In the last post I stated that Sir Ken Robinson believes that three things are unique to humans and learning and the first is “Humans are naturally different and diverse.” The second is curiosity.
“The second principle that drives human life to flourish is curiosity” – Sir Ken Robinson “If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child they will learn without any further assistance very often.”
A traveling group of medieval reenactor’s came to our little country High School to do a show. A committed young History teacher hired them because he wanted to make history live for his students. Not just the dates and times stuff. The whole school went to watch on our football field. They had costumes, armour and weapons. They were great teachers in the way they sparked our curiosity. Sir Ken says it all, curiosity is sparked, and it can’t be faked. It’s true you never know when, why or how that spark will be lit. He makes one thing clear about learning, if your curiosity is sparked, the learning is easy. Often it’s the birth of a magnificent obsession. It can be weird like getting a curiosity for barbed wire and going on to get the biggest collection of barbed wire in Australia and traveling around country shows exhibiting and giving lectures about your barbed wire collection. Even more curious is that crowds probably flock to see it. Curiosity not only can be weird, it can be wonderful. A magnificent obsession born out of a human need to satisfy curiosity can and has changed the world.
The reenactors first sparked our curiosity by asking this question: How was it possible that 300 Spartans held off 60,000 Persians at the pass of Thermopylae for 3 days? I mean “Mythbuster” material. We had some wild stabs in the dark but both teachers and students alike didn’t have a clue. They called out all the boys from the front row of our football team, dressed them in armour and asked them to try and run around the football ground four times. It was in the middle of an Australian summer. A lot of those tough lads didn’t make the four laps. One of the reenactors explained that Darius had pushed his Persian army too fast for too long during a searing summer in full armour. Few of them were capable of fighting a battle by the time they got to the pass, exhausted and mostly out of water. It gave the Spartans the breathing space to be able to hold out for as long as they did. Admittedly the narrow pass did help.
Then they gave us a demonstration. One of them had an English Longbow and the other had a blunderbuss, one of the first known firearms. Each had a target and a three minute time limit. The archer put twelve arrows in the target in the three minutes. The Blunderbuss dude loaded and fired twice, missed both times and covered the entire football ground in dust and smoke. We all laughed.
The question posed was: If the longbow was so obviously superior why was it replaced by the blunderbuss? Once again we had NFI (no f***ing idea) They told us it took 12 years training to come even close to the proficiency of the experienced English long bowman of his day, with a few campaigns and dead Frenchmen under his belt. English bowmen were feared by all the armies of Europe.
It took 12 minutes to train some “dickhead” to fire a gun. Even when it blew up in his own face, no fault of his own, there was always plenty more where he came from. It was all in the numbers and the bowmen died out and the guns got better.
The teachers and the 350 students in that small school in the middle of an Australian nowhere never forgot the day of the medieval display. We all talked about it for a long time afterward. I’ll wager any teacher or student who was there on that day remembers it as well. We had our curiosity sparked, lived history for a day and learned without learning.
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