Curiosity Kits: Exploring Opportunities for Learning

Curiosity Kit Infographic
What sparks your curiosity? Graphic created by Fred Sands IV.

What do you think of when you hear the word “curious”?

Would you consider yourself a curious person?

Many of us have a strong desire to seek out new information and ideas. This is a very human trait! Indeed, unfamiliar options may be more rewarding than those we already know.1

But what is it about this process that entices us? Scientific studies have shown that curiosity prompts the anticipation of a reward. This means we enjoy and feel happiness when we seek out and learn something new.2

There are many benefits to indulging our curiosity. Learning something new may cause us to challenge preexisting assumptions. Curiosity also enhances learning , allowing our minds to discover new things. Think of curiosity as a way to add a little adventure to your daily routine.

Bill Pickett, a famous rodeo star, is featured in the "Black Cowpokes in the American West" Curiosity Kit. Public domain.

Curiosity Kits are built on this idea of kick-starting the imagination. Intended to open new avenues of learning, the kits explore places associated with a historical theme. This concept of learning of history through place is not new; in fact, visiting a place (whether in person or virtually) is a great way to express curiosity.

These multi-piece kits offer a way to do a bit of virtual discovery. You may not need to know about those women “human computers” that made the Space Race possible, but aren’t you curious? Or think about the stories you’ll learn from Black cowpokes of the Wild West. You may also be drawn to the plight of women workers in Chicago’s industrial era.

The kits will prompt you to consider questions about yourself and your outlook on the world. You’ll have the opportunity to dive into subjects you probably don’t think about everyday. Inquiry questions prompt you to explore more about important people and topics in American history, including Detroit’s labor history, Black Baseball, and women’s suffrage.

Each kit contains at least two articles, one focused on historic places and one featuring educational activities.

Article #1

The “Places of...” article inspires us to think about the many places a person experiences in their life. Historic places are all around us, yet we rarely consider the many stories a single place holds. The “Places of...” article is an invitation to delve deeper into the history of important sites in American history. You may see places you recognize and others you don’t. Either way, you’ll discover new stories. Hopefully these stories will prompt you to think about other places you know. Perhaps you’ll even begin to wonder who else was there and what their stories are.

Article #2

The “Learning from...” article begins with an inquiry question to spark your imagination. This question gives us room to wonder and question. It encourages curiosity about a historical figure, their life, and what made them do things that we remember today. You’ll also find educational activities to continue your inquiry and apply it to your own life.

Intended for use in informal settings, by families at home, interpreters in the field, or by curious armchair explorers, these kits provide interactive ways to engage with the past whether at home or in place. With over a dozen kits (and even more stories), there is opportunity to learn and explore!

1. Wittmann B.C., Daw N.D., Seymour B., and Dolan R.J. “Striatal activity underlies novelty-based choice in humans.” Neuron. 2008 Jun 26; 58(6):967-73

2. Delgado M.R., Nystrom L.E., Fissell C., Noll D.C., Fiez J.A. Neurophysiology 2000 Dec; 84(6):3072-7

This article was researched and written by Dr. Katherine Crawford-Lackey.

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    Last updated: November 10, 2021