Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Agenda of the Apprentice Scientist

Today is World Math Day and World Read-Aloud Day. Tomorrow is World Science Day. 2012 has been declared the National Mathematics Year in honour of the 125th anniversary of Ramanujan's birth. Tomorrow is also International Women's Day.

What better than to celebrate it with a book originally written by a woman physicist of some note, translated from the French into English by another woman? A book that encompasses all branches of science, as well as math.

Being in a montessori environment at school upto grade 3 meant that hands-on experience played a major part in my daughter's learning at school. Even now, in middle school, she prefers to be explained things through experiment. Quite often, when she is not quite convinced about a concept taught in the more by-rote manner, I found that it helps to get down to the hands-on method. So when I found this book, I knew it was just the right one for her.

The Agenda of the Apprentice Scientist
Written by Nicole Ostrowsky
Illustrated by Theresa Bronn
Translated from French by Radhika Viswanathan with Gillian Rosner
Published by Universities Press
Ages 7-70 (as it says in a foreword by none other than CNR Rao.)

As parents, we come across this experience almost daily- whether in the sphere of academics or otherwise- our children ask us something, and sometimes (OK, a lot of times) it is something that we may not be very sure of ourselves. When I am faced with such a situation, I often try to explain it to her, regardless, but smart cookie that she is, she sees through the attempt. Then I have to admit I need to learn more about / think through about the topic at hand, before I can explain it to her to her satisfaction.

Dr Nicole Ostrowsky, former head of
Laboratory of Physics and Condensed
Matter, University of Nice,
Current Professor Emeritus
So the acid test of whether one has understood something or not is if one can explain something to a child in clear, simple terms. That is just what this book, written by French physicist Dr Nicole Ostrowsky, who believes in a hands-on approach to education, is about.

There is one new idea / question / problem to ponder on for each day of the year, so we are introduced to 365 concepts, some known, some unknown. All fun to work on. The experiments involve easy-to-obtain-at-home articles, and some days it is just an observation that needs pondering on.

Of course, true to her interest in the field, Dr Ostrowsky deals more with physics here, with quite a bit of spillover into mathematics and the other basic sciences. Each day's topic eases into the next days at many places, with a whole spectrum of ideas discussed over many days.

An example - the topic of temperature and thermodynamics with these headings:
Aug 18: Are you a good thermometer?
Aug 19: Let's start again!
Aug 20: Step outside your house at night.
Aug 21: Does a dog need a coat?
Aug 22: Fast freeze and slow freeze.
Aug 23: Freeze- the old  fashioned way.
Aug 24: Gabriel (Fahrenheit) made some funny choices.
Aug 25: Let's simplify.
Aug 26: Blow hot and cold.
Aug 27: Why do we blow on our soup to cool it down?
Aug 28: How do you dry your hair?
Aug 29: Look at the mirror in your bathroom after a hot shower.
Aug 30: Where does rain come from?
Aug 31: Evaporation+condensation=distillation.

All this with many more questions, and very clear explanations as footnotes.

My favourite features, the quirky illustrations and the relevant quotes on each page! On the Aug 24 page-look above- there is a quote by Jean Loup Chiflet-"It was so hot that the thermometer read: see the next column!"

Book cover image courtesy flipkart, Dr Nicole Ostrowsky's photograph courtesy


Choxbox said...

Awesome book Sandhya, trut you to find it. Haven’t yet managed to locate a copy by the way, so might end up borrowing yours again!

Vibha said...

This is exactly what I was looking for Sandhya and ordered right away. Thanks.

sathish said...

sounds lovely

Praba Ram said...

A totally different one! Will check it out for sure.

As always, a great review with some delicious and meaty details! Thanks, Sandhya!

V. Rajesh said...

And do not forget to go through the website:

I bought this book about a month ago, and tried out a dozen experiments here with my 5 year old son.

Believe me, I am learning more than him. and he is excited to take part in these experiments.

sandhya said...

Thanks, all. A is currently working her way through it, bookmarking the lengthier activities for the vacation. For me, it is certainly a case of making hay while the sun is shining!:)

V. Rajesh: Thanks to the link to the website. Checking it out.

Jay at BOOKSTOP! said...

Great review Sandhya! Am happy to have been instrumental in you laying your hands on the book - since you bought it at BOOKSTOP!

Also, congratulations all members of Saffron Tree - the concept & content of your blog makes even adults want to read the "for young readers" books that you review.

Parents at BOOKSTOP! have asked me: What are the top 10 books of all time that would inspire children in the 5 to 10 year age group, to think for themselves.... and search for answers... ?

It is a question that has stumped me, honestly. It struck me that Saffron Tree members are better equipped to provide an answer. I mentioned this to Sandhya just now - and she said "why not, we could all consider the question". So how about it Saffron Tree?

utbtkids said...

Bought it S!
And am so excited.

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