The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hwa Chong Institution

I visited the Hwa Chong Institution, yesterday - and if there is one thing that can be said about Hwa Chong is that it is not small. Oh, no, not by a long way. It has to be the biggest school I have ever been to.

I got lost. Twice. I found myself, twice, in "Offices" that were the wrong ones (they have at least three, it seems), before eventually meeting up with Ms. Letchmi, a teacher with a chemistry background (she gave me no title - so I can't give it here), beneath a clock tower, more in place in a European city than an Asian one.

We went to an office wreathed in quietness and spoke of Ainan.

The conversation was not a long one, since both of us were needed elsewhere but the gist of it was that they would like to help Ainan if they could, but were not sure if they could spare the resources necessary. Ms Letchmi was very careful to state that she wanted to help, but could make no definite promises until she had checked the situation with her colleagues.

What were we asking for? A lab. We have been in search of a lab for Ainan now for ten months and are still searching. It is very difficult to get someone to agree to letting Ainan learn in one. I don't know why...but perhaps it is because of the unusual nature of the request: a seven year old who needs a fully equipped Chemistry lab to potter around in.

I pointed out that not allowing Ainan to have a lab is a bit like denying a mathematician a pencil and paper and a calculator: it would be a form of "cruel and unusual" punishment to do so. So, too, is it with Ainan - he needs a lab, now, if he is to continue to grow scientifically. After all, Chemistry has a large practical element to it - and the ultimate aim of all Chemistry - even the most theoretical aspects - is ultimately to engage in practical experimentation through the making of chemicals, in some way or other. The lab is where chemical ideas are expressed in practical form. Ainan cannot be without a lab for much longer.

She resolved to look into it for us - and promised to get back shortly.

Let us hope we get a positive answer soon - for otherwise Ainan's progress will be more than a little derailed. He cannot go further without a lab. If you have access to one and would like to help: please tell us so! Thanks.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:33 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where does Hwa Chong fit into the scheme of things?

Have you requested laboratory space from the other schools/universities you've visited recently?

I feel as though I've missed a thread of continuity.



6:43 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

We have requested lab space from all that we have had contact with who are in a position to give it. The reason for this is simple: it seems to be a big thing with many of these institutions to make an exception or change the way things are done. We are hoping to find one soon that will - only by asking several can we hope to finally get a lab, therefore.

I should say more about Hwa Chong: it is a leading school.

We are still waiting for a lab - despite all our contacts with people. Our urgency is not their urgency, in general...for them, they have just been asked, for us it is ten months of waiting.

Best wishes

8:34 AM  
Blogger Howard said...

Indeed .
That is why some people including me never got into Chemistry , we went into mathematics instead . To put it blutly , all a mathematician needs is
his mind .
By the way , could you tell me what mathematical level of study is he reading now ?

9:47 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Howard

I am a little puzzled at your interest in Ainan's mathematical study. I puzzle at it because Ainan is not a maths prodigy - but a SCIENTIFIC prodigy (though, of course, he may develop prodigiously in that area, too - we will see). Asking about Ainan's maths all the time is a bit like asking Shakespeare about his tennis. Of what relevance is Shakespeare's tennis to his writing ability? The same can be said for your interest in his maths...Ainan would actually need relatively little maths for most of Chemistry and could become a very fine chemist without much maths. However, it looks like he is going to develop more than enough maths, very soon, to cope with even the more abstruse parts of physics in due course.

For more on Ainan's present mathematical interests see the post above.


By the way, you have promised several times to introduce yourself...but still have yet to do so!

11:20 PM  
Anonymous kaviaari said...

I had the same dream at the age of seven. A laboratory was all that I could ask for so I built one. Old jars, bottles and pots work well in simple experiments. When one has to use stuff from kitchen that are not neat and tidy analytical grade chemicals it gives a different perspective to chemistry.

I conducted all sorts of different experiments with the most simple things. With a 12V car battery, old jar, some electrolytes (table salt, baking powder and vinegar) and different electrodes (like zinc, iron, carbon and copper) a series of wonderful experiments can be conducted without dangerous chemicals.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Kaviaari

Yes, we too have seen the oddest of things recruited for scientific experiments around the house, since Ainan was young.

Many interesting things can be done with the imagination and what is to hand - but there are limits. It is so much better if one has access to the right environment - and that isn't easy to arrange, often.

Best wishes to you on your scientific career.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been a few years since you posted this, but I decided I'd give my own experience.

At the moment, I'm only slightly older than Ainan is now, and I find that the resources I have in my house are not as useful as they used to be, now that my interest in subjects such as science has developed. I have a microscope and its quality has use to few sciences, and I have wanted more for quite some time. I feel lucky to even have a microscope, so I haven't asked for anything, but maybe I will in the future. I am planning to buy more resources later on and have a REAL lab when I am older.

I am impressed in your work that you have done for Ainan, as I agree that he needed a lab (and still does), and of what I have read, you have gotten him quite far since this post. I hope for you and your family that this continues!

Thanks for the post and good luck for the future!

7:33 AM  

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