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Library Bulletin June 2010 released

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A discovery that could help combat global warming

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An unassuming former student of the Department of Chemistry, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi, Raja Angamuthu of Karur in Tamil Nadu has risen to become a researcher of global repute overcoming daunting obstacles, with sheer determination to succeed in life. He was among the group of scientists at the Lieden Institute of Chemistry, the Netherlands, that made a path-breaking discovery earlier this year of a molecule that sucks carbon dioxide from air.

Family support

Dr. Raja made his foster parents proud conquering penury all through his years at the Karur Municipal School and the Government Arts College, Karur.

For more than a decade he worked for the most part of night hours at an export company to fund his education and also support his family, before gaining admission to the Bharathidasan University during 2000.

Motivation at the college from teachers who identified the spark in him, and the moral and financial support from his former employer Vasanth and Company, landed him at the university and made it possible for him to complete postgraduation.

Research

As an M.Sc. Chemistry student at the Bharathidasan University, Dr. Raja had worked on a research project under the supervision of M. Palaniandavar, DST Ramanna Fellow, and continued at the university as his research assistant for three years whereby his research article was published in Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, a high-impact journal. Owing to the publication of the article, he got an opportunity to do his Ph.D. in the famous research group of Jan Reedijik at Leiden University. Under the supervision of Scientist Elisabeth Bowman in the research group, Dr. Raja and his group discovered the molecule that sucks carbondioxide from the air using simple dinuclear Copper (I) complexes.

The discovery published in the world’s topmost journals Science and Nature and many other journals could open up a new line of research — the scientific community sees the technique as an attractive way to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — to combat global warming.

Global warming

Presenting their findings in Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Raja and other scientists in the group Philip Byers, Martin Lutz, Anthony L Spek, and Elisabeth Bowman said: “Global warming concern has dramatically increased interest in using carbon dioxide as a feedstock for preparation of value-added compounds, thereby helping to reduce its atmospheric concentration. Here, we describe a dinuclear copper (I) complex that is oxidised in air by carbon dioxide rather than oxygen; the product is a tetranuclear copper (II) complex containing two bridging carbon dioxide – derived oxalate groups. Treatment of the copper (II) oxalate complex in acetonitrile with a soluble lithium salt results in qualitative precipitation of lithium oxalate. The copper (II) complex can then be nearly quantitatively electrochemically reduced at a relatively accessible potential, regenerating the initial dinuclear copper (I) compound. Preliminary results demonstrate six turnovers (producing 12 equivalents of oxalate) during seven hours of catalysis at an applied potential of -0.03 volts versus the normal hydrogen electrode.”

The innovative chemistry offers a faint hope that a catalyst could one day selectively and efficiently remove the greenhouse gas from the air, turning it into organic chemicals, according to the report in Nature, published during January 2010. It said: “Once stripped off the catalyst, the oxalate salt can also form the basis of several chemicals that have practical applications. These include oxalic acid — commonly used in many laboratories and in household products such as rust-proofing treatments — and, after chemical conversion, ethylene glycol, which is used as an antifreeze in cars and as building block for chemical synthesis.”

Acclaim

Now that the discovery has been made, the procedure is bound to trigger researches worldwide for arriving at practical applications to counter global warming, Dr. Raja told The Hindu Education Plus.

A winner of Chemist of the Year Award in 2009 at the Leiden University, a thankful Dr. Raja owes the global recognition for his path-breaking research to his mentors, Dr. Palaniandavar, Coordinator, Centre for Bioinorganic Chemistry, School of Chemistry, Bharathidasan University, and Dr. Elisabeth Bowmam, a long-time friend of Dr. Palaniandavar. “Dr. Raja is a classic example of the maxim: Hard work pays. He started shouldering large responsibilities right from his school days. There is more to come,” said Sundarrajan, proprietor of Vasanth and Company, Karur.

Dr. Raja Angamuthu is all set to proceed to the University of Illinois for his two-year post-doctoral studies under the Rubicon programme. The programme supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the country’s principal science funding body, by means of a national competition, is directed at promising young postdoctoral researchers who are still at the start of their careers but whose academic strengths give them the potential to become established figures in the Dutch research world.

Report by R. Krishnamoorthy

This report was published on The Hindu http://www.thehindu.com/education/article395131.ece

Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com

Filed under: Snippets, ,

When less is more

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Making learning a joy again…Photo: T. Singaravelou

As another academic year begins, education still remains a race against others as well as against time in a spiralling frenzy to learn more things faster, earlier. We need to slow down and let children learn at their own pace so that their understanding of themselves and the world becomes richer and more nuanced…

As I accompanied my three-year-old daughter for her LKG admission ‘interview’, the little ‘ candidates’ were doodling on a blackboard while they waited for their turn. Most kids were content drawing unrecognisable squiggles when one parent edged her son towards the board. “Write ABC,” his mother suggested as the little child wrote letters in a shaky hand. “After H, then I, then what?” the mother kept goading the compliant child as other parents exchanged nervous glances. Thankfully, the interview was benign and my daughter, who can just about hold a pencil, was not made to either recite or write the alphabet.

The “earlier the better” and “faster equals smarter” ethos is deeply embedded in our cultural psyches that it influences both parenting styles and school curricula. As we push children to achieve more and more, earlier and earlier, we don’t realise that our children may pay a high price. Not only does early drilling and cramming steal the joy from learning but also creates emotional angst in the child. Moreover, the practice of introducing higher level concepts at younger ages also undermines children’s cognitive foundations and thereby defeats its very purpose. Right from pre- to high school, our children are not only expected to race against each other but also against time. Developmental principles of stages of learning and cognitive preparedness are given scant regard as we are out to prove that our kid is the smartest and fastest on the block.

In Mumbai, overwrought parents feel compelled to send their toddlers for “interview classes” so that their kids get into prestigious schools. When I asked my friend what her two-and-a-half-year-old was being taught, I was horrified to hear that little Nayana was being made to state the differences between living and nonliving things. The fact that Nayana was being denied the opportunity to construct her own theories of the world and then refine them based on confirming and disconfirming evidence did not seem to matter to her parents. Innate propensities to learn were shelved aside for entry into a ‘top’ school.

Furious pace

Today, we live in an age of information overload. As there is so much to learn, many parents and educators try to give children a head start by introducing them to advanced concepts early on. Worksheets, textbooks and test papers seem to reflect this belief. When I was in school, I remember being introduced to decimal numbers in Grade VI. But now children as young as Grade IV are given problems in decimal numbers. Whether the content is age-appropriate or whether children in Grade IV have the requisite foundation upon which the concept can be developed is not questioned. Children with shaky division skills and fragmented knowledge of fractions perform operations on decimal numbers diffidently.

A Grade I math worksheet at a school included the following instruction, followed by a series of figures with arrows marked on them: “Colour the parallel lines in red, convergent lines in blue, divergent lines in green, perpendicular lines in brown and intersecting lines in pink.” Yes, this earful of instructions was given to children as young as six years old! Do the children have the requisite reading skills to decode the instructions? If the teacher reads it aloud, do they have a short-term store to retain them? What is the point of introducing perpendicular lines when children do not have a concept of angle? Unless, angles were covered in UKG at this fast-track school!

A science paper for first-graders required children to indicate true or false for the following:

Star fish are echinoderms.

Chameleons are mammals.

Of course, the vast majority of kids in class would have answered the questions perfectly after being coached at home by high-strung parents. While children may rightly state that chameleons are not mammals but reptiles, do they appreciate the significance of these terms? Do they realise that humans are mammals? Do they understand how animals are classified? Mere memorisation and regurgitation of disconnected facts will not enhance the web of conceptual links in their minds.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is conducted by the U.S. Dept of Education every four years to see how children compare worldwide. Singapore is one of the top rankers in mathematics. A study undertaken by the American Institutes of Research compared curricula in the U.S. and Singapore. In contrast to most U.S. states, Singapore covers fewer topics per grade. Topics are also taught more comprehensively when they are introduced; so the need for repetition in later grades is reduced. In the U.S., depth seems to be sacrificed for breadth. Contrary to what one might expect, more advanced topics are introduced earlier in the U.S. compared to Singapore. For example, in the state of Florida odd and even numbers are introduced in Grade 1; whereas, in Singapore this topic is not introduced until Grade 3. Thus, instead of exposing children to advanced topics early on, it is more prudent to spend time strengthening fundamentals.

Disadvantaged

A study in the U.S. revealed that children in ‘academic’ preschools where the three R’s were introduced did no better than children in traditional preschools that emphasised free play. In fact, children in the academic schools were more anxious and less willing to take risks. As psychologists Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff write, “When we perceive the world as ripe with social and learning opportunities, we will help our children grow. To do more — to use flashcards with infants, to insist on Mozart for the “pre-infant”— is like putting a videocassette on fast-forward instead of play. To put children on fast-forward is to risk turning them off to their natural desire to learn, and instead increases their risk of becoming anxious, depressed and unhappy.”

As schools exert pressure through high-powered curricula, parents feel the need to keep children running, lest they fall off the treadmill. The educational toy industry in the U.S. alone is worth around a billion dollars per year. Parents feel compelled to purchase flashcards for infants and educational DVDs, lest 11-month-old Anuj falls behind. Anuj, soon tires of the laminated flashcards and much prefers tearing and playing with the box. Most educational toys are convergent in nature as they can be played in only one way. Divergent toys, typically things that are mutable like old cartons and newspaper, are more likely to engage a child’s creative instincts.

We have to remember that we, parents, are not the architects of our children’s minds. By overstimulating a child, we cannot necessarily push his developmental window. As neurologist, Prof. Huttenlocher says, “One has to consider the possibility that very ambitious early enrichment and teaching programmes may lead to crowding effects and to an early decrease in the size and number of brain regions that are largely unspecified and that may be necessary for creativity in the adolescent and adult.” Thus, schools should evaluate their curricula for developmental appropriateness and parents may take a backseat instead of rushing to buy the latest set of encyclopaedias.

The author is the director of PRAYATNA, Centre for Educational Assessment & Intervention. She may be reached at arunasankara@gmail.com.

Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/education/school/article452712.ece

Filed under: Article of the Week,

Mobile Science Lab

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The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) launched its mobile science laboratory for this academic year in Chennai.

Students of Chennai Middle School, Bells Road, spent a whole day experimenting with the equipment of the mobile laboratory on the first day of its launch.

“The mobile unit will cover around 6,000 students of various schools in Chennai from this month to March next year,” said A.Ponnammal, District Programme Coordinator, SSA.

The equipment in the mobile unit include telescope, inverter, laptop, LCD, solar water heater, wind mill working model, blood pressure apparatus, mercury, human skeleton model, distillery set, aneroid barometer and weighing machine.

The experiments would be based on the syllabus of the Tamil Nadu text book. The technical expertise of various departments such as the Meteorology Department, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Department of Ocean Technology is also mobilised for the mobile unit. Assistant Project Officer of SSA A.Samadhanam said that the ‘travelling laboratory’ would give students of schools without laboratory facilities the opportunity to conduct experiments and learn. Last year, the unit covered 5,423 students belonging to the weaker sections in Chennai, said Geetha Maheshu, the mobile laboratory in-charge. The achievement levels of the students before and after exposure to the experiments were recorded last year. There was marked improvement in the achievement levels, said G. Starlet, a teacher. This also helps in curricular enrichment, she added. These are of significance to improvement in the quality of learning in middle schools as the curiosity of students is stimulated, said P. Kalaiselvi, another teacher.

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Chennai/article477826.ece

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Spell bound to success

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Spelling Whiz: Ananmika Veeramani is all smiles. Photo: AP

If spelling was always your bête noire, meet the stars of the Spelling Bee contest held recently at Washington D.C to get a glimpse of their prowess…

Can you spell ‘omphaloskepsis’? Or ‘hydrargyrum’? If you happened to be an Indian-American school kid being raised in the US, you probably would.

Last year I watched 12 year old Kavya Shivashankar confidently spell out, letter by letter: “L-A-O-D-I-C-E-A-N” and after a moment’s deafening silence, heard an eruption of applause. Kavya had won the USA Spelling Bee 2009 championship before a world-wide live TV audience, which included myself. (And I learnt a new word that day; though I am still waiting for the right opportunity, perhaps at a party, to stun people by casually saying ‘Oh, I feel rather laodicean about politics’ – which I hope you know means ‘luke-warm or indifferent’) .

Siblings revel

And now there’s a sibling too. Apparently the Shivashankar household in Kansas has bred one more word-genius, and she can spell ‘axalotl’ as easily as you can spell fish (now don’t say you didn’t know axalotl is a kind of fish.) Well Vanya does, and she is—just hold your breath—only eight! And the youngest in this year’s contest.

And while I admit I am bit of a chatterbox, only a Spelling Bee winner could possibly have described my compulsive talkativeness as logorrhoea, and what’s more spell it correctly too. As young Nupur Lala did at the finals some years ago—making me permanently hooked to this annual blood-less sport which is even covered by ESPN.

Well, I have something to tell all those proud parents and kids who can go from ‘herniorrhaphy’ to ‘deipnosophist’ to ‘iliopsoas’ without any feeling of ‘amarevole’ ( I think that last word means a tinge of sadness. Perhaps you’d better start watching Spelling Bee too if you’d like to keep up with mere school kids, and me…). I would like to say that there’s one speller that can fox even a Spelling Bee champ, and that is Spell-Check on our computers.

Because the Spell-Check—which nastily underlines every misspelt word with a red curly-wurly line (hey, it just underlined the word mispelt itself! Sorry, should that have been misspelled?)—can correct words like no 11-year old school kid can.

Mr Spell-Check is a vigilant fellow and among the things he really hates are Indian names. He is quick to underline a potential mistake, and then gives us helpful suggestions so that even our names can be corrected to good, pure American English.

Look what happened when I tried to email a person named Raghu Manikam, who, my pal told me, would help me find a really good driver for my brand new Hyundai car.

Dear Mr Raghu Manikam, I typed. Immediately the curly-wurly lines appeared. So out of curiosity I clicked Spell-Check. Well Raghu got corrected to Rogue and Manikam led to Maniac. You can bet I abandoned that letter at once as I didn’t want any kind of rogue maniac driving me around.

Alarmed at what Spell-Check was trying to do to our glorious Indian names, I tried a few more… Next to me was a film magazine with the cheesiest picture of Mallika Sherawat. So I randomly typed out Mallika—and guess what Spell-Check had to say? You’re not going to believe this: ‘Man-like’. Ha! Anything but, you may argue…

Just then my pal Shobha called. “Shobha” I typed on my comp, even as I began speaking with her. Swiftly came the corrected spelling on the screen before me: “Hey Shobs!” I interrupted her. “Do you know you are actually a ‘Cobra’?” I don’t think Shobha was amused at all. More surprises, or should I say more character assassinations happened, as I typed all my dear pals names. Priya was ‘Prey’ and Shyam unfortunately was ‘Shame’. Radhika was declared ‘Radical’ and Pratibha was a ‘Pariah”.

More blasphemy followed as my good-natured pal Sadhana turned up as ‘Satan’, and my trusted friend Chetan came out as ‘Cheat’. And my gregarious, nutty cousin Sudha was inexplicably corrected to Buddha.

Turn to the bard

At last some favourable matches came along, as my sea-crazy sister Shuba was ‘Scuba’ and my clever pal Nitya was ‘Nifty’. And Suguna, considering her laid-back lifestyle, came out appropriately as ‘Sauna’.

Meanwhile think what the Americans could have done to set right Shakespeare and all his weird spellings. If only Spell-Check had been invented in 1600! He couldn’t have got away with “Thou villaine Capulet. Hold me not, let me go

Thou shalt not stir a foote to seeke a Foe” (Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet)

But even the good old Bard was honest to admit that spellings and punctuation were not his forte.

I know, because I just tried out an anagram of his name.

William Shakespeare re-arranged becomes “I am a weakish speller’.

Aha!

Tamil girl Anamika Veeramani, 14, declared 2010 US SPELLING BEE Winner

Confidently spelling S-T-R-O-M-U-H-R, Anamika Veeramani, a Tamilian from Ohio won the $40,000 Scripps Spelling Bee Prize in Washington on June 4, beating Shantanu Srivastav in the final round.

The words Anamika spelt correctly in the finals to win are:

‘juvia’, ‘epiphysis’, ‘nahcolite’, ‘mirin’, and ‘osteomyelitis’

This makes it the third consecutive year win for Indo-Americans.

The final winning words

that kids of Indian origin in the US have spelt correctly to win, in the last 10 years:

l 2009: LAODICEAN by Kavya Shivashankar

2008: GUERDON by Sameer Mishra

2005: APPOGGIATURA by Anurag Kashyap

2003: POCOCURANTE by Sai Gunturi

2002: PROSPICIENCE by Pratyush Buddiga

2000: DEMARCHE by George Thampy

Report by

Indu Balachandran E-mail: indubee8@yahoo.co.in

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/arts/magazine/article453621.ece

Filed under: Article of the Week, ,

Class Library In-charges, 2010-‘11

Class & Div.

Name of the Class Teacher

IA

Mrs.Sreelatha T A

IB

Mrs.S. Usha Devi

IC

Mrs.Bindu Lal

ID

Mrs.Adeline J

IIA

Mrs.A. Vijayakumari

IIB

Mrs.Beena C

IIC

Mrs.V. Jalaja Kumari

IID

Mrs.Sarojam R. Pillai

IIIA

Mrs.Raechel Mathai

IIIB

Mr.Laxman D. Vasav

IIIC

Mrs.Elizebeth Verghese

IIID

Mrs.S.R. Susmitha

IV A

Mrs.Sheeba John

IV B

Mrs.Somana Bai

IVC

Mrs.R. Thomas

IV D

Mrs.Sreeja S. Kumar

VA

Mrs.V.M.Yamuna

VB

Mrs.G.S.Ranjini

VC

Mr.Narender Kumar

VD

Mrs.Jayasree V.

Filed under: Class Libraries,

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