Part of the Learning Studio staff will be leaving for India at the end of the week, to lead a series of workshops with Tibetan Buddhist monks. This amazing opportunity came about thanks to Mark St. John, head of Inverness Research, and Bryce Johnson, of Science for Monks, an organization devoted to bringing hands-on science to Tibetan Buddhist communities in India.
This blog will be our avenue to document the workshops as they are happening (provided that we have access to an internet connection, we're still not sure!), so check back often or subscribe to see what we are doing.
Since a release about these workshops appeared on the Exploratorium's press site, the story has been picked up by a couple of news sources (here, and here), so it might be good to give a little information about our group and what we intend to accomplish during these workshops.
PIE is the name of a research project called Playful and Inventive Explorations. It is a construction-based set of authentic experiments, exploring real science phenomena.
PIE is not a program where the science lessons are transmitted from a "teacher" to the student. It is an inquiry-based program where the teacher’s goal is to design the activity for learners to become engaged and experimental, and to facilitate the learners along the path of their own understanding.
A main goal for PIE is to uncover and grow one’s personal understanding of the scientific world, and to illustrate the variety of ways that individuals, within a group of learners, come to their own understanding. This is often called constructionism.
Our work with the monks will include:
- Applying constructionism as a way to understand scientific phenomena through observation, design, making, testing, problem solving, and sharing.
- Using familiar and unfamiliar tools and materials that allow us to explore the aesthetic and scientific qualities of the world.
- Using the logic of computer programming to assist in the construction of our interactive objects and experiments.
- Individual and group interactions with the predictable and familiar, and surprising and unexpected, aspects of scientific phenomena.
Some of the activities that we are planning:
- Exploring mechanical movements by making cardboard automata
- Playing with light and reflections using mylar, mirrors, and a variety of light sources (including the sun) and integrating those into a mechanized contraption
- Playing with sound using found and recycled objects, constructing sound-making devices that can be programmed to respond to light
- Building a collective chain-reaction machine that will integrate concepts explored via the previous activities.
Throughout these activities we will be reflecting with the monks on their practices and our own strategies as facilitators, as one of the goals of this trip is to empower the monks to become teachers, and share some of these concepts with other monks.
It will be a busy but amazing couple of weeks, so stay tuned!