Works that inspired our project
ART...Joseph Cornell's boxes
FICTION...The Barnum Museum
MUSEUM?...The Museum of
and a book about the
MUSEUM...Mr Potter's Museum of Curiosities
The following books about Education influenced our development of this project:
The Children's machine - Seymour Papert
The Unschooled Mind - Howard Gardner
A couple of books that were published later, but fit in well with the ideas behind our project:
What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy
- James Paul Gee
Most inspirational of all was 'The
Idiot Teacher' by Gerald Holmes,
about E.F.O'Neil's Prestolee school from the 1920s to the '50s.
THE IDIOT TEACHER - Gerald Holmes
Just how the Museum idea came to him Omes forgot as soon as it reached him. Suddenly it was with him. 'Let us start a museum in the school. But since this is not an ordinary school we will not have an ordinary museum. We will ask for exhibits but we will only accept those which strictly comply with our requirements ~'
'And what are these requirements?'
'For the moment-never mind. But we shall have to have small committees of more or less experts to judge exhibits offered. The objects generally sent to museums by people who are tired of keeping their junk are stuffed animals, sea- urchins, butterflies and moths on pins, fossils and curiosities. Our committees must be able to deal with such objects and report whether they are or not -and if not why not- eligible. To do this they will need help and guidance: particularly will they need books.'
And in this latter respect the class-room was empty.
A search of the school premises was organised. It produced little of value. Books there were, in abundance-sixty copies of each-sixty copies of one 'reader', sixty of another, sixty of a third: one hundred and eighty copies of three books when one single copy of one hundred and eighty different books would have been so much more useful. It was evident that adequate means were not at hand.
An appeal to the children themselves brought some books from their homes. The O'Neils contributed handsomely. Omes himself supplemented the supply. Soon it looked as if the committee might get to work.
By this time the whole school were becoming curious about the museum project. Offers were in the offing, and were the subjects of conversation and speculation. But what was this special requirement which had to be fulfilled? At last Omes felt the moment was auspicious for his definite pronouncement.
'Museums', he explained to these boys who were failing to find interest in things, 'museums are collections of interesting objects. We want something different. Our museum is to be a collection of things which are of no interest whatever. We will only accept absolutely uninteresting objects. If any exhibit offered to us has any suspicion of interest it will not be accepted. We must be polite in our refusal. We must write reports which make it quite clear to those who offer us specimens that their specimens are interesting in some way which we must state, and so cannot be accepted.'
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, all was changed. It was as if an iron curtain -an interest-proof curtain- had been raised: as if the sluices of a mighty reservoir had been opened. A flood of wonder rushed in.
As for those who had exhibits to offer, consternation over-took many. The party who had a dead cat moored in the canal, ready for the opening day, saw at once that it was alive with interest. It could not be offered. Some wits in the next class offered the broken-off neck of a bottle. The chemistry of glass proved to be entrancing: the manufacture of glass bottles enthralling: their history from Greek and Roman times through the Middle Ages till today made a grand research for one committee: there had been glass bottles in Ancient Egypt five thousand years ago. Committee boys vied with each other in disclosing interest in broken tiles, old slates, stones, bits of firewood, rusted tins. . . . It seemed there was interest in everything. The means for finding out had become available and the children were enjoying using them. They were learning by doing - and so was Omes.
"The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity." - Edmund Burke
"Curiosity is a willing, a proud, an eager confession of ignorance." - Leonard Rubenstein
"Curiosity is as much the parent of attention, as attention is of memory." - Richard Whately
"The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards." - Anatole France
"Curiosity in children, is but an appetite for knowledge. The great reason why children abandon themselves wholly to silly pursuits and trifle away their time insipidly is, because they find their curiosity balked, and their inquiries neglected." - John Locke
"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe that it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly." - Albert Einstein
"There are two sorts of curiosity - the momentary and the permanent. The momentary is concerned with the odd appearance on the surface of things. The permanent is attracted by the amazing and consecutive life that flows on beneath the surface of things." - Robert Wilson Lynd.