An issue that is important to us, why it is so, and what are we doing about it….

Hi, I am Om Desai.  As of March-2018, I am a 8th grade student in New Providence Middle School of New Providence, NJ USA

One of the main issues that is important to me is the fact that kids don’t get as many opportunities to learn as older people. For example, kids are forced to learn an easy, unchallenging curriculum, and younger kids don’t have the opportunity to learn subjects like physics in school simply because of their age. The school system also assumes that how smart you are is determined by your age, even though the only reason older people sometimes know more is that they probably may have more access to knowledge. This assumption of the school system is not always true. For example, there are adults who honestly still think that Africa and Europe are countries and that they speak African and European, while there are first graders who can tell you the capital of most countries. Even though the first grader is much smarter than the adult, the adult is given more opportunities like access to college courses or the ability to do useful intellectual work for society simply because they are older.

Younger kids are told that any number of interesting subjects they want to learn are too hard for them and that they should go learn some easy thing that they’ve already learned, like the alphabet. This ends up giving kids less motivation to learn (which is the reason that some kids don’t learn anything past what school teaches them) by telling them that they can’t learn anything harder than what they are explicitly taught.  When I was five and mentioned that I was not getting enough opportunities, older people thought that was “cute” that I used the big word “opportunities”. We think this is “cute” only because we as a nation, are clearly underestimating the huge opportunity costs associated with the invisible brain drain happening at the most unlikely places, called elementary schools, and this needs to be changed.

My venture to implement helpful change

To implement helpful change in the system, it is essential for us to change the mindsets in terms of what is possible, and what can be done.  I believe that most limits imposed by adults in terms of what is possible for kids to learn are purely perceptual. I want to change these narratives about what young minds can learn if they are given opportunities and access. I want to redefine what is possible.

I have taken some steps to implement helpful change already, as I’ve joined with friends (Gyan Ghoda and Siddhant Desai) to create a team known as Team AIRO (Website: http://airobotics.us/ ), and we’ve implemented a system with an unique concept “Young Students Teach Younger Kids”. We first follow our passion to learn and fully grasp challenging concepts and subjects, and then brainstorm ideas to make it fun and easy to understand for younger kids. We teach subjects like programming, robotics, artificial intelligence, mobile app development, and most recently Rubik’s cube solving to kids ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade. We also mentor team of younger kids to participate in various STEM competitions.  This helps the kids, as they’re able to learn fun topics that aren’t covered in school for them simply because of their age.

The kids we teach & mentor pick up stuff very quickly, but schools only start teaching even basic programming in middle school. We’ve honestly been surprised at how easily kindergartners or first graders can pick up so called “advanced” concepts for their age such as coordinate geometry and logical operators. We’ve had 2nd graders create programs that can solve any type of maze using artificial intelligence. These concepts aren’t taught in school, as the school system believes that it is “impossible” for young kids to learn concepts like this.  We also collaborate with non-profit organizations who focus on underprivileged younger kids to involve them Science Technology Mathematics & Engineering (STEM) related learning & activities.

We love to see young students having so much fun learning cool stuff and feeling truly proud of what they can accomplish. Some of these young talented students are very enthusiastic to join our extended team to teach it forward to bring the needed change.  Our classes, and the young kids projects presentations posted on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UConGhZmy33yxIsRWknoJvBg) showcases the potential that young minds can accomplish and how much older people are underestimating these talents.

We have a vision of continue to reach new heights in terms of redefining what is possible and changing and spreading these narratives, so that the next time a five year old mentions that he is not getting enough opportunities, older people will not think that’s “cute”.

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