Certain words have lost their actual meanings over time because of their overuse / misuse. For e.g. one such word is ‘Trust’. Every company on this planet claims that their products are trustworthy and yet there are so many dissatisfied customers. This happens because some use the word ‘Trust’ selfishly for achieving sales while some have intelligently (or should I say cheatingly) changed the definition of ‘Trust’ itself. I am sure all of you can produce a list of such words from your own experience.
The words ‘basic fundamentals’ (especially when it comes to Science subjects) have also lost its basic meaning because of its overuse / misuse. Every other school, tuition class, science kit producing company, etc. claims that they help kids develop strong fundamentals. If that’s correct then (like dissatisfied customer) why does this country not produce new ideas, new products…why don’t we expand frontiers of Science…why don’t we get Nobel Prize by dozens? The problem is same like with word ‘Trust’…every other education selling entity out in the market defines the word ‘fundamentals’ in a way that suits them and a large number of such entities purposefully choose never to highlight their definition anywhere. We will not say that they are doing it intentionally (though we are sure lot of them do it intentionally) but to explain clearly what does the word ‘fundamentals’ means a lot of thought is required – like trust it’s a concept, it’s a philosophy…and each person/entity has to define what it means for them. Since lot of them themselves don’t know how to define the word ‘fundamentals’ they choose to remain silent and adhere to the age old proverb ‘Silence is golden’. It is for this reason we decided that we will define what does the word ‘fundamentals’ means for us so that when you read the statement on our site “We help strengthen basic fundamentals”, you know exactly what we mean.
The Cambridge dictionary defines the word ‘fundamental’ as ‘forming the base, from which everything else develops’. If we adopt this as a core definition of the word then the most important word in this whole definition is the word ‘base’. Why is this word ‘base’ so important? To explain that let’s take an example. An engineer, intends to build a building. The first thing required to build a strong building is to have a strong base or strong foundation that can take the load of the entire structure that the engineer intends to build on it. In other words this base or foundation of the building is the most critical part of the building as everything else can develop only if that is correct – in other words everything comes out of base / foundation. Now imagine that the engineer’s supervisor comes for a site visit when the base/foundation work is completed and asks the following questions to the engineer:
- How large is your foundation?
- How thick is your foundation?
- How much cement has been put in the foundation?
- Was there a requirement to build this kind of foundation?
- How many days the foundation has been cured?
Now let me tell you that the engineer is not able to answer any of these questions of his supervisor. Given that would you believe that the engineer has built a proper base /foundation? Would you be interested in buying a house in that building? I am sure the answer will be a loud ‘NO’ for most of you. Why is that? Just because he could not answer those questions you have assumed that the foundation is not correct. Maybe the foundation is correct after all. The engineer was just too shocked by sudden arrival of his boss. Get the foundation tested and then decide for yourself as to what is the truth. I am sure your response will be something like this – “A person who can’t explain what he has learnt and applied in real life in all probability doesn’t know what he has done. Testing doesn’t hide his ignorance and presence of ignorance is a cause enough to worry”. Correct. That’s what base / foundation or in other words ‘fundamentals’ are all about. If your ‘fundamentals’ are clear then you will have no question left in your head…it doesn’t mean that no questions exist in the world related to that particular concept to be asked…it just means that your mind is at rest w.r.t that concept. But for us that’s just the start of journey of getting ‘complete’ fundamental clarity.
A complete fundamental clarity in our minds is a five stage journey. The stages are as follows:
A kid who has got her basic fundamentals cleared w.r.t. to a particular concept will stop asking question. Once a kid has stopped asking questions w.r.t. a particular concept, she has cleared the Stage 1 of fundamental clarity. In this stage the role of a teacher is just to satisfy the curiosity existing in the young mind by answering those questions.
Once a kid clears Stage 1 of fundamental clarity, the role of teachers now expands. She is not there to only answer questions or provide directions. The teacher now starts asking questions to the kid based on her experience and knowledge levels – but the questions are still structured around the same concept broadly. If the kid can answer those questions also (even if the answers are somewhat crude explanations) then the kid has cleared the Stage 2 of fundamental clarity.
In this stage the role of teacher is to expand the horizons (sometime the curiosity of kids themselves will expand the horizons) and start introducing the kid to the fact that the same scientific concept can be used to explain multiple phenomenon happening in nature. The teacher thus, without digressing too much, explains to kid the connection between the concept introduced to the kid and few other phenomena observed in nature. Once the kids see this they start absorbing the larger applicability of the basic scientific concept taught to her.
A good teacher always knows that all scientific concepts, all scientific theories known to us today are not perfect – they are just approximations of nature. Science is (probably) a never ending journey of figuring out eternal truths. Therefore the teacher at an opportune time start introducing to kids the problems with the fundamental concept taught to her and the fact that a lot needs to be still discovered – a lot of work is still required to perfect our theories. This Stage of fundamental clarity is a very difficult stage, because it not only requires a teacher to continuously educate herself but it also requires a teacher to introduce all this in a manner that the kid is not confused. Hence this is a stage where we rarely nudge our kids till we are sure of their ability to absorb. Kids who can live this stage successfully are the kids who have it in them to get the Nobel.
The last stage of fundamental clarity is the most difficult stage to traverse. Most of the teachers, including us, find it very difficult to undertake this journey. This stage requires a person to be able to see the whole world of science as one world, to be able to see interconnections between various concepts and theories, to have a firm belief that eventually all concepts come out of probably one (or few) grand truth (or truths) of nature which will be discovered some day. Today our scientific knowledge is not so advanced to really take this journey therefore this stage of fundamental clarity is not possible to be cleared today. In other words Stage 5 is a dream…a dream that each lover of Science wishes to cross someday.
At DreamNobel our definition of fundamental clarity involves ensuring that all our kids clears Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 above. We attempt Stage 4 with some of our kids sometimes. Attempt at Stage 4 is dependent of our scientific knowledge as well as a kid’s readiness to absorb. Stage 4 is what we want to attempt with every kid – that’s our vision. Stage 5 of fundamental clarity is something that we are too ignorant to even try. We just dream some of our kids attempt Stage 5 on their own – this is our dream – in fact this is the dream of mankind.
An important point to appreciate here is that the above stages of fundamental clarity don’t work sequentially – it’s not that kids will go from stage 1 to stage 2 and so on. The minds of kids is full of all kinds of questions and works very laterally as it is not constrained by boundaries. Given that many time questions pertaining to Stage 4 are asked in Stage 1 and vice versa. The above is therefore just a model…a framework of fundamental clarity. It should not be confused with the process or approach.
There are lots of questions lying around to which the best brains in the world have no answers. These questions are worthy of answering and some of these questions are worthy of a Nobel Prize. For us at DreamNobel we hope that our attempt at giving fundamental clarity to our kids will help them find answers to some of such questions. Kids at DreamNobel start with a question and end with a question. The starting question is curiosity dependent that typically gets answered – the ending question is a curiosity where the teacher has to accept her ignorance and push the kid towards a larger journey of excitement. For us at DreamNobel Nobel Prize is not a medal…it’s a philosophy.
Now let me give you an example to help you walk the path of fundamental clarity with us. One of the question that kids typically ask is “How does a fan work?” To explain this to a kid the starting point of journey is typically to introduce to them the concept of ‘Energy’. By undertaking a long journey through multiple examples we finally made the kid reach the definition of ‘Energy’ as ‘Energy is something that’s required to do anything’. For those of you who are scientifically inclined, you will not find this a very scientific definition – but if you read it carefully it carries the same intent. For us the journey of reaching a fully scientific definition is a progressive one that goes through a lot of not so scientific definitions. Once we explain the kid the concept of Energy, we can expect some of the following questions:
- Who all has energy?
- A tree moving in the wind – where is the tree getting energy from? If it is coming from wind then where is the wind getting its energy from? If it’s coming from tree then where is the tree getting its energy from?
- When I kick a football is the energy in my foot that kicked the football or is it coming from some other place or part of body?
- Why energy is called energy?
Once we answer them and the kid gets satisfied and his Stage 1 of fundamental clarity is crossed. At this point we start the journey of Stage 2, by asking the following questions:
- How is that you feel tired by just standing at one place…without moving or doing anything?
- When you throw your football in the sea it comes back with the wave. Since the wave is moving your football it must be having energy. Where is the energy of wave coming from?
- I get energy from food and food goes to stomach then how does other parts of body get energy?
Once the above questions are answered to a kid’s satisfaction, the Stage 2 of fundamental clarity is achieved. Now is the time to expand the horizons and nudge to kid into journey of Stage 3. To that we typically ask some of the following questions:
- When you burn a fire you get heat. The heat is not moving anything, then why is heat called a form of energy?
- When I speak you hear. Is there some energy involved here? Is yes then what is moving and which energy is this?
- Is light a form of energy? If yes have you seen light doing something or moving something?
As you can see that in Stage 3 the kid is getting introduced to concepts of heat, sound, light etc. and thus this helps him to see all of them as various forms of energy and start appreciating interconnections. For a large number of kids our journey of fundamental clarity when it comes to concept of ‘Energy’ gets over here. But for some of them, depending on their curiosity we undertake the journey of Stage 4 wherein we ask then the following questions:
- How does energy look like? Can you see energy? Can you touch energy? Where is it coming from?
- Are the different kinds of energy that we talked about all same or they are different?
- If you can’t see energy then how do you measure energy?
The intent of Stage 4 is to make kids understand one fundamental fact about energy is that energy is a mathematical construct. No one can make you explain/visualize what energy is actually. This knowledge, that something which is used to explain so many phenomena around us is just a mathematical construct, can be a confusing thing or a very interesting fact. It has to be introduced very carefully and in a fashion that it expands the horizons and not just ends up confusing a kid. For all our kids the journey of fundamental clarity ends here. Stage 5 as we said is a dream which we would want to live but don’t know when will that happen.
As you can see in the above example that some questions can be classified as part of multiple stages. Also the above example flows reasonably smoothly from one stage to another…in real life that does not happen. A kid’s mind when encouraged enough to ask questions can stump you with such brilliance that its mesmerizing.
Not all questions are asked by all kids. Curiosity exists in different minds in different sizes. But all of the questions asked above are what we call as ‘fundamental’ questions. Each of them have to be answered before the concept of energy can be completely absorbed by any mind. This is what we do when we follow QueST model. All these questions are integrated into a full storyline that explains what energy is all about. So what gets over in a normal Physics class in 5 minutes takes a 2 hour session with us. Fundamental clarity is one biggest value differentiator that we deliver. Kids who learn with us don’t just ‘learn’, they experience a concept.
We honestly believe in the following:
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
At DreamNobel we will always strive to kindle that fire.