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A Cabinet of Curiosity
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31 March 2016
In the Victorian era there was a rage for Curiosity Cabinets, which was an idea that had evolved from the earlier ones of the seventeenth century. These were called Wunderkammer and even now are used as an inspiration for artists and collectors who pull together objects of interest, often of the unusual or scientific variety. Stuffed animals and rocks, mementos and keepsakes sitting side by side to delight, inform and entertain the viewer. As collections they varied but, all of them intended to be engaging.
You might be wondering what this has to do with careers in the 21st Century. In many ways, very little at first glance yet, it has proven to be an inspiration for a project in a medium-sized secondary school in Kent.
Many years ago I learnt the value of “show and tell” within careers work, when a colleague of mine introduced me to the idea of showing students objects related to particular career areas, to promote conversation and aid understanding. I have used this to great effect for several years, especially when trying to help students understand the differences between Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. Place a carburettor in a student’s hands or, an electrical system, a machined or cast casing on the table in front of them and you have the foundations of a great conversation which, is both informative and memorable for the client or group.
In educational terms it taps into theories of how different people learn and their learning styles. In a careers guidance context it can be a powerful counselling tool, especially with students who find it harder to understand concepts through conversation or reading alone as it offers a practical approach.
In my day to day practice I have struggled to have these resources to hand or found I can only carry one or two in my bag which, for a careers adviser who travels around Kent, isn’t always easy. Working with a creative librarian at one of my schools we have devised the idea of developing a set of shelves in our careers library that contain a wide variety of different engaging objects and props, creating a de-facto Cabinet of Curiosity. Students can access these at their leisure and I can use the resources in career sessions with groups or individuals.
To encourage curiosity taps into one of the most fundamental career theories of recent times; that of happenstance by John Krumboltz. He encourages us to be curious about the world around us and to make the most of unplanned opportunities. As well as embracing unplanned events he advises us to have the “curiosity to explore learning opportunities.” What better way to encourage such curiosity than with a cabinet of curiosity in school; just think how it could enliven your careers education activities!
Originally published on the CXK blog, Wednesday 2nd December 2015