How we establish a positive teacher-student relationship at PICT

Parents of shy and introvert children are often worried about sending their children to ‘big schools’ thinking that they may be intimidated by the sheer size of the classroom, wouldn’t get ‘individual attention’ of the educators, wouldn’t be comfortable to participate in class activities or would find it difficult to communicate with the teacher. This concern is very natural and is a perpetual cause of worry to a lot of parents.

So how does PICT make sure to address these concerns?

We at PICT endeavour to establish a positive student-teacher relationship by accepting and respecting the individual qualities of each learner. A positive student-teacher relationship is probably one of the greatest weapons in education. It fosters a favourable learning atmosphere in the classroom. Everyone wants to feel valued by significant people in their lives and learners are no exception. So in such instances, a positive student-teacher relationship really helps the learners to open up during classes which boosts their self-confidence.

Through our meaningful student-teacher relationship we ensure a constructive impact on the learners. Right from the admission phase, the educators study the information about the learners as furnished by the parents and log their individual interactions with the learners to chalk out ‘individual learning plans’. Throughout the academic year, the educators monitor the interactions of every learner with their peers and with other educators to gain an understanding of the learner’s strengths, problems, fears or apprehensions and develop interventions. Learning through pair and group activities make the learners more comfortable in the classrooms. Educators form these learning groups where all the members are allotted specific responsibilities depending on their abilities and interests. Constructive feedback is shared individually, with all the learners, at regular intervals. This way, the educators demonstrate respect towards the learners thus winning their respect in return. In such a stimulating atmosphere, the learning process becomes joyful and to which all the learners keep looking forward to.

The benefits of establishing a positive student-teacher relationship at PICT have been many. Some of them are:
- Uplifts the self-esteem of learners.
- Fosters good behaviour among learners.
- Encourages learners to attend school regularly.
- Motivates learners to do well and perform better academically.
- Improves learners’ socio-emotional skills.

Parent-Teacher Meeting, every month at PICT, helps bringing the parents on board. Individual meetings facilitates sharing of specific feedback. The feedback is given in four parts – the current status of the learner in comparison with the expected standards, the role of the educator, the support expected from the parents and the road map for the learner.

The first educational experience that comes about in the primary years of the learner’s life is extremely important to lay the foundation of a meaningful academic life and the development as a person. At PICT, educators endeavour to establish a positive relationship with their learners by communicating truthfully with them and providing exclusive feedback for the holistic development of our future citizens.

Why we Choose Apply and Analyze Information over Memorization at PICT

There is a huge difference between accumulation of information and assimilation to synthesize. Gathering knowledge is the initial process which is later followed by comprehension, application, analysis, evaluation and synthesis. While Memorizing is defined as the acquisition of knowledge through study, experience, or being taught and store in memory for later recall, psychologists have defined Comprehension as a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to think about it and use concepts to deal adequately with that object. Understanding is a relation between the knower and an object of understanding.

Many parents complain about their children unable to remember certain concepts no matter how many times they go over it. And no, we aren’t talking about the learning difficulties your child might be facing, we mean the instances when your child has preferred memorizing to actually gaining an understanding of the said concept. Psychologist Benjamin Bloom described, in order for meaningful skills and comprehension to develop, “knowledge” must be practiced and applied. It’s only through repeated application of “information about something” that ideas are transformed into deep comprehension, real ability and useful “real world” skills. Therefore, application of information help remember complex concepts taught in the classrooms.

How do we do it at PICT?

Our teaching – learning methodology supports “active learning” which provides opportunities for accumulation of knowledge and assimilation through experiences.
- Passive learning has no place in our classrooms. Educators do not believe in recycling information with the traditional ‘chalk and talk method’ and subject the learners into endless listening to their lectures. They believe in creating an environment in which the child is stimulated to ‘think’ and ‘express’ their perception of concepts, apply the concepts in real life situations, debate and discuss with fellow mates, ponder over others’ opinion and synthesize a conclusion.
- Rote memorization of facts is more prone to be forgotten over a period of time. Such is not the case with application. Learners correlate data from different situations and dig deeper into concepts, strategies, ideas, etc.
- We want our learners to become smart-thinking individuals by including conceptual understanding and the creation of rich, integrated knowledge structures.

So instead of asking, “what are you learning?” we must ask “how are you learning?” Because in the long-run, the learners will remember the concepts that they have understood, rather than the voluminous information that they were forced to memorize.

My favorite subject: Space Science

I like aeronautics and space science. I like space science because it has part of aeronautics - sending rockets into space. Also I am curious about space. I want to find out about all the mysteries of Space Science. I wish to make a rocket to reach the stars. I am curious what happened after the universe began? Or does it have beginning or end?

In this vast universe with so many galaxies having millions of stars and millions of planets, can’t there be a planet with life? Can it have life /organisms like there are on earth? Can we develop science in such a way that we can explore this?

How did single cellular life evolve from simple molecules? Why can’t we explore more about this fascinating subject? Can there be a planet where Mesozoic era is going on when we have Cenozoic era here on earth now? Will life follow same kind of evolution on other planets as it followed on earth? Will life always be oxygen based?

Why are we searching for only oxygen based life on other planets? Can there be a planet on which there is life based on different elements which are not found on earth? Can we develop the science to explore this on other planets?

I am very interested about the subject of colonizing mars. My parents encourage my interest in space science and take me to various science exhibitions, lectures, and education tours. They took me to the National Space and Science Fest in January 2017. When I saw the student volunteers there explaining the charts, and satellite, and space craft models, I wanted to be a volunteer too. For that, my mom told me, “You will have to study hard to know more about space science”. I have tried to do that since then.

I went to IUCAA on open science day in Feb 2017. There I saw the Muon detector. I heard about muon for the first time. From the explanation I came to know that when cosmic rays hit the earths’ atmosphere, the particles in the rays’ breakdown into smaller particles. One of them is muon. These muons are then detected by muon detector. I also saw a small model of LIGO which is used to detect gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are produced when two black holes or neutron stars merge together. As this event is rare, it is very difficult to detect gravitational waves. I was excited to know that India is going to build this LIGO facility for detection of gravitational waves. Few months back, I came to know that 2017 Nobel Prize in physic was given to scientist for gravitational wave detection. My excitement grew when I came to know that gravitational waves created by rare merger of two neutron stars was detected by LIGO in Aug this year. This event was observed by LIGO and other optical telescopes across the world. I am told that the data collected will tell us a lot more about our universe as we now have data of this event across range of optical telescopes and LIGO and comparison will bring out new information about our universe.

At IUCAA I came to know about Aditya L1, which India is going to launch to study the sun and about our participation in 30 meter telescope in Hawaii. I also learnt more about ASTROSAT- that it is the first satellite sent by ISRO to study distant objects in space. I saw the live tracking of ASTROSAT on computer screen as it went around the earth once every 90 minutes.

When I went to ISRO Ahmedabad with IndoScience Education Trust in April 2017, I eagerly searched for ASTROSAT model, but I did not find it there. But there were many scaled models of various satellites such as Chandrayan, Mangalyan, communication satellites, PSLV, etc. And we had discussions with scientists who spend their important time to encourage us and to answer our curious questions. During ISRO, Ahmedabad trip we were encouraged to think deeply about different topics related to space and to ask questions. We discussed about various satellites GSLV mark III, Mark II, Vikas Engine, Cryogenic Engine, fuels used in Rockets, Reusable Vehicles, International space station, and many more. I had many questions to ask which were all answered. In this trip we also went to Science Center in Ahmedabad where we did activities based on various scientific principles making it easy for us to understand these principles. We also saw real dinosaur fossils which was very exciting!

I have to understand more about what I have learned till now and I have to learn many new things. My discussions with my parents, school teachers, and space science classes at Indo Science Education Trust have increased my curiosity to study more about space sciences.

I wish to be a volunteer for 2018 National Space and Science Fest. It would give me chance to learn more about space science and to share it with others.

PARENTING TIPS 4: A healthy Diet

There is an old saying “Health is Wealth” and perhaps this saying was never more important as today. With the world shrinking to a global village, fast food has become a household name. Earlier it was only the Saturday nights but now, it’s every day. Be it at work or school or college, everyone is just ‘grabbing a bite’. No time for a healthy meal, everyone is just on the run. And, subconsciously, this is what as parents we are modelling to our children. One may argue that fast food may not be ‘junk’ always. Well, may be. However, most of time it is only one type of food that we are consuming repeatedly.
A full meal with a perfect balance of all types of food – carbs, proteins, vitamins, minerals in the right portions is a distant dream for many. A healthy diet is important to maintain good health, to prevent chronic diseases, and for an overall sense of well- being and vitality. More importantly, spending the right amount of time with the food that we take along with a warm conversation with our family members definitely has far reaching benefits in the later years of our children’s lives. 

What exactly is a good diet?

Going by the books, “A good diet is naturally a proper proportion of all kinds of vegetables, fruits, cereals, proteins and dairy products”. Such a diet helps in the intake of important nutrients and roughage which are very crucial for the body and mind to function. Rising standard of living has surely given us more purchasing power and a well-balanced meal is not a luxury anymore. But, there is a problem it has posed. The super markets are loaded with “super foods” packed in glamorous wraps with a comprehensive description of the ingredients, so small that even with magnifying glasses, they are difficult to decipher. Never mind, these processed food are a life saver. Starting from mayonnaise 
and peanut butter, to ginger-garlic paste and now, peeled and cut vegetables, money can buy anything. Yes, everything, the carcinogenic preservatives, the brewing bacteria and the loads of calories. 

We all know the benefits of a healthy meal. In fact, in all the gyms mushrooming in every aisle of our neighbourhood, the trainers relentlessly tell us “it is 70 % diet and 30 % exercise” that helps us get the perfect BMI. Our mothers were very generous to cook us wholesome meals and often, became the antagonists when they discovered that we had “the humble maggi” in our neighbours’ house.

In this age, making your kids eat healthy is no less than an irksome challenge! Today, it’s every mother’s nightmare.

A few tips from our side will certainly help reduce your struggles and worries.
Encourage your kids to eat slowly: A child can detect hunger and fullness better when they eat slowly. Ask them to eat their food slowly so that they are able to chew it properly. Doing so, allows them to mix the right quantity of saliva to initiate the digestion process and absorb more nutrients from their food, helps them maintain a healthy weight, allows for easier digestion leading to fewer digestive issues like bloating.
Cut back on junk: You are in charge of the food that enters your house. By having fewer junks around the house, one can encourage the kids to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grain and dairy products. Remember, the packaged fruit juice is devoid of fibre, necessary to clean up our digestive system. It is not only fried food which is considered junk, but also all processed food with preservatives such as ‘ready to eat mix’, pureed fruits and vegetables, bread spreads, confectioneries etc.
Be a role model: Be honest with yourself about the kinds of food messages you're sending. Trust your body to tell you when you're hungry and when you're full, and your kids will learn to do the same.
Offer choices: Provide your kids with an array of healthy food choices to pick from instead of forcing them to eat only specific foods. Give them the option of choosing what they’d like to eat (with given limits) before you cook for them. Restricting the foods the kids like from their diets will only make them crave for the forbidden foods more.
Indigenous food: Restrict the use of white sugar, use jaggery instead. Reduce the use of cooking oil and add a couple of teaspoon of “ghee” instead. Ayurveda says “ghee” is the food for the brain. Have more high fibre carbs such as millets rather than wheat.

Apart from these tips, it also helps to form a strict meal-time (and snack-time) routine and stick to it. Doing this will bring about discipline and prevent the kids from grazing pointlessly. Realize that what the kids eat over time is what matters. As long as you balance these times with indigenous food choices and physical activity, your children will be healthy citizens tomorrow.

PARENTING TIPS 3: Here's how your child can develop fine motor skills at home

In our previous blog, we had discussed about the importance of developing Motor Skills in children. In this blog we will draw your attention towards fine motor skills. These skills are achieved when children learn to use their smaller muscles. These skills require precision and coordination.

Honing the fine motor skills of your child at home can be one of the most beneficial things a parent can do to improve their child’s muscular movements. Young children need to be able to hold things such as crayons, pencils, etc. appropriately. This is why you as parents need to help your child strengthen their finer muscles which will in turn improve hand-eye coordination.

Here’s a practical guide from us on developing your child’s fine motor skills at home:

Basic hand and finger exercises:

Like we mentioned before, young children need to be able to get a better hold of their pencils and crayons (pincher grip) while writing or colouring.
Playdough: Get your child some playdough. As they roll, squeeze, squash, twist and build with it , your child’s fingers and hands become stronger.
Threading beads: Threading with beads is a brilliant way to build your child’s grasp as they use their thumb and forefinger which naturally strengthens their hand muscles along with hand-eye coordination.
Sorting: Mix up the pulses in a plate and guide your child to pick up and sort the favourite one using the pincher grip.

Wrist exercises:

Wrist exercises aim at improving wrist extension and wrist stability. It is essential to improve on them because they also prove beneficial later to master handwriting.
Working on a vertical surface: Working on a vertical surface implies that while your child is drawing, writing or colouring, just encourage them to do so on a vertical surface. Such an activity maximizes wrist extension.
Dart Boards: Dart Boards can be fun and tossing the darts stimulates the wrist extension. The use of magnetic darts can make this exercise both, fun and safe.

Shoulder exercises:
Whenever children wish to move their hands or fingers, their shoulders must either stabilize and for this, the development of shoulder muscles is indispensable. Shoulder exercises aim for coordination, postural control and so on.
Crawl, push, lift: There are a lot of fun activities that include your child to crawl, push or lift. You can teach your child the leopard crawl by first demonstrating it yourself first. This can be later followed by push-ups.
Jumping rope: Skipping ropes provide for excellent isometric contraction i.e. stability of the muscles of the shoulders. It requires rhythmically working together of wrists, shoulders, hands, feet and fingers thus, working on improving the fine motor skills.

Muscle strengthening exercises:

There is a diverse range of muscle strengthening exercises which are also fun. For example, painting with a sponge, cutting with scissors, lacing, weaving, tracing, and so on. These activities work on developing different muscles of the body as they are to be used to perform everyday tasks. The stronger the muscles, the more tasks can a child do. It is through this muscle control that the child is able to control his/her muscle movements.

Fine motor skills are essential to be improved and cannot be compromised upon. Therefore, development of these skills is of maximum importance for an excellent academic future.

Parent’s Guide to identifying learning disabilities in their children

Learning disabilities are neurological problems which interfere with basic learning skills such as reading, writing, comprehending, calculating and so on. Children with learning disabilities are prone to take longer to learn and may need individual support to develop new skills, understand intricate concepts and interact with other people. 

How common are learning disabilities?
In India, around 13-14 percent of all school children suffer from learning disorders. The past decade has witnessed a sudden increase in the recognition of learning disabilities in India. This sensitivity has benefited some children who have to cope with the invisible learning disability. Discovering your child’s special needs is often a confusing and painful process for parents. Learning difficulties can be subtle, multiple, and difficult to pinpoint, it can be hard for parents to know whether things are normal or not.

Identifying the type of struggle your child may have with learning is also imperative to future success. There is a distinction between a difficulty and a learning disability. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably but there is a distinct difference between the two. Everyone experiences some difficulty when learning something. We are not adept at every skill. A learning disability, on the other hand, refers to a disorder manifested by significant difficulties in acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. 

Types of Learning Disorders:
- Dyslexia: It is a reading disability that causes a child to reverse letters (mirror image).
- Dyscalculia: It is a lesser known disability that affects mathematical calculations.
- Dysgraphia: It is a learning disability resulting from the difficulty in expressing thoughts in writing and graphing. 
- Dyspraxia: It refers to difficulties with fine motor skills such as hand-eye co-ordination, etc.

What are some ‘early warning signs’?
[1] Communication problems: The communication of your child delays, such as the pace of his/her language development slows down with the difficulty in speech. They face problems understanding what is being said and might not be able to communicate their thoughts and have a tough time processing information in one or more several areas of learning.

[2] Memory problems: These might include your child not remembering specifics of daily activities and not understanding or remembering multiple instructions. For example, despite of memorizing a set of words repeatedly, the child might still not remember what he has studied and learnt.
[3] Arithmetic problems: The child might face difficulty with mathematics while computing, remembering and learning time and money concepts. Very young children may struggle with learning to count; school-aged children may reverse numbers and misalign columns. This disability might affect the functional skills of a child such as playing board games, counting money, or measuring things.

[4] Writing problems: Handwriting is a complex process that involves processing information and putting thoughts on paper by coordinating vision and pencil movements to form letters and words. The child might struggle to organise letters, words and organise numbers on a page.

All children need love, encouragement, and support, and for kids with learning disabilities, such positive reinforcement can help ensure that they emerge with a strong sense of self-worth, confidence, and the determination to keep going even when things are tough.

In searching for ways to help your children with learning disabilities, remember that you are looking for ways to help them help themselves. Your job as a parent is not to “cure” the learning disability, but to give your child the social and emotional tools he or she needs to work through challenges. 
Parents should identify and immediately bring it to the notice of educators and should not hesitate or shy away which in turn affects the student's learning abilities. In the long run, facing and overcoming a challenge such as a learning disability can help your child grow stronger and more resilient.

Why is reading to a child recommended?

For years, pediatricians and child psychologists have recommended reading to children and for all the right reasons, too! It is the most brilliant way to develop their language while also improving their left brain functions, self-confidence, which, inevitably, leads to higher literacy.

Reading to your child from a very young age has multiple benefits, some of which are mentioned below.

Boosts school readiness:
An average child reads for 20 minutes every day and is exposed to about 1.8 million words of text every year. That is 137 new words per minute! They absorb information on how to structure sentences and how to use words effectively in their writing and speaking. When you read to your child, it helps build their vocabulary, literacy skills and language. It also helps to improve concentration, memory and builds curiosity.

Promotes academic success:
It's been proven through scientific studies that children who grow up with lots of books at home become more inquisitive and tend to explore deeper in any field they choose. Furthermore, they do better not only in school academics but also in verbal and nonverbal tests. Books are more than just an additional source of information as they provide information beyond what are taught by parents, teachers and peers. Reading promotes reflection time for young children to analyse their learning and therefore, achieve better across the curriculum.

Cultivates a love for books:
Reading together lazily crouching on the sofa, reading bedtimes stories or visiting the library are just some ways a parent can spend time together with their child. It helps to build a strong relationship with the child. You can cuddle up with your child with a good book and discuss on various fictitious and factual themes. It will help to promote construction of knowledge and in development of critical thinking. It will also help the child realise that reading is not just a part of studies, but something that can be enjoyed and can be taken as a pleasurable hobby.

Develops empathy:
As children grow, they begin to imagine how they would feel in certain situations. If children lack the language to share feelings, it’s hard for them to understand each other and communicate effectively. Neuroscientist and Researchers at Emory University, Atlanta, says that fiction tricks our brains into thinking we are part of the story. The empathy we feel for characters wires our brains to have the same sensitivity towards real people.

Teaching your child to read early has multiple benefits and is the key to your child's academic future. This is exactly why parents must encourage this custom and commence reading to their child right from their birth. If you, as a parent, don’t know where to begin, here’s a list of book selections compiled for you to check out: There are a variety of books for children of different age groups and are full of amazing stories and good morals which can make an impact on their lives.
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