Thursday, July 29, 2010

Visit to IUCAA, Pune

A search for the “magic in communication”!

I traveled to Pune to visit Arvind Gupta at IUCAA. His office is situated there and there are regular sessions that are held where children come and interact with his associates. They are shown a demo to build a set of toys, which they build themselves and take home. While they build the toys they are told stories and given explanations on the toys in relation to science. The session I attended, however was carried out more like a class. The number of students attending were over two hundred, which did not make the session practical in terms of the children creating the toys by themselves and taking them home.

There was a set of things I was looking out for at the interaction.

Approach – Science to toys or vice versa.
It was not a decided interaction in that sense. The scope of some toys was shown in the beginning… the motion in the toy or the final form and then explanations
were given based around the toy (example… the toy explaining waves – the construction first and the motion followed by modifying the toy and looking at the science behind it). Others were approached through triggering a memory the child had of a science principle or experiment they may have encountered. This was followed by a demonstration of the working of the toy and then the construction was explained.

What comes out of the play?
In the session that I attended there was no toy that the child built himself / herself and took home (due to the large numbers in each session). It was more of a fun classroom kind of atmosphere, which left all the children wanting to experiment with the toys and gather junk and construct the toys in their own homes.

Focus in each toy – achieving the toy perfectly or experimenting with it (taking it apart/modifying etc).
There was a definite interest in the process of constructing the toy from the audience. This interest was also strengthened by the fact that the children were not building the toys alongside. This induced concentration, with the facilitator continually encouraging the children to try it at home and even offering ideas to make changes while reproducing it.

Focus on learning vs. focus on the fun, tactile aspect.
There seemed to be a fair balance of both but t
his was again determined by the fact that the children were simply following the process and not making the toys alongside. The focus on pointing out the science behind something is much more when the children are concentrating on a demonstration vs. actually doing it themselves.

Stories surrounding the toys in the session.
There was a focus on sequencing the toys in a manner in which the working of one is connected to the working of the next. The science principles were spoken about in each and a range was covered. The stories for these lay only in the examples and the real life situations that these toys were shown in relation to. However there are two stories that are used in these sessions. These stories drive toys made through paper folding. One such story was demonstrated using a series of hats. The story went through the different characters that the protagonist encountered on a walk (each character defined by his different hat). Towards the end the hats were also converted into a boat a
nd a life jacket and the entire story was told using a newspaper that was folded into different formations. The applause and admiration at the end of the story was a clear sign of the enjoyment of a story told through props (or a prop having such a huge story behind it!)

Sequencing in the absence of stories.
The sequencing related to the working of the toys and flowed simply from one to the other covering a wide range of scientific topics through the session.

Categorization of toys – Focus on a single area or a selection from different science topics.
The session touched upon a range of topics – Simple mechanics, Newtons Laws, Balance, Force, Waves, Electricity, Magnetism. Only very basic principles were touched upon and they were sequenced so that the jump from one to the other was not wholly unrelated. For example, forks balancing on a toothpick was followed by a pencil balancing on a point (through magnets) which then led to toy where an LED was powered through the mechanical energy (generated through repulsion in magnets.)

Flow and participation.

The session I attended was different from the usual participation. Due to the absence of the children making the toys themselves, there were other elements of interactivity concentrated on. Every time the facilitator showed something new he got himself a helper from the audience / asked the children how many of them intended to try the toy at home / gave more viable alternatives to the children telling them where they could specifically find certain things etc.

Image of and response to the facilitator (teacher or someone experimenting along with them)
The facilitator in this session spoke in the local language, engaged children in questions he asked them, made jokes about small mistakes he may have made during the making of a toy etc. The session was more along friendly lines where it was clear to the children that they could respond or question anything at any point. This session was still however a little more driven by a teacher / demonstrator.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Where is this going?

I am trying to define the form of the communication material for the toys. Mind mapping and listing possible layers and ideas.


Interactive compilation


Play within play / Toys within Game

Story and Toy / Toy Story / Story with Toy

Independent teaching / learning

Participation encouraging medium


Enhancing experiences within a daily activity – Adding a layer / giving a twist

Story and Prop / Story as Prop in a kit

Series – Planned interaction

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Client Meet : Review 01 follow up

Redefining my role in this project - The role of a communicator as opposed to a teacher.
Looking at creating an experience through which the child is able to understand through making and playing. The experience could be made up of two kinds of interactions
- A facilitator / parent carrying out a workshop (group interaction / collective learning / taught fun(?) / out of school, class atmosphere / planned activity / extra-curricular or co-curricular),
- A product / compilation / experience designed solely for the child (independent learning / self motivation and self initiated / teach yourself science)
The workshops could act as a platform for research or a medium which goes back and forth between research and the product.

As a communicator, looking at understanding the exact nature of the subject - the "flavour" of science so to say... works on questioning, prediction, experimentation and inference. Encouraging children to understand this about science using the toys as a medium to experiment.
Using the workshops as a space to create a rapport with the children in order to remove it from a class-like atmosphere. Possibility of carrying out the workshops over 3 evenings or the weekend. Planning ahead for these workshop experiments keeping in mind exam schedules for children. A possibility of taking this to a school in order to modify a classroom experience.

Looking at creating stories around these toys which could lead to the compilation / product / experience driven through a narrative. The narrative could be constructed keeping in mind special tools used to teach children (possible methods used to teach children who have a learning disorder etc), histories of the scientific concepts taught by the toys etc. This narrative would be the driving force of the experience built around these toys which would lead to independent interaction by the children. The toys could act as props in this product / compilation.

POA : Actual construction of a series of toys as a part of research and familiarization. - Looking at their materials, science, stories behind them.
Creating and idea and question bank from this activity and a possible visit to or interaction with Arvind Gupta himself. (Tentative date - monday - 26th july)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Play / Interaction


Rules of Play : Katie Salen, Eric Zimmerman

Play : Stuart Brown

Homo Ludens : Johan Huizinga

Monday, July 12, 2010


The whole idea of children making their own toys and creating from scratch to teach themselves about science comes from Arvind Gupta's thoughts on the education system and the need for children to look at a more out-of-classrooms-and-text-books medium.
Reading through articles and documents on his website key points that stand out form the premise for this project.

The excess junk produced in the current lifestyle of most urban children and a need for them to look at this waste as something beyond use and throw.

Underprivileged children often creating toys from anything they can find – not being aware of the science/mechanism behind it.

India still having a tradition of making things by hand – Restoring and preserving that, aiming to encourage children to build upon it.

The idea of children breaking apart toys in order to play with them. Feeding their curiosity as well as encouraging them to figure out for themselves how things work.

The way the child does something being the correct way. An emphasis on what the process of making something is for them as opposed to following directions blindly. A follow up once something is made in terms of its working, mechanism etc.

Ref : The Joy of Making Indian Toys - Sudarshan Khanna

Indian Toys and Toy Makers - Sudarshan Khanna

UNESCO Sourcebook for the Science in the Primary School

“There is a general dearth of good books on science activities, toy making, origami and how-to-do-it books. I am against slotting books for specific age groups for I feel that a good book is a joy for one and all.” –Arvind Gupta.