Good bye Purva Fairmont, see you in January

Kids presented to parents, all projects were so amazing, they all got a certificate with a twist …

“I could see the enthusiasm with which Meghana was explaining and collecting information … and coordinating with her partner”

“The concept of hands on experience is the most interesting thing. Children figuring out for themselves what works and what does not is wonderful. Gentle reminders of deadlines are great !”

“The best thing about Stable Bow is the kids get to think and see how a particular concept of science works. It really motivates them to go and explore different aspects” – Ishaan Varma, Class 4

“Liked how children came up with different applications. The experiments being done by the children … creates enthusiasm, intent and also a sense of purpose when they study” – Sharanya’s father

“I liked the Interstellar scene and the whole session, because it was something different I could learn. More classes in one week” – Shreya, Class 7

“Children coming together and brainstorming ideas while having fun. No pressure to perform and failure teaches more and better too” – Rajesh Sunkara, Parent

“All the experiments were amazing. I even liked the videos which we watched. It was a really exciting class” – Sharanya, Class 6

“My daughter’s enthusiasm for physics has multiplied …. I am 100% sure that she has actually learned the application of the principle better than any text would have explained” – Sunita, Parent

“The certificates were very well thought out. I don’t think Ishaan has been more thrilled about receiving an accolade – I guess the personal touch was so important” – Veena, Parent


Purva Fairmont session 4 – Voila we have creation

Every team surprised me with their creations today.

I was expecting less. Not because I don’t believe. But, these kids are so busy all week with homework, taekwondo, swimming, tennis, music, dance and other activities. So naturally I am hesitant about putting more burden on them.

But they all surprised me.

Here is a hydraulic crusher. Elegantly done. Just two syringes and some cardboard. We crushed some berries !!

This team did it with just one syringe and two bottles. Having some trouble with the leaking tube and the piston – but when it is done it will be a pure implementation of the Pascal’s Principle multiplying the force. Very impressed by their persistence.

These guys are more into mechanics than hydraulics !! They are trying to build a hydraulic fork lift, but Pascal has taken a bit of a back seat here. It’s remote controlled, Lego based super complicated fork lift. Ambitious team, enjoying themselves thoroughly !!

Road to creation is very bumpy. The team has one of the most complex engineering designs to pull off. Painted cardboard boxes need to be made water proof. The interesting contraption with coke cans, cut bottles and stuck tapes with then act as the balance scales. Not done yet. But I am sure they will make more progress by next week. They are unfazed by the obstacles to cross.


Guess we are mostly done with this project. Every team will polish it up and present to their parents next week.

A certificate awaits EVERYONE next week !!

We also had a fascinating discussion analyzing the Docking scene from Interstelllar. We paused at every point and discussed the nuances of the story telling.

Watch the video and ponder on these questions:

  • Why does the background music go quiet at 0.17?
  • Why does the camera have the planet in the background at 0.27?
  • Why does Cooper say what he does in reply to Tars at 1:15?
  • Why does the camera shift to a far shot at 2:50?

We just analyzed the scenes and camera angles. We could talk about the background music, the dialogues, the action or the physics.

The whole idea is to get the children to peel the onion and go beyond the obvious.

This has been so much fun. I am so convinced about what I always believed in – every child is unique and is inherently motivated to learn. Just creating an environment they can be themselves and an interesting challenge at hand is enough to get them going.

Sad to see this series nearing it’s end next week. Will plan one more starting January. Lot’s of learning this time. Excited about the next one.

Purva Fairmont session 3 – All designs are coming together

All teams presented their designs and material today. Some are too ambitious, others not so much … some use Pascals principle, others it’s just an excuse !! No one can deny their creativity. No one can stem their enthusiasm.

Surely but steadily they all seem to be coming together. All teams will now need to wrap up their implementations and be ready to show a working prototype by next week. I am struggling to keep them from not adding any more complexity to their designs and finish what they have so far. Guess that’s how children are.


With the new projector we got for Stable Bow, we saw a movie clip from Interstellar (Docking Scene – Interstellar) as well as how background scores play a role in story telling (Lord of the Rings – How music elevates the story). Children will now need to analyze this scene and write a one pager.




Analyzing movies can be a fun way to teach children how to go beyond the obvious and analyze the nuances of information in front of them (Movies as a teaching aid).

Purva Fairmont Session 2

We had 3 more additions today into our program. It was fascinating to see how the current kids explained to them what they understood … and brought them upto speed.

Most of the time we spent reviewing the designs and ideas of each team. Think we managed to sharpen their designs and focus them towards building the hydraulic system. We have three weeks to do this.

As a next step we asked all the teams to collect required  material and start building the mechanism this week.


Post the design session we talked about an interesting study in Sociology.

Two teams were given similar puzzles to solve. Team A and Team B.

Two teams

At the end of the activity, the two teams were given feedback differently. Team A was told “That’s a really good score. You must be smart“. Team B was told “That’s a really good score. You must have worked very hard“.

Feedback to two teams

Post that conversation, the two teams were given a choice of solving a difficult problem or an easy problem.

What do you think each team picked?

Choice for two teams

Most children opined that both teams pick the easy problem, some said the difficult problem, a few said Team A the easy problem while Team B picks the difficult problem.

Well the interesting thing was that the Team A praised for ‘smartness’ picked the easy problem as they were more afraid to fail than Team B, (Team B was praised for ‘hard work’ and they which picked the more difficult problem).

This is fascinating. Just one small comment can alter a person’s mind set. As parents, how conscious are we about creating the wrong mind set in children unknowingly. Can we be more aware of the long term damage we create by praising intelligence or talent, instead of the process / efforts?

(Source: Praise Children for effort, not intelligence – NYTimes article on a Columbia University Study by Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck)

Then we all watched the video The power of believing you can improve – A TED talk on Growth Mindset vs Talent Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck. All children gave their interpretation of the concept and how they will apply it in their lives.

As a next steps each child will watch the video with their parents before the next session.

Found the kids opening up a lot more than the last session. These seeds we plant today to build the right learning mind set, should bloom many years later.

Very exciting.

Teaching Pascal’s Principle to a 10 year old

We will use the same method of Explore, Experiment, Experience and Express to learn the Pascal’s principle.

Assume there are four containers with water. They all have different shapes, but have the same base (area a) and height of water (h). As shown in the picture below. Say we call them C1, C2, C3 and C4.

What would the order of these containers be if we were to weight them (Of course the base is closed)


Most children would guess C3 > C2 > C4 > C1. Some could debate about C2 and C3. But, it’s quite obvious.

A little of bit of theory helps. Pressure is the force experienced per area.

Image result for pushing by hand
In the class we do a small activity to experience the meaning of pressure. Have each kid push each other on one side. (Instruct them not to hurt each other !!)

Ask them if they felt the force on the other side? The answer is a lot of giggle and a clear NO.Image result for poke by hand

No ask them to poke each other in the same place with a similar force. Now ask them when they felt more pain. The answer is when you poke, than when you push. That is the difference between low pressure and high pressure. When you push the force is distributed over a larger area. When you poke it is distributed over a smaller area.

This is the reason why a woman in high heels weighting just 100 pounds (~ 45 kg) exerts 15 times more pressure than an elephant weighting 12,000 pounds (~5,400 kg) does with one foot. (Source LSNED)


One last thing. The unit of pressure if Pascals. Let’s get back to the original problem.

Now imagine the bases are open and we check the pressure of water at the base (using some pressure gauge). The pressure is obviously caused by the force of water trying to jut out of the base.

What would the order of pressure be among the containers?

Most children will say it will probably be the same as the order of weight. I thought so too the first time. C3 > C2 > C4 > C1.

Related imagePascal discovered that fluids behave in a very counter intuitive manner. The pressure would be the same across the containers.

C3 = C2 = C4 = C1.

Holy molly !! How unusual.

My friend Rajeev who attended the seesion asked if that would be the case if it was sand instead of a fluid. The answer is NO. This would happen only for a fluid.

This is the basis of what is called the Pascal’s vases. If we open all the bases and connect them, the water levels will remain the same. See the picture below.



Why do we see this counter-intuitive behaviour?

It is to do with the basic characteristic of fluids, like water. They are incompressible. So pressure change at any part is transmitted (almost instantaneously) to all parts of the fluid. The pressure at a certain point only depends on the depth of the fluid.

Pascal’s law (also Pascal’s principle or the principle of transmission of fluid-pressure) is a principle in fluid mechanics that states that a pressure change occurring anywhere in a confined incompressible fluid is transmitted throughout the fluid such that the same change occurs everywhere (Source Wikipedia)

The genius of Blaise Pascal (a 17th century physicist and mathematician) was not just in observing this phenomenon, but translating this into a very interesting application – the hydraulic press.

Image result for hydraulic press pascal

When a small force is applied on the left side, given the same pressure if transmitted everywhere, the force is multiplied on the right side (in this case by 10 times). This mechanism is used  in many places, including at your car garage and airplane brakes.

There is a lot more one can talk about the applications, but I’ll stop here for now.

In another blog I will also share a very interesting conversation I had with my friend and fluid mechanics guru Roopesh Mathur. He explained the deeper thinking behind this behaviour of fluids.



Teaching Archimedes’ Principle to a 10 year old

We all know the story of Archimedes jumping out a bathtub naked shouting Eureka !! archimedes_bathNot sure if the story is true (Did Archimedes coin the term Eureka?), but all of us learn about it in school along with the famous Archimedes’ Principle.

I will come back to what the principle is, after I talk about how we learned this thru an interesting experiment in this week’s Stable Bow session.

I started by posing this puzzle of the two identical bottles.

One has marbles in it (total weight 250gms) and the other has coins (total weight 500gms). The two bottles are identical in shape and watertight. See the picture below.




Now, here is the question I posed to all the children.

If I dip both of these bottles into water, which bottle will feel more force due to water, and hence greater reduction in weight. See the picture below.



What would your answer be? Any WHY? Don’t look for the answer below. Think for a minute.

Most children answered that the heavier bottle will feel more force upwards, hence Y > X. A few said that the lighter bottle will feel more force, as they see it floating up faster, so X > Y.

This is what our intuition tells us.

Well the right answer is that X = Y. We tested it and found in both cases the weightImage result for surprised baby reduced by 200gms.

The loss in weight of the bottle (or any object) depends on the submerged volume and not the weight of the bottle (as well as the what the liquid is).

This is very counter intuitive. That is why Archimedes was a genius to recognise this.

With a simple weighting scale, two bottles bought at a local grocery store, some marbles and coins – we discovered the Archimedes’ principle at work for ourselves !!

There are two important things I want to point out in this learning process.

We had to try and guess the answer before we learn the theory or a new concept. Secondly, we had to experience it to see how counter intuitive it is. Just regurgitating the principle from a text book doesn’t register and stay with you.

Try it at home or in the classroom.

Going back to my promise.

This the principle in technical terms:

Archimedes’ principle states that the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces and acts in the upward direction at the center of mass of the displaced fluid. Archimedes’ principle is a law of physics fundamental to fluid mechanics. (Source Wikipedia)

Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a stationary fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object. (Source On Floating Bodies by Archimedes of Syraccuse)

p.s. It is NOT ‘volume of the liquid displaced is equal to the volume of the object submerged’. That is true, but is a common misunderstanding about what the Archimedes’ Principle states.




Purva Fairmont – Session 1

9 children spent the afternoon doing various experiments to deeply question and understand the concepts behind Archimedes’ (See the post on How to teach Archimedes’s Principle to a 10 year old/) and Pascal’s principles.

It’s amazing how curious and creative ALL children are – left to themselves. It’s inspiring to see how quickly they can grasp even complex concepts when presented as experiments and interactions – than as a monologue.

We also spent time discussing the general guidelines (present in the learning WIKI) – emphasizing the need to be safe, the opportunity to be creative and the power of design.


We ended the session talking about the hydraulic system and how the project needs to be built as a team. The complete details of the hydraulic system project are now on the WIKI.


By next week, the children are to do three things

  1. Teach the two concepts they learned to someone else
  2. Visit the project page and learn from the video links posted
  3. Meet as a team and create an initial design (the teams and contact details are on the learning WIKI). The initial design can just be an illustration of the basic idea drawn on an A4 sheet)

Purva Fairmont – Intro session

We had a very interactive intro session. Pleasantly surprised to see 15 + people including kids who attended the session.

We started with an interesting experiment using ice blocks and the Archimedes principle.

All kids talked about one thing they would change about school. Parents talked about what they would do if they went back in time.

We are all set for the actual sessions from next Saturday October 28th, 2:30 – 4:00 pm.

All we discussed is posted below.

Super excited …


Learning to Learn by Stable Bow

What is Stable Bow?

Most Indian schools develop hard work, diligence and ability to deal with volume of learning. However, preparing for real life requires Exploration, Experimentation, Experience and Expression. These are not possible the way our schools are designed.

Instead of competing with the school system, Stable Bow wants to complement that system. The name is inspired by the poem ‘On Children’ by Khalil Gibran.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

What it is not?

It is NOT a coaching center for helping with competitive exams. There will never be any competition or grading in any activities at Stable Bow – yet the expectations of effort will be high. One of the core beliefs is that children are inherently curious and enthusiastic. One needs to get out of the way to enable their learning.

Einstein and Seymour Papert’s words are an inspiration for the methods.

“I never teach my pupils. I only provide the conditions in which they can learn” – Albert Einstein

“I am convinced the best learning happens when the learner takes charge” – Seymour Papert, MIT Media Labs

How will this work?

The program has 5 sessions, every saturday from 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM. October 28th – November 25th.

There will be 3 types of defined activities in those sessions. The goal is to make the sessions active and interactive – so the environment becomes a source of learning as much as the content.

#1 Learning to Learn – Explore

This will a combination of watching a video and an open discussion on three topics – Growth Mindset vs Talent Mindset, Deliberate Practice and Focussed Mode vs Diffused Mode.

#2 Build a project – Explore, Experiment, Experience

All children will be organized as teams of 2-3. Over 5 weeks the teams are required to build a ‘Hydraulic System’ – applying Pascal’s principle. Using an online collaboration platform – teams will follow a structured process of understanding the concepts, proposing ideas, creating a technical design, managing the tasks, building a prototype, testing the solution and creating a video. The last session is a presentation by all children to their parents.

#3 Synthesize content – Expression

Children will be given 2 videos to watch, analyze and synthesize. This is to develop the ability to critically study any content, go beyond the obvious and write your thoughts effectively.

Link to the Intro session document

Questions that were asked …

  1. Will children need to spend money to build the project? No. I intend to have a budget limit of may be Rs. 500-700. This is about creativity and tinkering
  2. Will all children do the same project? The topic is the same. Build a Hydraulic System. But each of them will be required to come up a creative way to build one
  3. Can you do it on a Sunday? No, not for now. We will need to stick with the Saturday evening plan
  4. My child cannot attend the sessions but wants to do the project. Can we do that? Suggest not to. Think most of the value is in the discussions and collaboration
  5. Have you done this before? No, not with children at this scale. Have run large scale learning programs as a part of my current job
  6. Will it only be about Physics? This project is about Physics. But it will require design, collaboration, planning and communication as well. Intend to may be add other areas in the future like programming. I love physics and programming. So probably will stay around those
  7. Is this a one time activity? Hope to do this on a more continuous basis from January. But need to make this session work and ensure children enjoy this
  8. Will you share the necessary links and material? Yes, will create a whatsapp group and share in that. Will also train the children on using the online WIKISPACE platform for learning
  9. What should we do next? Just add yourselves to the whatsapp group and send your kid with the fee for the session on Oct 28th Saturday at 2:30 PM

Program in Purvafairmont, Oct 2017

Stable Bow Purva Oct 2017

Intro session

Week Activities
Week 1
  • Introduction and logistics
  • Growth mindset vs talent mindset – a discussion
  • Discussion on Pascal’s paradox
  • Demonstration of Pascal’s exploding barrel
  • Discussion on the final project
Week 2
  • Deliberate practice – a discussion
  • Discussion of the video synthesis assignment I
  • Project design review – I
Week 3
  • Focussed mode vs diffused mode – a discussion
  • Video synthesis I discussion
  • Discussion of the video synthesis assignment II
  • Project design review – II
Week 4
  • Video synthesis II discussion
  • Project design review – III
Week 5
  • Final project presentation