Discover more from Aastha Jain Simes
Feynman Kids Program
Where kids advance towards their highest potential
Feynman Kids is a virtual group where ambitious kids direct their own learning, follow their obsessions, learn by doing, build projects that excite them, think for themselves, and come to love learning.
We should raise more Feynman Kids.
No, I don’t necessarily mean physicists or Nobel prize winners. I mean people who follow their curiosities, fall in love with problems they want to solve and pursue them, instead of caring about what other people think.
Why Feynman Kids?
School does not leave enough time for kids to explore their interests and curiosities. True learning happens when people dive into areas they are eager to learn about and then engage in hands-on learning.
My mission with Feynman Kids is simple: Give kids a place to pursue their interests. Because greatness and happiness comes from people pursuing their passions.
Where does Greatness come from?
The below quote from Richard Feynman (Nobel-prize Physicist) sums up how he lived his life:
“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don't think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn't stop you from doing anything at all.”
If you look at all those people who went on to do great things in the world, you will realize they did the following:
Followed their own obsessions
Solved problems they fell in love with
Learned by doing, experimenting, and error-correcting
Took their ideas seriously, had freedom & time to explore their curiosities
Did not defer to authority, instead used first principles to think things through
This applies to people in all fields, be it scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, musicians, or writers.
Other than Richard Feynman, some examples of great people who solved problems they fell in love with are Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Paul Graham, Taylor Swift, Mozart, J.K. Rowling, Elon Musk, Sam Walton, Oprah Winfrey.
Hence, inspired by Richard Feynman, people like him, and my own personal experience, I’m launching Feynman Kids, a program where I work with children to help them figure out their curiosities and problems they want to solve and enable them to launch projects in those areas, such that they can learn by doing and think for themselves. School does not create greatness, self-learning does.
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How does Feynman Kids Work:
Unlike other schools and programs, there is no strict schedule where kids are shepherded from one class to the other. Feynman Kids is not about me lecturing but about giving students the independence to work on projects that interest them and are connected to how the real world works. It’s all virtual.
Month-to-month Project Building:
Let’s build a place where curious, smart, doer kids can thrive!
What Makes Me Unique: Child completes an extensive curiosities questionnaire to reflect on their interests, curiosities, and projects that have excited them
Build Your Own Project 1:1 call with me to kick-off Feynman Kids where we map out the project the student will work on and steps to get started. Thereafter, monthly 1:1 with me
Student Teach-Ins: Every week, we come together in groups of 4-5 where each student teaches the group something about their project and receives feedback on the project
Demo day: Parents and friends are invited to the last teach-in of every month
Slack group for life: Community of smart, ambitious kids around the world who are following their obsessions and learning by doing
On-the-job training: The best form of learning is learning by doing. I’ll help kids get freelance work, internships and on-the-job training to supplement their own learning
Weekly Goals: Students set their weekly goals and daily goals using our template and keep track of their progress
Virtual Check-In: I’ll check in daily with the student to help with problems, updates on projects & new projects
Parent Updates: Parents receive extensive updates on their child’s projects and anything else that is noteworthy
If you’re interested in hearing more about the program, please email me (Aastha) at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Feynman Kids” and we will find a time for an introductory call.
Below, you will find a writeup on “Why Me?” and how my personal experience has equipped me to launch The Feynman Kids Program, along with more details on the program.
Hi, my name is Aastha. I went to the best school in my city, Kolkata India. I was the only student to win the All-rounder prize all 3 years it was offered. I got admitted into the best business school in India and the best business school in the world (Wharton), so I naturally chose Wharton.
Post Wharton, I was one of maybe 10-15 students to land a job into Investing right out of school. I worked at Apollo Global, one of the largest asset managers in the world. Most graduates go through 2 years of Investment banking before they can get a job in Investing. I then worked for a prestigious Private Equity firm before making the move to a Y-Combinator backed startup.
My path was essentially one of following the credentials of the most prestigious institutions, because that is where the smartest people went right?
Once I started work, I realized I was miserable and had simply been conforming instead of following my unique interests. I realized how my education had failed me. Despite going to the best schools, I knew little about how the world actually worked. All I was taught in school was theory, not how reality works. There is a large difference.
I decided to teach myself. It was the first time I was truly learning for the joy of it; I was truly learning what interested me. I was solving problems that I was uniquely interested in solving. I was unlearning all that I was taught at these supposedly best schools and learning what sparked my curiosity and learning by doing. I was working on projects of my own, I was learning through on the job training and I was learning by reading books and absorbing ideas from some of the best teachers out there.
I learned Investing by actually investing on the job instead of sitting in Finance classes at Wharton. I learned interviewing and podcasting skills by actually interviewing people like Andrew Yang instead of reading about public speaking. I learned how to start a business by actually trying to start one and then launching a product at a startup, instead of merely sitting in business classes. I learned how to write by blogging and writing a short book. I learned more about human history, evolution, how knowledge works, how power works by reading books from some of the best authors instead of sitting in semester long classes.
The biggest learning I’ve had is that the schools of today failed me and they are failing our children.
I have learned more in these past 5 years than I did in 22 years of school.
School was mostly about credentialing to get my first job out of school. In today’s Internet world, even this kind of credentialing is becoming redundant.
You don’t necessarily need a degree to solve problems in areas that interest you. A degree doesn’t always imply actual learning and now it’s not even important for credentialing. Let me explain by giving my personal example once again.
Problem I Fell in Love With: Longevity Science
In 2020, I was in the midst of launching a high-protein spread consumer company when COVID hit. But my idea got me interested in health optimization. I got obsessed with learning about the science behind how to optimize my health, put the science into practice by experimenting on myself, and immediately saw positive results. I started a newsletter Live Longer World to pass on this information to more people so they too can reap the benefits of science-backed health optimization. I grew my newsletter rapidly in just under 5 months and it reached “Top 25 in Health”.
I kept up my learning and began to learn about the science behind aging and the science that will ultimately lead us to reverse aging. I decided to start a podcast to interview longevity scientists and bring this information to more people. In under 6 months, I grew my podcast to 8,000+ downloads, 1,000+ YouTube subscribers and messages from fans who wrote “Hands down the best longevity podcast.” In contrast, the average time for most YouTube channels to gain 1k subscribers is 15.5 months and on average1, most podcasts only get 28 downloads per episode2. My podcast gets 500+ downloads per episode in the first week itself, making it in the top 5%. You can see some of the positive feedback below.
What happened there? I am not a scientist. I am not a medical doctor. I am not a PhD student. Most other longevity channels are run by PhDs or medical doctors. In fact, I did not even study science after 10th grade and hated biology in school. Two main things happened:
My learning was pure curiosity based so I absorbed quickly. It was a problem I wanted to solve for myself and fell in love with it.
I learned by doing. I learned by launching projects – in this case my newsletter and podcast.
Of course I still have some ways to go and I’m still keeping up my learning, but the important point here is that learning and doing require no credentialing or degrees. Learning requires desire, interest and building / on the job training / learning by doing.
Learning is solving problems you are uniquely interested in solving. Learning is following the Feynman principle.
My Interest in Education
I recall enjoying playing teacher when I was a 10 year old kid. I ran a summer camp for middle-schoolers when I was in high-school. I tutored and mentored students in college. I tried to start another education startup in India. I ran a public speaking course for students back in India when I was in college. I was a residential advisor for freshmen in college.
Above all, I care for children. I deeply care. And I take them seriously. Children deserve trust and respect and should be treated like adults if we don’t wish to dumb them down.
A few months ago, I asked myself the question: What would a good education look like for my children? I didn’t find any answers in traditional schooling and went on a search to better understand how children learn.
As I explored the question deeper by reading several books and reflecting on my own learning experience, I began to form more concrete ideas around a better education model. I couldn’t find any existing solutions that fit that model, so I decided to launch it myself. And hence, Feynman Kids.
More details on Feynman Kids:
Broadly speaking, the program has 3 components:
Learn by doing (projects, freelance work, internships) in areas the child is curious about and questions they want answers to.
Intimate 1:1 and group discussions with other children and me on what questions they’ve been exploring, problems they’ve been solving, progress on projects, what we learned that week and any other ideas!
Become friends with other maker children who also follow their obsessions and fall in love with solving those problems.
Let’s further dive into the components!
Make Problem Solving Fun and Curiosity-Based
I’ll work with children 1:1 to help them figure out curiosities they want to explore, problems they’re interested in and map out next steps in terms of building out projects in areas they want to dig deeper into. It begins with simply noting your curiosities and questions and then deciding which ones to explore. See below an image of all the questions I currently have. I’ve decided to dive deeper into the first and second questions for now.
Learn by building projects
As I’ve mentioned, the best learning happens by doing. No one learns to ride a bike by reading how to ride a bike. Similarly, the best way to learn to code is to code, the best way to learn to run a business is by running a business and the best way to learn physics is also by doing physics experiments. Of course, all these projects can be combined with theory and learning from the best books and teachers on the Internet. But merely theory without practice is as good as not learning much at all.
Once we’ve mapped out problems and questions kids want to explore, I’ll work with children to map out projects and experiments in those areas such that they can begin work on them and learn by doing! Along the way, I’ll have regular check-ins with them such that they can receive guidance and feedback on their projects.
The Apprenticeship Model: Learn by doing freelance work and internships
When students graduate from college, they are subject to “future shock” which is a way of saying that they realize that most of what they learned in the classroom is not applicable to how the world really works. So, why not allow them to learn more from interacting with the world outside classrooms and working with companies on projects or through internships? For example, startups always have several projects that children could assist with, including coding, writing, marketing etc. I will assist children to reach out to companies and gain more work experience, should they wish. This will not only help them better understand what they like and what they don’t like, but they also get on-the-job training, hands-on experience, and learning through apprenticeship.
This portfolio of projects, along with the projects they work on themselves, will also serve as proof-of-work for any jobs they want to get later on or if they want to pursue their own work. I’ll help them launch their personal websites that showcase their portfolio of projects. More and more, proof-of-work matters more than degree credentialing.
Connect children to Industry mentors
In order to further enhance the apprenticeship model and help children understand their interests, I’ll help connect them to people in industries of their interest. This way they can learn from people what their work looks like instead of merely theorizing about it.
Oxford Style Tutoring and Student Teach-Ins
Oxford has a tutoring system where students work with professors in groups of 2-3 and discuss research done by the student, papers they’ve written and ideas they want to explore. It’s a free-flowing discussion where questions are brought up, students receive criticism and feedback, and ideas are thrown around. These small group intimate discussions create a space for creativity and criticism, which is how ideas and knowledge progress. The weekly student teach-ins gives the students a chance to be teacher and explain their projects to others!
Community of builders, creators, problem-solvers, doers
The Feynman Kids Program will be a community of children who are problem-solvers and builders. The kids will learn from each other, discuss problems they’re working on, and fuel each other with their optimistic energies! The nerds and builders finally have a home.
Book Discussions, Passion Talks and What I Learned This Week
I once had a weekly tradition with a few friends where we’d get together and discuss what we learned that week. Each of us would teach the group something new. It’d be fun to try that out in the Feynman Kids Program too. We could have book club discussions and discussions on our learnings. Kids can also hold sessions where they present to everyone on a topic they are passionate about!
Discussions on the theory of knowledge and how all problems are soluble
I’ve been highly influenced by physicist David Deutsch’s optimistic theory of knowledge. He talks about how knowledge grows through good explanations, how knowledge creation is the only way to make progress, how every human is capable of understanding all there is to be understood, how all problems are soluble with the right knowledge, and how we should be optimistic about the future if we make use of our capacity to be creative, to solve problems, and to create knowledge. I’d love to arm children with this optimistic energy as well!
What age groups is the Feynman Kids for?
8-17 years (if your child is outside this band and you still want to enroll them, feel free to email me and we can chat)
All that is truly needed is the ability to read.
What type of student thrives at Feynman Kids?
All children! All children are curious learners and want to direct their learning. That being said, Feynman Kids is best suited for ambitious, curious kids who want to self-direct their learning, are hungry to take on challenging projects and want to meet other builders!
How do you pick the project my child will work on?
The project is personalized based on what the child is interested in! They complete an extensive “What Makes Me Unique” exercise to reflect on their interests and write out their ideas for the project. Based on that, we brainstorm together and come up with a project the child wants to work on. There are no templatized projects - Feynman Kids wants children to explore their unique interests. The projects are also meant to be as close to the real world as possible - they’re not merely dummy projects.
What is an example of a project?
Caroline is a 12 year old who is interested in biology and business. She wants to research strokes and heart conditions and build a website and mobile app to provide accurate information to detect symptoms and treatments for these conditions. Google is typically not a trusted source for good medical information. Caroline came up with the project herself and wants to advance her knowledge in this field, learn Python to build an app, and talk to real users for her product.
Liam is a 10 year old who is interested in Fighter jets and physics. He is going to build a 3D fighter jet using Tinker CAD and then map out each part of the fighter jet and understand the physics behind and mechanics behind it.
How long is Feynman Kids for?
Feynman Kids is a month-to-month commitment. Your children can continue with it for as long as they enjoy it. Every month, or even earlier, we will revisit the projects and see how to continue with it or take on a new projects.
Can my child participate in Feynman Kids if they are enrolled in school?
Yes! Feynman kids works well as an after-school program and most of our students attend full-time school. Feynman Kids also works great for homeschoolers and unschoolers!
How much time commitment is needed?
I expect ~1-2 hours of work on the projects outside of the weekly student teach-in. But don’t be surprised if children want to spend more time on their projects - after all, it’s their interest!
Is the program virtual or in-person?
The program is all virtual.
How will my child find time outside school to work on the project?
This is a project your child wants to work on so they should be eager to find 1-2 hours a day to work on it. That being said, some days are busier than others, so the child can work more on it during weekends. This shouldn’t feel like a chore or studying for exams; this is something they are eager to learn about themselves!
Will the project help my child get into a good college?
Yes, building one’s own project is certainly good to have not just for the college resume but also for job applications. But beyond all of that, the true value of Feynman Kids is to inculcate a sense of confidence and joy for learning such that your child can be a life-long learner and loves to innately build his / her own projects throughout life.
Can you further elaborate on why schools are failing us?
Schools have become a pressure-cooker for conformity. They thwart each person’s unique interests by teaching them standardized curriculums. Sure, there might be some project building in schools, but most of them are dumbed down because they don’t take children seriously. The truth is children are capable of a lot more - we have history to prove it - Andrew Carnegie, Ben Franklin and several other modern examples are not the product of schooling. In fact, most people who went on to do great things in this world (small or big) did so because of their unique knowledge and by unschooling themselves, not by conforming and getting the same jobs as everyone else. [I will be writing, educating and spreading more information on this so people can become informed on the history of schooling and what it has done to our kids - stay tuned! But feel free to ask me more on it if we get a chance to chat.]
Are there any other principles or values of the program I should know about?
Yes! I take children and their ideas seriously. I do not believe in coercing them to do anything. I believe in using explanations and rationality to make progress. I believe in allowing children to explore their interests, as I’ve already mentioned above. I believe that children are capable of much more than we give them credit for and that they crave more responsibility and independence.
Can I pause Feynman Kids during school exams and other busy / vacation weeks?
Yes, you can pause your membership for 5 weeks the entire year and up to 2 weeks in a row in any single given month.
Will I be the one guiding the students or will it be someone else?
All sessions, including the 1:1 sessions will be conducted by me, Aastha Jain.
Please read the “Why Me” section above to see why I’m conducting this. For more on my background:
How do I enroll my child?
Email me (Aastha): email@example.com with the subject “Feynman Kids Program.”
That’s it for now! If you’re interested, do shoot me an email or signup by clicking on the button above and we can chat more. And if you know anyone else who might be interested, please share this post with them. Hope to speak with you soon, Aastha.