Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Fitter the child, better the student

by Gretchen Reynolds (NYT NEWS SERVICE)

To date, no study has specifically examined whether and in what ways physical fitness might affect how children learn. So researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently stepped into that breach, recruiting a group of local 9- and 10-year-old boys and girls, testing their aerobic fitness on a treadmill, and then asking 24 of the most fit and 24 of the least fit to come into the exercise physiology lab and work on some difficult memorization tasks. 

Learning is, of course, a complex process, involving not only the taking in and storing of new information in the form of memories, a process known as encoding, but also recalling that information later. Information that cannot be recalled has not really been learned.
Earlier studies of children’s learning styles have shown that most learn more readily if they are tested on material while they are in the process of learning it. In effect, if they are quizzed while memorizing, they remember more easily. Straight memorization, without intermittent reinforcement during the process, is tougher, although it is also how most children study. 

In this case, the researchers opted to use both approaches to learning, by providing their young volunteers with iPads onto which several maps of imaginary lands had been loaded. The maps were demarcated into regions, each with a four-letter name. During one learning session, the children were shown these names in place for six seconds. The names then appeared on the map in their correct position six additional times while children stared at and tried to memorize them. 

In a separate learning session, region names appeared on a different map in their proper location, then moved to the margins of the map. The children were asked to tap on a name and match it with the correct region, providing in-session testing as they memorized. 

A day later, all of the children returned to the lab and were asked to correctly label the various maps’ regions. 

The results, published last week in PLoS One, show that, over all, the children performed similarly when they were asked to recall names for the map when their memorization was reinforced by testing. 

But when the recall involved the more difficult type of learning — memorizing without intermittent testing — the children who were in better aerobic condition significantly outperformed the less-fit group, remembering about 40 percent of the regions’ names accurately, compared with barely 25 percent accuracy for the out-ofshape kids.
This finding suggests that “higher levels of fitness have their greatest impact in the most challenging situations” that children face intellectually, the study’s authors write. The more difficult something is to learn, the more physical fitness may aid children in learning it. 

Source :

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


Our Intern, Anwesha Ghosh talks about her award journey...

Back in 2005, when I was first introduced to the Award Programme, I was told 'It's a marathon not a sprint.' Little did I know the meaning of these words then. Looking back at all those years now, I fall short of words to narrate my Award Journey.
Starting out, I was told in detail about the purpose of the Award program. During my first camp to a place called Talsari, my camp instructor kept on saying ''this isn't a competition, you don't have to beat anyone.'' To me everything was a 'competition'. I was made that way; I had to come first everywhere or at least try. So these words were irrelevant. As the years passed by, the more I became involved with 'Award work', the more I realized that there was competition, immense competition but only with my own self. The Award journey is a marathon- a marathon of self-development.

The Award was always a learning platform. It gave me a scope to take up many different activities while I was completing my Award levels. After achieving the Gold, my horizon widened. Now I get an opportunity to interact with Award participants from across the globe, participate in training programs, and mentor awardees during their camps. It feels amazing when I am called to represent NAA, India for foreign conferences or conduct the Annual Gold Award Ceremony. 

Over the past eight years, the Award has given me hands-on experience, taught me how to interact with people and deal with situations. But most of all, it taught me to be humble. A little amount of opportunity given to a person can help him realize his own worth, can help him beat the odds and emerge as a champion. Time and again, I have seen live examples of this phenomenon.

Any amount of gratitude extended towards the Award is too little. It has helped young people see and achieve their full potential. The Award has made me what I am today- a confident young person. I am proud to be a part of it.


A report from Ramkrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy - A report from the Award Leader

A team of 19 Gold Award participants from Ramkrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy, Narendrapur and one participant from South Point School, Kolkata completed their Gold Award Adventurous Journey at Gorumara National Park between the 15th and 20th of August 2013. The participants were escorted by Rupanjan Goswami (Award Leader) and Rajen Saha (Faculty) as well as 5 instructors from the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers, Kolkata. Garumara Wild Life Sanctuary is situated in Latraguri of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal and is rich in natural beauty and wild animals such as elephant, bison, peacock, leopard and various species of birds.

The journey started on 15th August 2013 when the group left Kolkata by Kanchan Kannya Express. We reached New Mal Junction the next day at 10.30 a.m. and left for the camp site at 'Bana Bitan', situated next to the Sanctuary and tea plantation. The main camp activities started with an interactive and information sharing session by the ICNL instructors on Garumara WLS Camping etiquette. In the afternoon embarked on a 4-km walk to the Naora River. The Participants experienced how snow melted - they felt the icy cold water splash on their feet and realized how a hilly river runs fast between their toes.They interacted with the local tribal communities and there was a sense of mutual respect. In the evening session experienced ICNL instructors taught the boys mountain and camping etiquette, and an awareness of the hazards and how to overcome them.

The next day started with a jungle walk at 5.15 a.m along with some stretching exercises. For most of the participants this was their very first opportunity to trek through the jungle and explore a national park. They were amazed to feel the bounties of nature by touching different trees and herbs that were unknown to them. They were delighted to hear unfamiliar sounds emanating from the jungle. The instructors explained the sources of the sounds and taught them how to listen and enjoy the language of Mother Nature.

The post breakfast session started with a prayer and a few minutes of silence in the memory of a popular ICNL instructor, Anal Chatterjee. Then the participants got into action with a session of River Crossing. With the help of equipment and ropes the participants crossed a deep pond by hanging over it. They were infused with a sense of achievement after completing the task.

For the post lunch session, the instructors taught the boys about different mountain and camp equipment and their utility and strength. The visually challenged boys touched the equipment and recorded the information in their I_POD. The boys were determined to preserve the data delivered by the instructors.

The evening session started at 6.30 pm with a lesson on survival. The participants learnt survival techniques and how to cope with trying or hazardous experiences of Nature. 

The next day's morning session started at 5.30 am with a pleasant trek into the jungle. Again the participants learnt about the flora and fauna of the region by touching, feeling, hearing and smelling. During the trek they came across footprints and other signs of a tusker elephant. They bravely stood their ground and did not retreat, managing to complete the allotted task successfully. The next session was on Jummering; the participants climbed a tall tree with the help of a jummer and then rappelled down by using a descender. This is a difficult task even for sighted people but the visually challenged participants did it perfectly. The post lunch session was Tent Pitching. The participants learnt the names of different tents with their specifications. They learnt the use of different tents in different places and climates. After the theoretical briefing the students were given the task of pitching a tent without the help of the Instructors. The Instructors were happy to see that the boys pitched the tent successfully - this was a significant achievement for both the boys and their instructors.

On the last day the participants went for a walk through the villages and the local market. The Gold Level adventure camp ended with a gala campfire in the evening, and a display of cultural skills such as music, mimicry, flute recitation and dancing.    click for pictures

Monday, 16 September 2013


10 September 2013

IAYP India organised Award Orientation sessions at four Government Schools in Haryana State on 10th September 2012.  The programme team with Bivujit Mukhoty (Programme Manager) visited Government Senior Secondary School Jharsaintly; Government School, Ladipur; Government Secondary School, Deoli; and Government Secondary School, Bhagola.  All these village schools are supported by JCB India and IAYP India supports the programme under Special Projects. Over 100 students from these four schools participated in the orientation programme.  All the students who attended the orientation are already involved in life skills such as weaving, printing, knitting, and painting; and general sports and service such as making village roads and ponds.  Chittaranjan Dass (Office Manager), Neelam (Award Leader) and Trilok (Award Leader) supported the programme team.  The Programme Manager also met with Harish Kripal (General Manager HR, JCB), Ved Prakash Arora (Manager HR, JCB) and Nitin to discuss the Award programme in JCB-supported schools.  clickfor pictures


7th September 2013

IAYP India organised a one-day workshop at the Ansal Institute of Technology, Gurgaon on 7th September 2013.  The theme of the workshop was 'Role of Volunteers'.  Kapil Bhalla (National Director), Bivujit Mukhoty (Programme Manager) and Pratibha Kumari Singh (Member NTP) mentored the 25 volunteers (aged between 19-22 years) and 6 students coordinators who participated in the workshop.  The workshop commenced with a description of the framework and philosophy of the Award.  The speakers went on to detail Volunteering and Volunteering Support.  This was followed by a session on the Award Journey and the experiences of other volunteers and Award holders were shared with the participants.  The workshop concluded with a presentation of YES Volunteer Certificates and Volunteer Badges to the participants.  The workshop was supported by Chittaranjan Das (Office Manager), Anju Rani (Award Leader) and Ashita Sharma (Award Leader). clickfor photographs

Thursday, 12 September 2013


Surya Pahal from G D Goenka World School, Gurgaon sharing his experience

I set off for on my Residential Project in the wee hours of the morning, enduring a 6-hour drive to Rajasthan. Getting away from the blaring horns of the city to the silence of the wilderness was just the beginning of it all. At the end of the tedious drive we reached the village school by midday, and, as curious as I was to go around and see the place, the drive forced me to hit the sack. The next day I took the first session with school kids and they were probably the most enthusiastic children I had ever seen. Also undeniably the most energetic and ready to learn, and although the classes may not have been state of the art, the kids definitely were! It felt so fulfilling to help and interact with these children who were so eager to learn. 

It was easy to get along with them: to start with, we showed the children a PowerPoint presentation on the origin and significance of the popular Hindu festival of colour, Holi, which the kids really enjoyed. Following this we distributed stationery to the children as prizes for a quiz on general knowledge, for which the kids seemed very well prepared. Then we helped the children make 'thank you; cards for the people who donated stationery to their school, and the kids proved to be quite creative. 

On the second day the focus was on team building and bonding so we played a few games outside in teams and soon enough the children had completely drained my energy. The five days of the IAYP residential project not only gave me a chance to meet a bunch of brilliant children but with that it helped me to understand and communicate with younger kids, as well as taught me how to survive outside the city.
I feel that the Award has influenced me in a profound manner and, in a broad sense, has allowed me to extend and engage my knowledge and intellect and pursue interests which have enriched my life. Service to the community taught me to enjoy and value other cultures and to not make assumptions about people simply because of their socio-economic disposition. Working together with a community that has a different culture and lifestyle to my own has opened my mind to different perspectives and helped me develop new skills.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013



  1. If you already practice a sport outside of school/college/organization, you're safe! You will just need to get your coach/teacher to supervise and assess.
  2. Think about sports you have done before. If you liked them, why not see if there are any classes or teams in your area? If there aren't, you can always set one up yourself.
  3. Start something new. Do something that you might not normally get the chance to and you might as well have fun while you're at it.
  4. Join a class. Most fitness centres will have a wide range of classes that you can attend. 
  5. Go running or cycling by yourself, but make sure to get someone to assess your progress.


  1. Find a person or organization where you can provide help.
  2. Join a Rotaract group - they are often involved in volunteering.
  3. Some good places to offer your aid would be at a school for the disabled, or an old people's home, for example.


  1. Learn a musical instrument. This is always a good skill to have, and opens the doorways to things like orchestras and ensembles. You don't have to have formal music lessons, things like playing in a band can also count towards this.
  2. Learn a new language. This is becoming increasingly desirable in the modern world, will open doors to opportunities and be a lot of fun.
  3. Learn more about a subject. There are myriad groups and this is especially important if you desire to study a mostly non-curricular or obscure subject.

Residential (Gold Only)

  1. This should be undertaken over at least 5 days and 4 nights (consecutively). This should also be done away from home, so that you meet new people in an unfamiliar environment.
  2. Go on a course. There are many summer schools or courses which are at least 5 days long, and you can learn things at the same time too. This can also be an asset to your personal statement if you do something related to your intended course of study.
  3. Do some volunteering. There are loads of great volunteering opportunities wherein you can fulfill your requirements for the Residential section and do some good at the same time. You could go abroad and help with a project, like building a school, or look for some smaller projects, again like with the elderly or the disabled. You could also see if there's a school/scout/NSS group that wants to do something like a summer camp who would appreciate your assistance.


  • Try and do a different activity for each level of your Award. Use the opportunity to try as many new things as you can. Even a really fun activity can get boring if you do it for too long.


A report from Vallavi Shukla, The Doon School, Dehradun

Having been in the Doon School for four years, I saw many students and masters go for mountaineering expeditions organized by the school to different peaks and passes. I desperately wished to go for an expedition and when there was a vacancy in one of the teams, I decided to give my name. Surprisingly enough, I was selected to go for an expedition to The Dhumdar Kandi Pass (5608m) between 1st and 6th June, 2013. This pass is situated between Swargarohini (6,252m) and Bander Poonch (6,320m) in the Govind Pashu National Park in the Garhwal Himalayas.

We started our preparation about three months earlier, going jogging and swimming daily - building stamina was a must and considering I was the youngest and the most in-experienced member, everybody wanted to make sure that I practiced twice as hard, something I definitely benefited from later on. Nevertheless, after three months of intense hard work, we were finally ready to take on the challenge.

On the first of June, 2013 a team of seven students (six boys, one girl) and three masters left for Harshil, our first stop for the expedition. The next day we started our trek along a thin trail on the left bank of river Sian Gaud, a major tributary of the Bhagirathi. It was a rather steep and difficult climb for the first day through forests and crossing the occasional stream. After four long hours of tireless trekking we reached our camp, a little below the Gujjar Huts, tired to the very bone! My muscles wouldn't stop hurting! Going up and around the mountains made me realize that my body wasn't just calf and thigh, it was a lot of muscles and they hurt so much! However, we pitched our tents and sat inside. But there was yet another surprise, something I guess none of us had practiced or trained for.... sleeping on uneven ground! Sleeping a little above the bank of Sian Gaad, I loved that sound of the river, a rather peaceful melody. I don't even remember falling asleep that night, but I definitely recall being woken up at night by what must have been really big drops of rain falling on our tent!

On the second day, the rain delayed us by 2 hours, which was a lot. However, we had already packed and as soon as it stopped raining we got our harnesses in place and started off for the next camp. Our initial way was through beautiful forest and alpine meadows blossoming with all sorts of flowers, mostly small in size but wonderfully multicoloured. Another technique we learnt was something called scree-walking. It's a tiny trail right on the edge of a mountain, loose soil and a sharp slope. Much to everyone's disappointment we had to keep moving because the rain had caused the soil to loosen up and getting stuck there for the rest of the night was the last thing on our 'to do list' for this expedition. Our next campsite was close to a place called Bakarthech by the river. It was a beautiful night, for the very first time in my life, I actually saw the sky that starry. It was splendid, our campsite was lit by the moon and stars, and when I say there was no need for us to use our torches, I very much mean it! 

Our camp III was supposed to be a place called Dhār Odari, but the team leader, Dr. Shukla felt that the team needed a day's rest. We already knew that we would have an acclimatization day off, but we weren't expecting it so soon, however this free day was a welcome interlude no matter how soon. So, we camped in Kyarkoti, a beautiful and vast expanse of land. A strikingly beautiful meadow surrounded by birch forest on top and boulder gardens below it, also the streams from Sian Gaud and the gigantic mountains of the Dhumdhar range. It was a marvelous view, everybody was struck by this place; all of them came out of their tents, found a rock each and just sat gazing, taking in the beauty. Luckily for us it was a bright sunny day, no rains, no winds. We had the most delectable aaloo-pranthas for lunch after which we were summoned to learn a few techniques we might need higher up in the mountains.

Like the other camp sites, here too we had a good supply of big boulders and rocks. Our expedition leader selected one big rock for technical training and tied the required equipment around it. A demonstration of 'jummaring' and rappelling was given by one of the guides. It seemed like a pretty easy deal and we eagerly raised our hands for our turns, but when we finally finished, all of us had scraped knees, some bled; aching hands, some bruised. I was beginning to grow accustomed to the hard ground, the silence, the beauty, the mountains, and the stars looking down upon us with care, smiling at one another and us ...something I knew I was going to miss once I got back home. I was actually beginning to understand why boys in school wanted to come to these harsh conditions every year, why they wanted to sleep on the hard ground, in sleeping bags during the holidays (!) because it brought them peace, like it did to me then. That sounds rather profound I must say - well that's precisely how it was.

However, the next few days it was way more hard work than on the days before. We left our camps very early in the morning and reached late, around afternoon. Our food was getting lighter and more watery, oxygen continued decreasing, the temperature kept dropping and of course the much-awaited snow came around. Basically, the factors that made this trek difficult were finally making an appearance. There was no more pushing and joking on the way, heads down, ice axe in hand and with the rucksacks on our shoulders we kept moving.

Well, I must admit the fact that some days of the expedition got so excruciating I cursed myself for getting into this. Also, I realized that snow - very much like the mountain rain - looked good only in the movies; in real life it killed you! It made you cold till the bone, but we were all determined to make the top so, no matter how stiff and sore we were, we just kept moving.

After a tremendous amount of hard work and toil for days we reached our summit camp at Arjun Chara (4650m) having learnt a few more techniques like rope fixing and front point climbing (which were agonizingly used very often) we were decently prepared for the next day, but I guess Dr. Shukla didn't see exactly how keen we were on resting and dragged (literally) the entire team to a slope for yet another training session. However, for this session we were all dressed in our climbing kits. The kit was basically layers and layers of warm, really warm clothes, two pairs of gloves, balaclava (I wore an additional warm cap under mine!) two layers of socks, snow boots and our rain suit along with some more warm clothes. We were taught snow climbing, use of our ice axe etc. Until now we just went along with our equipment but now we had to learn the advanced dos and don'ts of all equipment we would be taking along to the summit. Extreme headaches, nausea, body pain and cold took over each body in Arjun Chara. Not many people wanted to eat dinner, but Dr. Shukla yet again dragged us to the kitchen tent. I still remember the cold creeping on to my back at night, I was unable to sleep, my body hurt and I shivered, I dreaded not going for the final climb the next day and finally snuggled deep into my sleeping bag and prayed for sleep to come, but in vain. 

Finally, the much awaited day came. Every one woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning to get ready. Even though by now I had started loathing snow, the view was spectacular; the mountain tops glowed orange, like a juice stick! I couldn't look away, my gaze was fixed and this time the most clichéd 'wow' came out. I was struck by the beauty, by the grace of god's most wonderful creation ever. However, there was no time to sit and admire nature because we had to leave for the summit; we left our camp by 5 o'clock. 

The climb was terrible. My head hurt, my stomach churned and to top all of that I was gasping for breath as if somebody was choking me or worse, I was drowning drunk! It was impossible to climb beyond ten steps without stopping! My body was broken, I felt incapable in every way. All the way up I had to fight with my brain to keep going, which is what I was talking about when I said that physical fitness is a must but twice the mental toughness is required. Harnessing myself to every rope and dragging my body up, the higher I got the worst I felt. Finally after having dragged myself up to 5558m I collapsed on the snow, my gloves were soaking wet and so was my face and body. The cold was bone-crushing and the sweat was ice. I couldn't bear it anymore; I didn't believe I was going to stop 50m below my summit. All that hard work, all that pain in vain. I couldn't bear to not have my picture clicked with the school flag on the summit so heroically I stood up, clipped myself on a fixed rope and continued. It was not half as easy as it sounds.

The moment I stepped on that sharp icy ridge and realized there is nothing left to climb, I was overjoyed! I was on cloud 9, I wanted to scream and shout, jump and bounce (!), but I was not allowed to. For the simple reason that screaming and shouting would result in an avalanche and we were anchored to our ice block.

We spent about 20 minutes up there. Seven members of the team made the summit, including me! We said our prayers and marveled. Oh! The view! I was yet again struck, couldn't breathe (did I mention low oxygen levels!). We could see Bander Poonch, Black Peak, Gangotri Massif, Lamkhaga, Swargarohini, Yellow Tooth and many more peaks in the Indian and Tibetan Himalayas. Before we could even begin to think that the expedition was over, Dr. Shukla (yet again!) said ''guys, the expedition is never over until you reach where you began" and that was enough for all of us to go into depression, but I guess it wasn't all that bad. We slid down from the very top, the way you do from one of those slides in a kid's park, but this was just way more fun! It was unbelievable! It took us five laborious hours to negotiate the slope to get to the summit and we were down in ten minutes!

The next day we set off for Harshil but were stopped by another river because of the strong current. Crossing the river was yet another phenomenal experience. We had to fix rope to cross the river safely. The water was ice cold, weirdly enough all the snow we encountered on our way up had melted within four days. It was impossible to believe, but none of us were that keen to spend much time over it, so we kept moving. We camped by the river that night. After four days I slept well that night, it was very warm.

The next day we started off for Harshil, everybody was expecting a five hour trek like every day, but boy! Were they wrong! That day we came all the way from Ratia Dhār (our day 6 camp) to Harshil, covering five camps at a stretch! We trekked for thirteen hours! By the time we reached Harshil, we were ready to sleep on the roads! But, the joy was terrific; we found a small inn for ourselves and went in for the night, strangely missing the river and slope! 

This expedition was a great experience, something I will cherish for the rest of my life; it is always going to be on my list of top achievements. The best part about going on this expedition was doing something I know I will never be able to do once out of school. Now I know exactly how far I can push myself, there I'll say it again, physically and mentally.