Faraday and the Back Benchers

Here I was…giving long lectures on the concept of electromagnetism…without making even a small motor/generator by hand.. and there he was…a ‘back bencher’ who knew no concepts of electromagnetism…showed the newest toy he made…a small magnet that can rotate inside a coil connected to LED…a simple generator that lights up the LED when we spin the axle…a pen refill connected to magnet… which could demonstrate the whole explanation so lucidly! A round of applause thundered for the child’s creativity and DIY attitude! – (27/12/2017)


It was an early morning class at Samta Hindi Vidyalaya, Turbhe. Myself and Mitesh went to see if we could teach basics of electromagnetism to 10th standard students.
As soon as I turned towards the board to chart out the dependency map for learning electromagnetism, noise level in the class increased with chirpy discussions within the students. Although I find such random soft chatter quite soothing here it was time to get some syllabus covered and concepts cleared. So tried to concentrate their attention by posing an easy problem on a simple electric circuit based on Ohm’s law.

It was then we realized that most back-benchers don’t know how to solve it. Some front-benchers knew how to but they make simple mathematical errors. Most of them don’t know the interconnections with the basics of matter. Therefore a flashback was needed to start from basic units of physics.
So the lecture proceeded as followed the principle of dependency maps[1]:

– Introduction to basic units (length, time, mass, charge) and derived units (area, volume, momentum, force)

– Introduction to mass and charge as properties of matter resulting in gravitational force and electromagnetic force respectively

– Mass only +ive value, mainly concentrated in proton and neutron whereas charge being +ive in proton and -ive in electron

– Moving charge gives magnetic force but charge can move freely only in conductors

– Metals have free electrons so conductors, salt solutions have free ions so conductors
– Electromagnetism is related to light and that light is an electromagnetic wave…..

By then, there were naughty smiles in the faces of some boys in the back who were chatting amongst each other. Clearly they lost track of the lecture. It always happens whenever there is a lecture! One of them on gently probing said, “Saar! Kuch samajh nahi aaya”!

Kids liked the idea of seeing animated video for learning deeply. But many are unable to visually think [2] and convert words to pictures. By then one of the kid showed some small equipment in hand. It was a simple generator he had made at home with a copper winding tied to an LED with a magnet being rotated using pen refill!

Here I was giving long lectures on making kids understand the concepts, who is yet to make even a small motor/generator by hand and there was a back bencher who knew no concepts of electromagnetism but by hand made a device which could demonstrate the whole explanation so lucidly! A round of applause thundered for the child’s creativity and DIY attitude!

Once I explained the basic principle at work on the generator, everything from charge, metal conductor, free electrons, magnetic force, generation of current, conversion to light energy all concepts fired like a series of silent yet luminous thought explosions! Evidence of the same was seen in the sparkling eyes in the classroom. So when friends ask me do you teach for free, i should say no i teach to witness the sparkling eyes, any day of more value than a dead piece of diamond!

In fact, they asked if we can have early morning 6 am classes too! Now that is how learners push an educators limit. No more late-night binge eating or drinking for me!
The homework given for them is to develop over the map and generate content for each topic by dividing themselves in groups. The best thing about the class was no one made fun when kids came out and admitted their ‘not-knowing’ and ‘not being attentive’. There was a round of applause for our collective ignorance and ‘not knowing’ as in science integrity and honesty are just as important as intelligence or rather even more.
The also agreed together to make all 10th standard practicals by themselves and reach out to nearby schools to team up with them as well.
In the next class we will watch Cosmos episode 10, The Electric Boy, which will help us know about the inventions of Faraday; motors and generators on which the gears of the whole modern world are turning!

Thank you Faraday for electrifying us to push beyond fate and sleepy early mornings! Thank you Cosmos team for making arguably the best science series for children of all ages!

Readers Comments (2)

  1. Jogitha Kanapally January 19, 2018 @ 10:45 am

    we should have facbook share option these posts are so nice but I am unable to share on my fb page

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