Child Flight Charitable Trust began its journey into education in 2015 from an idea proposed by our Chair, Professor Kathryn Pavlovich who wanted the Trust to utilise the sensory experience of flight as part of a deeper learning experience. Professor Pavlovich developed Curious Minds-Possible Worlds from a graduate programme she has been teaching for over 15 years. The course has been adapted for kids between the ages of 10 to 13.
In 2016 Curious Minds was introduced to schools in Kaitaia & Hamilton, New Zealand. Funding for the programme was obtained from the ANZ Staff Foundation & the Gallagher Trust which helped us initiate the first courses in the Far North and North Waikato, both regions with challenging social issues. Later in 2016 Trust Waikato assisted us to expand Curious Minds into the Hamilton community by providing sufficient funding for a complete course for kids under the aegis of Women's Refuge.
Todate we have introduced Curious Minds to over 160 students in Kaitaia, Ngaruawahia and Hamilton.
What is Curious Minds-Possible Worlds?
Curiosity is a deep and speculative interest in the world around us. In being curious, we can develop an appreciative awareness of ourselves and others that opens up new possibilities. Curiosity has been described as the major impetus behind scientific discovery and the advancement of civilization. When we are curious, not only do we enhance our learning about the things that interest us, but our learning on unrelated and possibly peripheral information is also greatly heightened[i]. The ramp-up of dopamine means the brain becomes like a sponge, soaking up what is around us. Hence, our span of attention can be both built and broadened that may open up new possibilities through curiosity.
This 4 P programme is designed to assist 9-13 year olds to see the world in a curious way so that they are better able to be creative, cope with adversity and challenge existing mental models that enhance human flourishing (feeling good and doing good)[ii]. The programme is based on the latest leading-edge scientific studies but presented in a language that 9-13 year olds can comprehend. This outline, however, is written for adults.
Purpose: What is it that gets you out of bed in the mornings? Makes you feel alive? How do we find purpose? What stops us from having that feeling like that all the time?
Perception: 10,000,000,000 bits of information surround us every second but we can only process 10,000. So what bits do we focus on? Those that are familiar to us keeping us in our comfort zones. So what can we do to develop our span of attention so that our reality is broadened? (Perspective taking)
Pausing: What do you do to take time out? Where do we go – either physically or in our mind? What decentering and mindful practices can we do to enhance that process and what outcomes in terms of being curious can they achieve? [iii];[iv]
Positivity: The function of positive emotions is to ensure our survival. In being positive, we experience a wider range of thoughts, actions, and perceptions than typical. When we are negative, we close down[v]; when we are positive we open up[vi]. Little by little, micro-moments of positive emotional experience, although fleeting, reshape who we are[vii]. In this programme, we focus particularly on empathy and gratitude, both of which develop meta-cognitive awareness of curiosity.
Empathy: Through our mirror neurons, the same brain circuits are activated so that we can experience another through an appreciation of similarity[viii].
Gratitude: Gratitude is part of a wider life orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in the world; being thankful has been shown to reduce anxiety, hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsivity, and vulnerability to stress[ix]
IN SUMMARY: Awareness of these 4Ps can enable students to develop a more curious outlook on life, enhancing their ability to be like a sponge to take a broader worldview. This approach can enable these young students to develop greater creativity, stronger coping skills, and challenge existing mental models that may enhance human flourishing through a future world of possibility.
[ii] Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity. New York, NY: Crown
[iii] Loucks, Britton, Howe, Eaton & Buka (2014). Positive Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Cardiovascular Health: the New England Family Study. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, October.
[iv] Singleton O, Hölzel BK, Vangel M, Brach N, Carmody J and Lazar SW (2014) Change in brainstem gray matter concentration following a mindfulness-based intervention is correlated with improvement in psychological well-being. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:33. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00033
[v] Stimulate our vaso-constrictors that reduce the effectiveness of our immune system
[vi] Stimulate our vaso-dilators that enhance the functioning of our immune system. See Boyatzis, R. Passarelli, A. Koenig, K. Lowe, M. Mathew, B. Stoller, J. & Phillips, M. (2012). Examination of the neural substrates activated in memories of experiences with resonant and dissonant leaders. The Leadership Quarterly, 23: 259-272.
[vii] Fredrickson, B. L. (2013, July 15). Updated Thinking on Positivity Ratios. American Psychologist. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0033584
[viii] Oberman, L., & Ramachandran, V. (2007). The simulating social mind: The role of the mirror neuron system and simulation in the social and communicative deficits of autism spectrum disorders. Psychological Bulletin, 133(2), 310–327.
[ix] Wood, A. Froh, J. & Geraghty, (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review 30, 890–905.