Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cool propagated and Between the Lions**** at PBS kids

Upon the nature of cool

Original thesis research work by Swati Guide - Own self

Towards partial fulfillment of the promise made in the last post

Alex Hailey in his incomparable book 'Roots', talks of the inescapable rite of passage for growing boys of the Mandinka tribe, when they 'become men'. As its initiation was heralded by being literally kidnapped from your own home, the process held equal amounts of fascination and terror for the young boys. The training itself was as rigorous and exhaustive as it was tyrannical, but it served its purpose well: it produced legions of young able men equipped to perfection for a life in the deep African jungle, where they belonged. Their life was as much a part of that eco-system as of the hyena or the wild monkeys they had for neighbours, and the skills and behaviour they were taught ensured the survival of the tribe itself. In another setting and another era, the three years I chose to spend in a - well, equivalent of a manhood training - were equally 'rigorous, exhaustive and tyrannical'. And in the middle of it, as a sort of landmark, was the research thesis which we all were supposed to produce with originality, flair, dedication and sincerity that is the hallmark of a scientist. Some of you will therefore recognize the echo of that thesis in today's title...

For the real question I intended to ask was, what exactly is cool? A simple googling throws up - neither warm nor very cold; giving relief from heat; marked by calm self-control (especially in trying circumstances); unemotional; unfriendly or unresponsive or showing dislike; without exaggeration or qualification; fashionable and attractive at the time; often skilled or socially adept; something that is very good. If you follow Between the Lions show on PBS kids or elsewhere, you might might remember the cool song which encapsulated this confusion - 'The many meanings of cool'. To all these, I guess I shall have to add another definition - being awarded a cool blog award by a fellow cyber citizen! But now that it is my turn to award it, who shall I choose? What is going to be my definition of 'cool'? I think I shall choose five, of different types. Today the award goes to 'Shop little gifts' for the fun and sweet gifts Sweettooth features daily. Going through her blog is like going window shopping without stirring from my chair... Cool, eh?

Edit 11Jan 09 - Er, Sweettooth, I just might mention that the award needs to be passed on to ten more...

And since I have already mentioned Between the Lions at PBS kids, let us talk more about them. This educational series is a classic that has endured since 'April 2000. It's designed to foster the literacy skills of its viewers, while playfully demonstrating the joys of reading. Each show aims to give kids three to seven years old some of the experiences they need in order to become successful readers.' Making good readers! With an aim like this, I would love it anyway, but it is the execution which is important, and in this case, it is superb. Sadly we don't have access to it on the local tv here. Sigh. If only a fairy godmother would appear and gift us the entire set of past episodes DVDs!

The newly redesigned webpage is attractive, and to the point. They have, of course, removed some of the videos/songs that were present before, but I guess that is a cost I'd be able to live with...

The games are easiest approached through the 'Find It' index of the parents and teachers section, where you can search for games and other activity by skill level, topic or curriculum. In fact, before you take your kid into Lion land, do go through this section once, to get an idea of the philosophy and methods employed by this program, which will help you use the site as intended: for teaching while playing. Given below are three games chosen at random -

The best trampolini game requires the child to pull the rope and shuffle the cards till they match the set of words given below. A great game for strengthening their understanding of 'comparing' words.

Fuzzy lion ears is for the younger kids just starting to spell. A word is pronounced and a picture shown, after which children have to fill in the blank with the appropriate letter. Each letter is read (phonetically) by hovering over it with a mouse.

In the game Flood, books have gotten mixed up due to recent flooding, and have to be returned to shelves in groups as per the subject they pertain to, like basketball here. An interesting and challenging game.

In addition, there are stories and videos, and even downloadable set of audio/video clips in the Lions to go section. A really cool site, wouldn't you say?

The url -

P.S. If you haven't read, Roots, heavens, what are you waiting for? Read it, man, read it! The subject is as moving as it is topical; the prose concise and dramatic; the facts solid and dependable; the imagination - AWESOME!

P.P.S. And we duly did write those theses. With as much of cutting corners, falsifying figures, manufacturing evidence and outright lying as we could manage with the deadline for submission a mere day away... For there never was any time, out of the other work allotted to us, to truly spend on the research itself. Too many variables were out of our control, there were too many real responsibilities, and there was no money to spend. The only thing that mattered was that the thesis 'in partial fullfilment towards the degree of...' was submitted on time, in many cases at the last minute. Whether it was rejected or accepted depended on your guide, but like the manhood training, everyone did get out of it. Alive. With a full understanding of what exactly research entails, how an ideal paper should be prepared and presented - and, depending on your conscience, a published paper or two.

In case you are interested, I never did publish any paper from that thesis, though the idea itself was original and promising, because in the end I too had had to add figures here and there. And I am still bearing the punishment for not writing in a paper - I don't have the experience certificate for two crucial years, and we all know how paperwork is everything...

P.P.S. And of course, PBS kids, being a too large site, must be featured in bits and pieces only... And because I forgot to tell you this about the program, here it is, at the end - BETWEEN THE LIONS is produced by WGBH Boston, Sirius Thinking, Ltd., and Mississippi Public Broadcasting, and is funded in part by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education's Ready To Learn grant, and by the Barksdale Reading Institute.


Nino's Mum said...

I'm intrigued about the thesis: tell me more.

Swati said...

Chuckle! Intrigued, huh? Some day, some other post, perhaps. Imagine someone interested in my thesis! Wonder why though. Hmm.