What do we do with curiosity?

More and more I think that noticing and naming curiosity is a skill which can be developed and that the capacity to notice and name curiosity in the moment can be built. Sparking curiosity was somewhat of a personal inquiry for me in 2018. So now, in 2019, I’m ready to start the year by exploring the next part with my new class: What do you actually do with that thought, idea or wondering? What are the possibilities? How do you seek complexity within an idea or wondering?

As part of our first unit of inquiry, which we will continue over the year, we’re exploring dispositions and how these dispositions impact us and the culture of our learning community. Our second unit of inquiry is a new unit looking at the interplay between art and mathematics, the role of mathematics in and how transdisciplinary thinking can be transformative. The intersection between these two units is providing rich and authentic learning opportunities.

Earlier in the term we visited the National Gallery of Victoria to see the Escher x Nendo Exhibit. Not only does this exhibit perfectly illustrate the beauty and complexity of art and mathematics, and the innate connection between the two, but every single piece within the exhibit has the potential to spark curiosity.

“But how does it work? How did he actually make it?”

“Which way am I meant to look at it? It’s actually impossible!”

“What was Escher thinking? How does this fish somehow transform into a bird!?”

“What would it look like if I looked at this from the back?”

It seemed really natural to look at this experience with the disposition of curiosity and to use it as starting point for responding to curiosity. What are the possibilities? Someone suggested researching more about Escher’s life. We paused for thinking time. Then the ideas started flowing. We could: analyse the artwork to see the maths within it, draw it to see what techniques are used, take inspiration from one of the artworks and create our own, make a scale model of Nendo’s creations, build a 3D representation of a 2D artwork and make a 2D representation of a 3D artwork. One of my personal favourites came right at the end, “You could actually stop and look slowly at something that grabs your curiosity. What do you notice?” Their curiosity was genuine and the energy was palpable. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and after a few more opportunities to take their ideas further, curiosity is growing amongst the students. They’re seeing more possibilities. They’re making, discussing, debating, refining and wondering.

Some questions that have been guiding our thinking and discussions include:

  • How do you know that you’re curious about something?
  • What questions grow from curiosity?
  • How might we seek complexity?
  • What does it mean to be in flow? (Both as individuals and as a class)
  • Where is the maths within what we are building/making/creating?
  • What disposition would be helpful in this moment right now?
  • What other dispositions might help us be curious?

Studio Time has found a way into our learning in a real and authentic manner. It’s growing from within the unit and, I have no doubt, will continue to develop organically. As teachers, we’re giving thought to pushing thinking forward, as well as providing other learning experiences and provocations to keep up the momentum and spark further curiosity. For us it’s also about slowing down and really looking at what’s happening, and considering how we are responding to what the students are revealing about their understandings, their curiosities and themselves as learners.

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