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11. Teaching Science to your child

by Aruna Raghavan

Some of the best things in life have been given the impossible title 'physics'; and having given them that, we assiduously try to forget they exist. Yet, children discover most of the laws of nature and with great joy. Some of the best things in life begin 'Once upon a time'. Here's a story that you might like to tell your child. Nothing like a story to kindle interest !

Once upon a time, there lived a family on the banks of a river. One morning, Father was reading the newspaper, Mother was knitting. Sister was brushing the dog. Uday walked to the window and looked out at the quiet river flowing by.

His father looked up. "Why don't you do something about that noise?" he asked.

Uday laughed. Ravi was playing with some tin cans and making an awful lot of noise.

Uday picked up a long, hollow stick as he walked to the garden where Ravi was.

Ravi looked up. "Hi! Do you like my music?"

"Sure. Look what I've got for you," said Uday.

Ravi came forward eagerly. Uday had some gut strings in his hands. Some were long and thin, some long and thick and some short.

"If you get a plier, some nails and a small hammer, I'll make you an interesting instrument," said Uday. Ravi adored Uday. His brother was a whiz. Ravi found all that was wanted. Then Uday set to work.

First he fixed a small piece of wood on one end. Then every few inches he fixed small pieces of wood. Then at the other end too he fixed a piece of wood. On it he fixed a line of nails. To each of the nails he tied the gut strings, first the long thin ones, then the long thick and last the short strings.

As Ravi watched, Uday took a very sharp piece of plastic and strummed the home made tara. It sounded too thick. So he tightened the strings until they vibrated at the right pitch. Ravi was astonished by it all. The strings actually created different sounds and pitches. Why, he might learn to play a tune on that!

"It is wonderful," he said.

For days after that Ravi and his tara were inseparable. He learned to play a number of tunes.

Father was reading the newspaper. Mother was knitting. Sister was brushing the dog. Uday was standing by the window looking at the quietly flowing river. Father looked up. "Uday, I think Ravi plays the tara better than the drums."

Uday smiled.

Now this is not really a story. But if you tell it in your own words, with as much sound effects as you wish it could be quite hilarious. The main part is the caricature of Ravi whom may describe to resemble your son. {Those of you who have daughters, please change the name!} If you can have your son identify himself with Ravi, your work is almost complete. (In school, the noisiest child is 'Ravi'. The class joins in gathering new equipment that will make most noise.) As for making the tara, you could use an old shoe box and rubber bands of various sizes and thickness.

What are you teaching through this?

What your child had already discovered as a two year old. If he makes enough noise he can get you immediately. That sound is an energy - he can clang some vessels without trouble; but some affect him. Hitting a vessel with another vessel is not as much fun as hitting with a spoon. Then the vessel continues to ring or vibrate long after he stopped hitting. He discovered the relationship between pitch, frequency, vibration long before you introduced the tuning fork !

Now, with this story, you could give him the terms to the truths he discovered.

And you could experiment with him on the distance sound travels. Go on a picnic to a playground. Take various instruments/ things with varying pitches. Whilst you sit on a bench and hit the instruments, have him walk away from the sound of each instrument. Which did he hear farthest; which near? Which direction did he hear quickly? Which way was the wind blowing? Which could he hear in spite of other noise? Which sounds were over come by other sounds?

These are just the kind of experiments that has one climb to the top of a child's chart of 'favourite persons'. Ensure you do them yourself !

You'd be amazed, but all above are part of the 'eighth standard state syllabus'. When we think that we 'teach' - and mostly badly - all that a child already knows, we wonder just what the role of a teacher or that of a school really is!

Aruna Raghavan can be contacted at: Dit e-mailadres is beschermd tegen spambots. U heeft Javascript nodig om het te kunnen zien.