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Matthew McFall: Boxes of Learning Delight and Cabinets of Curiosity: Working with Wonder for Wonderful Learning

Matthew Mc Fall, ALT-C 2009 Invited Speaker

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Rebecca Galley
14 September 2009

Matthew McFall's ALT-C presentation introduced a learning event which was designed to stimulate creativity, wonder, collaboration, excitement and thinking.

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Matthew McFall began by pondering on the meanings of 'Wonder'

  • Affective state of wonder
  • Active state of wondering

He asked the question "What role does wonder play in learning?" and suggested that "Where wonder is fear cannot be" (not sure about this one - see my comment below)

Dr Mc Fall listed words he associated with wonder and explained how he used these on 'seed cards' to promote discussion and awareness; for example by asking participants to catagorise the cards into the catagories - choice, evidence and change.

Metis, encouragement, play, surprise, collecting, emergence, non-trivial, machines, clews, transformation, mindfulness, challenge, arrays, eggs, charts, anascopy, taxonomy, plot, novelty, cabinets, mercury, puzzels, magic, ridddles, boxes, design, instruction, heritage, conceptions, wow, focus, mystery, labyrinths, mirrors, games, method, yuk, shows, mirth.

He then described a teaching design called the 'Wonder Box System'. He described this as an emergent system where a series of boxes are opened up over time to reveal their instructions, and in doing so take learners through a learning journey. The boxes, their sequence and contents are detailed below:

1. Black box - sequence of games which learners play on their own and which are designed to generate individual (as opposed to collective) thinking about wonder.

2. Red box - learners go out and collect things that relate to wonder and this activity ends in a show and tell.

3. Orange box - treasure hunt

4. Yellow box - instructions on creating a small simple display with the artifacts gathered so far (ie Nature/ wonder table)

5. Green box - learners create a 'happening' and show what they have done to two other classes.

6. Blue box - wonder quest. Whole year group is part of the system and  go out on a field trip.

7. Indigo box - construction. Learners create a wall of wonder where they share ideas and comments on a wall using post-its and construct artifacts relating to their journey so far.

8. White box - The year group creates a gallery show in each classroom and invites the whole school to visit.


Rebecca Galley
16:45 on 14 September 2009 (Edited 10:05 on 18 May 2010)

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