a circle, singing full-throatedly words they can sometimes only barely grasp or pronounce – this little cameo at the centre, and Chinnamma on the perimeter, like a conductor, raising and lowering her arms.

“Come little children……I will teach you A, B, C……”

“Watermelon, papaya, mango, banana……Fruit salad.”

“We go around the mango tree, the mango tree…..”

……………………………..


* Nali-Kali is a creative learning approach adopted by Government of Karnataka which combines classes 1, 2 and 3 in a single multigrade classroom.

How the coolest robot in India went all the way to Leipzig.

In 2013, Akshara Foundation with support from the Lego Foundation, set up a robotics lab in a government school, in Bangalore.

It’s overwhelming to see how the children have progressed from not being able to turn ON and turn OFF the computers to gaining the expertise in building Robots and programming it using computers.

Just over 2 years later, in February 2016, these geniuses from the Seva Bharath Trust, made us all proud. Fighting against all odds, they were recently placed First in the ‘Dance’ category of the Robocup Junior National level Robotics competition and fourth among 39 teams in the First Lego League 2015 national competition, earlier this year.

This gave them the opportunity to represent INDIA at the International level of the Robocup Junior competition in July 2016.

Here’s a look at their innovative robot, the E-bot Max that won them the 1st place.
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Meet the team behind the coolest robot in India – the Master Minds.
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From left to right: The Instinctive One (Ameenuddin), The Collaborator (Balachandra), The Mechanic (Aravinda Reddy), The Thinker (Lawrence), The Silent Programmer (Ramesh) and The Challenger (Ramakrishna).

And their achievements haven’t gone unnoticed. They have driven Local and national media into a frenzy with their accomplishments!

But these young geniuses remained unfazed with all the limelight on them. All they wanted to do was prep for the next step, their next competition in Germany. They walked in to the lab every day, rolled up their sleeves and immediately got to work on bettering the E-bot Max.

As a small tribute to these WHIZ KIDS, Akshara Foundation created a video that highlights them at their creative best.

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After an action-packed fundraising quarter on Ketto, E-bot Max and the Master Minds, finally made it for the International RoboCup Junior Competition that was held at Leipzig from June 29 to July 3, 2016.

Initially, a 6-member team was supposed to go. But the challenges in getting their passports kept us swinging from courts to government offices, till finally it was time to leave and just three had managed to overcome all those hurdles.

While the Master Minds just about missed out on an award or two, they definitely did not fall behind on all the cheering, encouragement and positive feedback. “It was a fabulous first time effort”, as quoted by one of the organisers.

You can follow their entire journey at Leipzig here and here.

That’s all that matters, as long as they’ve come back richer with experience and had fun while at it. All this goes to prove that given an opportunity, anyone can reach for the stars.

“Way Cooler Than The Robotics Lab In My School!”

A few weeks ago, I visited a government school in Viveknagar, Bangalore to see how they learn in India. The school has a Robotics Lab. I saw how they build their robots and it was very cool! I also admired them, because they let me help them with their robots.

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They had built a spinning top robot, a drumming monkey robot and a robotic boat to name a few. I made friends with a boy named Kevin Joseph. He is a very good builder and we built a robot together.

Thanks to Akshara Foundation and Mr. Sridhar for running the lab.

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– By Omkar Tharuvesanchi
3rd grade
Washington GT Elementary
Raleigh, NC
USA

Akshara Newsletter : November 2012 edition

Akshara Foundation has re-launched it’s monthly newsletter in November 2012. The newsletter covers important events and happenings at Akshara, tells you heartwarming impact stories from the field and highlights efforts put by our volunteering community. This newsletter will reach out to the different sections of our supporters and keep them updated on our activities.

You can read our November 2012 edition newsletter here.

Do write to us with your feedback on the newsletter. We would love to hear it !!