killing cats…


This week’s focus at HPSS is on the habit of CURIOSITY and we were privileged to have a visit from Dr Michelle Dickinson, celebrated science educator/communicator and nanotechnology engineer to deliver a presentation on how curiosity has helped propel her into a career of amazing opportunities and achievements.

I greatly enjoyed her talk and loved the way she emphasised the connection between curiosity and motivation. The best motivation for learning is a genuine sense of curiosity about a subject and the desire to know more.

In response to the talk I thought about some prompts I could use to get my hub to think about their own curiosity:

  • What is curiosity and why is it valuable?
  • What does “curiosity killed the cat” mean? And why would you want to discourage curiosity?
  • What are 3 things you’ve been curious about lately? What did you find out?
  • How do you go about finding out about stuff when you are curious?

Perhaps I should answer these questions for myself:

What is curiosity and why is it valuable?
My natural habitat is a messy shed. On the farm where I grew up we had no less than 4 sheds filled with different categories of junk as well as a garage full of tools. When Nanogirl told us her superpower was breaking things and taking them apart to see how they worked, it really resonated with me because that’s what I loved to do. I used to spend hours disassembling washing machines, old radios, and all manner of things just for the fun of undoing screws and discovering the mysterious structures within. For me, curiosity is the purest motivation: finding things out just because you want to know. Certainly other motivations occur in tandem with curiosity, but I am my happiest when I am doing something I’m really interested in doing. I value my curiosity as a core motivator of inquiry, experiment and creativity…

What does “curiosity killed the cat” mean? And why would you want to discourage curiosity?
It is a warning of the consequences of being “too curious”. In a beneficent light it could be seen as a warning to be careful when experimenting with unknown quantities as there is a risk of harm from unforeseen consequences. Marie Curie (Curie-ous) was an amazing, ground-breaking scientist but it is likely that her curiosity about radiation is what killed her. When we leap into the unknown we need to be aware of the possibility of unknown dangers and unexpected risks of how we proceed.
Curiosity kills cats, because they go through the world nose-first and lack the ability to reason out consequences or effects caused by their actions. We don’t want to discourage curiosity, but we also don’t want to die.
“Curiosity killed the cat” doesn’t — and shouldn’t — mean “Don’t be curious”, it should be interpreted more along the lines of “Look before leaping”. Take the time to research and consider the potential effects of your experiments or actions, and the risks they might pose to yourself or others. Minimise the risks as much as you can. Then keep being curious.

What are 3 things you’ve been curious about lately? What did you find out?
1. How to make a cigar box guitar… In facilitating a project for some students to build their own CBGs, I went down a rabbit-hole of youtube how-to vids and found out about the history of the CBG – from the African-derived 1-string Diddley Bow that children learnt to play the blues on (giving birth to the rhythms of Bo Diddely and Robert Johnson) to the more developed 3 and 4 string CBGs to a plethora of modern approaches to construction — assembly, amplification, up-cycling, recycling, different materials, and different levels of sophistication, quality and workmanship.
2. How to make a working iPod from two slightly-less-than-functional iPods. To be more specific; can I take the touchscreen and digitiser from an iPod with a broken backlight (a friend gave me) and replace the broken screen and digitiser of my iPod. The research looks promising and the youtube tutorial looks do-able. I have obtained the tools and am ready to operate.
3. What’s this recycled Rimu like to work with? In preparation for CBG making, I needed to rip some usable timber out of some old Rimu hangar beams we are blessed to have lying around from the old airforce base that was here before the HPSS spaceship landed in it’s spot. Before doing this, I used another job I’d been asked to do (making etching tools from sharpened nails) as an impetus to craft Rimu handles from an off-cut which gave me practical knowledge of how the wood behaves on the various machines that the year 11s are not allowed to use, so that when I came to do the bigger job I felt more confident.


How do you go about finding out about stuff when you are curious?
Trial and error has always been my primary go-to methodology (all the way back to my shed-days), but it is great to be able to benefit from the trials and errors of others at the click of a button, and to have information presented in a range of ways by a variety of people. This diversity allows curious learners like me to compare and contrast different information sources and select the ones that best connect with my understanding and abilities.
It depends, of course, but I am all over teh interwebnetz most days, following spaghetti-like link-chains into the oblivion of being-up-far-too-late-on-a-school-night, and I especially like the way youtube has enabled a multitude of amateur and professional doers and makers to share their knowledge, passion and, of course, curiosity. It is great that before trying something out, I can usually find many different examples of techniques that people have had a go with and avoid some of the pitfalls that other people have discovered.

I am curious about how my hub will respond to these questions….



On Monday, Jimi Hunt, motivational speaker and generally interesting dude came to speak to the people of HPSS about life, mental health and living reflectively as part of the week’s focus on the hobsonville habit: “reflective”.  Here is a TEDx talk he did recently.

He is an entertaining speaker and balanced some heavy topics (depression, divorce…) with some highly entertaining tales of the adventures he has invented for himself as a response to boredom, depression and whatever…

Being a teacher, reflective practice is baked into the professional standards required to attain and maintain professional registration, and it is the very core aspect of a teacher’s practice. Without reflecting on your teaching practice, there is no way to know whether you’re doing an OK job, or to come up with ideas for how you might improve your effectiveness.

All well and good, but what does this mean to students? Can I help my hub to see the value in reflecting on their lives and learnings? How?

At HPSS we encourage (strongly) all our students to maintain a “learning journey” blog, which, as part of extended hub time, we get them to reflect about their time at school. It is a valuable exercise and I can see from some of the students that it does help them to think about what they’re doing and (hopefully) why. But it doesn’t work for all students and can be a real challenge to get even a few pixels of blogtext out of them.

I need to reflect on how I am facilitating  these posts so that the students who do find it a chore can begin to recognise the value in doing this for themselves. I don’t know quite how to do this yet.

Not yet.