Non Fiction Fire Starter

by John Gordon-Reid

Children and parents are faced with a future that holds excitement and promise, but is also shrouded in mystery as the pace of change accelerates seemingly endlessly, and causes seismic change that this new generation have to find a way to thrive in.

A period of unprecedented challenge and upheaval throughout the world of education is being driven by a simple but highly perplexing conundrum. How can children be given the knowledge and skills they will need for the future, when the jobs they will be doing have possibly not yet even been invented?

So how best to prepare for the future?

As babies, we all exhibit natural curiosity; fascination with the world around us, excitement as we use our senses and we are equipped with a mind that soaks up knowledge and experience.  We learn, we store the experiences and then we apply that knowledge as we approach other tasks and situations.

Fictional experiences and role play certainly have their place in the development of young children but I suggest that Non-Fiction ought to be the main driver.

The ancient proverb that a child’s mind should be regarded as a fire to be lit, not a bowl to be filled, pretty much sums up what needs to be done.

Non-fiction provides the spark and fuels the fire once it is lit. That is why I created Curiosity Club with well known non-fiction author, Christopher Lloyd.

Imagine a scene in a classroom where 30 children are engaged on their own unique learning journey along a 3000 year timeline powered by their inquisitive minds and driven by choice. Each child follows their interest and by so doing develops a skillset that will support them throughout their lives rather than just in time to secure a good grade for an exam.

A cleverly designed journey map allows the students to follow whatever it is that interests them most. They progress by completing Challenges that range from hands on experiments through to public performance and from movie making through to debating. Each Challenge is set on one of six subject lines (History, Science, Nature, Culture, Human Rights and Sport) and is mapped to three of the seven skills that Curiosity identifies as being critical in the present and future world. A rather long and extremely complicated calculation reveals over 229 thousand million possible routes through the journey map so it is highly unlikely any two students will undertake the same voyage of discovery. What they must all do, however, is turn to works of non-fiction to provide the information that they will utilise in succeeding in their Challenges.

Curiosity is unique – no other educational offering relies on non-fiction to drive natural curiosity and exploration in this way and it has been highly spoken of by the schools that have adopted the platform; some as part of the weekly timetable, others as an afterschool club and still others as a way of offering enrichment to a select group of students.

There are many visual similarities with the well known and astonishing What On Earth Timelines and the quality and the skill with which the platform has been created cannot be questioned. The web interface allows for easy tracking and reporting of students by teachers as well as giving access to the extensive support materials. The students themselves have a great dashboard that helps them navigate along the journey, access the Challenges (which are then executed in the ‘real world’) and keep track of their scores and assessment comments.

A successful education system fit for the future must rise to the challenge of instilling a lifelong love of learning in pupils – so that they will want to re-educate themselves in the future. Such systems require a radically different cross-curricular approach that allows children to learn the key skills they need through what interests them most, not what we adults insist they need to know.

The core belief at Curiosity Learning is that as long as pupils leave school with a love of learning and a natural curiosity, they will be ready to adapt. No other programme or product available today offers such breadth of learning driven by student choice within a controlled environment. And all of which is based on non-fiction!

This guest post was provided by John Gordon-Reid at Curiosity Club and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.

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