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How the Chandrayaan 3 launch was a day of experiential learning for my child

Witnessing the Chandrayaan 3 launch with my daughter was an unforgettable way to launch her interest in the world and to spark interconnected learning

Something about learning and watching history in the making embeds learning more powerfully than ever.
Something about learning and watching history in the making embeds learning more powerfully than ever. (ANI)

In 2016, during the Summer Olympics, the school that my daughter was enrolled in then in Bengaluru, chose the Olympics as their theme for the term. It was during this time that she developed a huge interest in gymnast Simone Biles and insisted on joining yoga and gymnastics. The school also wove math, history, and science into the Olympics theme, making it come alive through interconnected learning. 

There was something else that made the learning especially meaningful for my daughter and truly hit home. The Olympics were happening simultaneously as she was learning about the games. Something about learning and watching history in the making embeds learning more powerfully than ever. 

Yesterday, the same magic happened when my daughter and I sat down to watch the live telecast of the launch of Chandrayaan 3, the third lunar exploration mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation to explore the moon.   

Also Read: Isro launches Chandrayaan-3: evolution of India’s lunar exploration missions

As we watched the launch, we also received videos from my daughter’s old school in Bengaluru, which organised a screening for the children, at the behest of parents and the kids themselves. There is something exciting about counting down together to the launch of the spacecraft and screaming when it takes off. My daughter wished she was with her classmates in her old school. There is, after all, something about collective peer energy - the excitement can truly rub off on you. 

Hours before the launch, a friend who is a homeschooler messaged me excitedly to say that she was taking her son to the planetarium to see the launch. A friend Chandrakala Ramesh, called to tell me that she had traveled to Sriharikota for the launch because her 12-year-old daughter was so keen to witness it in person! Another friend mentions that her 10-year-old son did in-depth research on the launch three weeks before it happened, putting together cuttings of newspaper articles. He is also part of the school team that is making a model of the rover. 

How kids are learning about lunar expeditions 

Preethi Vickram, Founder of Tapas Progressive Learning, a school in Bengaluru, also screened the launch live for her students. Vickram is doing something very interesting – she is bringing the topic of the launch into social and emotional learning modules in school. 

“We have scheduled two circle time discussions on what happens if the mission fails, what can we learn from it? Should humans inhabit the moon? For the next one week, everyday we are doing different experiments about exploring what we know about the moon and launch vehicles," she says.    

A lot of parents I know read encyclopaedias with their kids before the launch but I also recommend picture and chapter books like Topi Rockets From Thumba by Menaka Raman. The story is an imagined account of the weeks and months leading up to India's first ever rocket and it told through the perspective of a 10-year-old named Mary in Thumba – a sleepy town, until Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and his team arrive. 

Also Read: A dive into the world of LEGO space sets

Speaking of learning about events as they unfold, Aparna Prabhu, a Bengaluru-based mother of two daughters aged 12 and 6, followed the Karnataka elections with her children as they happened. “We discussed how a state legislative assembly works and what strategies each party is using to come to power,” she says. 

Alee Padhy Jain says, “My 7-year-old’s son school in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, telecast the launch as it happened. The school did an introduction of the current launch and the preceding expeditions. My son learned about the meaning of the name ‘Chandrayaan,’ the team of scientists behind it, the previous two expeditions, the reason for the failure of the second one, and what the current one seeks to do after the launch. His interest in the history of lunar expeditions of India has piqued after this.” 

Witnessing history, and learning from it, together

It was special for me to watch the launch of Chandrayaan 3. I remember watching an episode of the show Mad Men in which the characters watch Neil Armstrong's moon landing, and everyone, everywhere in the story was watching the same thing. It even prompted a character from the show to give her best advertising pitch by referencing the moon landing.

After the launch yesterday, my daughter wanted to know and read all about space exploration. We remembered when a year or so ago, we had visited the Nehru Planetarium in Worli, Mumbai, and came across an instrument that told us how much we would weigh on different planets! 

Does this mean that my daughter will become a scientist or an astronaut? I don’t know, but that was never my intention. I want her to carry a lifelong interest in the world around her and to make connections.

Shweta Sharan is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.

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