What happens in your brain when you get curious? – A story reaffirming the image of the child

Reflecting on a complex and challenging semester has provided us with an opportunity to rediscover our strongly held value of seeing children as capable and curious co-creators of theories and knowledge. Working from this image of the child we ventured into the unknown with open minds and hearts. This is our story of remote learning. 

It began when a student drew and communicated their theory about how the COVID19 virus functions. As teachers we sat with this piece of important documentation. We wondered about the best way forward and many questions arose. Would drawing children’s attention to COVID19 create anxiety for some children, for parents? Should we share this documentation with a small group of interested children or all children? Would other children actually be interested in sharing their ideas and theories? It just so happened that a few days later we had booked a session at the REAIE Documentation Centre with Kirsty Liljegren to document a past project. We shared this artifact and our thinking with Kirsty who encouraged us to bring this documentation back to the children. Through this shared dialogue we recognised the potential for an authentic and meaningful investigation. We returned to our image of the child with a better understanding of the importance of children having a voice amid the pandemic, after all the situation was directly impacting all of us.  

Could this provide a way for our children to express and make sense of the situation we found ourselves in?

COVID Theory

We decided to share the original theory with the Neighbourhood and give all the children the opportunity to share their thoughts and theories about Covid19. We invited children to use drawing as a means to share their thinking. We roamed and carefully monitored the feelings being expressed by the children, posing questions and documenting their thinking. Children were eager to share their theories about Covid19 and enthusiastically debated aspects of their theories. There was a heated discussion about whether a vet could catch the virus from a dog with two children having strongly held opposing opinions.

This person was about to go to the tap but then he walked away and another person caught the virus.       Milo

If the Coronavirus gets here sometimes you can get sick and might not be safe. If the Coronavirus is not here you will be happy and safe.    Billy

A person who has the Coronavirus pops the other person bubble. They both get in one is sad one is happy.       Flynn

When analysing the theories and ideas shared by the group we noticed children consistently referring to the responsibility of keeping ourselves and others safe. ‘We are all in this together’ became a popular phrase in the media at this time and we discussed whether we could connect this sense of responsibility with the idea of kindness. We wondered if these theories or thoughts might provide a chance for conversations at home and whether this might help us all in our transition to remote learning. 

We noticed in our observations and discussions with the children that an understanding of the need for kindness was evolving. During this time some of the children began to connect to the traces left behind by our 2019 prep’s inquiries into kindness. They were particularly taken by the images of hearts. One of our preps had a sibling in the 2019 cohort and proudly shared her knowledge of these artworks.

They made the hearts to share kindness and they came and gave us some at kinder.  Miski

This comment and the obvious interest it provoked made us reflect on our previous observations about heart symbol. We again discussed the constant recurrence of the heart symbol on many of our childrens artifacts. We wondered why this symbol always popped up? Is this a way for children to communicate and understand feelings of love and kindness. We reflected back to the kindness project from 2019. We asked each other if we could use the traces from the 2019 preps to begin to explore the possibilities of remote learning through these connections to kindness?


We began our online learning communication to the prep community with the following statement.



We are beginning this term with some thoughts and provocations from last year’s Preps about kindness. It just seemed so perfect and perhaps a meaningful way for us as a Prep Community to begin to make sense and question our current situation. We would love to invite the parent community to also engage with this provocation. Here are the questions posted to the Morning Meeting on Kindness this week. 

What is kindness?

Who needs kindness?

How can we share kindness?

The children and their families began to respond to these provocations in meaningful and varied ways.

Everyone needs kindness. You can’t buy hugs at the shop, so you have to get them from someone you love.      Alice

We decided hands could be a good symbol for kindness. We use these to hold hands and hug people, which are good ways of showing kindness.        Elliot

The ‘heart’ as a provocation provided us with many possibilities to consider together as a learning community. There came a moment when the children began to recognise the difference between a biological heart and the symbol of a heart. We began to further investigate both of these pathways. The children became particularly curious about the machinations of a biological heart. We used Seesaw to authentically engage the children and their families in explorations of beating hearts, links to different animal hearts, scientific diagrams and artistic responses to hearts.  

A real heart is different from a heart symbol. Are real hearts better than fake hearts? I think both can show kindness.         Henry L

As a team of educators we became excited by the curiosity we were seeing on our Seesaw threads sparked by our explorations with kindness and hearts. Many children began to independently question and consider the heart and follow their own paths of investigation.

These responses from our children and their families encouraged us to further our explorations with curiosity and clearly demonstrated the interdependence of the learning happening through our digital platform.


Here is Finn’s follow-up picture of the heart, with labels showing different parts. He also added the lungs. I asked Finn where do we get oxygen from and he said “trees”! Anna  (Finn’s Mum)

The heart pumps blood around your body and spreads love and kindness like the blood pumps the blood around your body. The brain is the symbol of thinking and the lips are the symbol of eating. The heart is the thing that spreads love.          Jack

Olson watched the video about the beating heart and wondered why the heart wasn’t moving. We found another video of the heart pumping and did some research to investigate what happens when the heart moves or pumps. Olson wondered how the blood stays in the heart. We learnt that valves inside the heart open and shut to make sure blood doesn’t leak out before it’s ready to be sent to the lungs or other parts of the body.          Nina (Olson’s mum)

We began to discuss, wonder about and question the connections between curiosity and 21st century learning. 

Children were sharing everyday experiences with curiosity or things that they had a passion for and wanted to learn more about. We encouraged the children and their families to independently explore these ideas and share them back with their teachers.


We were reminded of our children’s potential as researchers who are interested in and capable of making sense of their world. We wanted to know more about this connection that we were noticing between curiosity and authentic learning. Who better to ask than the children. We invited the children to become co-creators in an inquiry project into curiosity. Their enthusiasm whilst inquiring into curiosity was and continues to be a powerful experience for us as educators.  It was not long before connections between curiosity and the human brain were made. Along the way we encountered moments of curiosity with nature, space and mathematics to mention just a few. We explored maps and time machines. We created dances to express kindness and curiosity and began to explore the power of facial expressions. All of these authentic learning experiences came from the open attitude to curiosity that was being fostered by our online community – teachers, children and families.

Together we not only explored a range of varying curiosities but shared our wonderings about curiosity itself.


Do you know any curiosity words?     Noah

What happens in your brain when you get curious?   Rohan

Jess you are right! The more you think curious, the bigger the curiosity lobe gets. Flynn

Some children began to see a link between curiosity and the workings of the human brain.

It was at this time that our period of remote learning was coming to an end and we began to prepare for our return to face to face teaching. We approached this transition with a heightened understanding of the need  to re-connect to the Prep Neighbourhood, to draw inspiration from the home learning environment and be inspired by the many family experiences with learning. 

One of the strongest lessons we have taken from our experience with remote learning has been the importance of and the impact on learning from the authentic involvement of families. Sharing our provocations with the entire family on Seesaw has enabled parents to join us in the co-creators of learning. This is something we will strive to continue in our regular practice. 


The children were afforded experiences and time to reconnect with their friends and their learning environments. Many children found comfort in a familiar provocation, or a continuation of a moment of curiosity from remote learning.

The eyes are connected to the brain and the ears are connected to the brain and other parts of your body are connected to your brain by this tube. When you hear something it travels really far through your ears into your brain. When you see something it gets in your eyes, a picture, but it’s upside down and then something happens that changes it (in your brain) and then it travels back to the brain. The energy from your heart travels all around your body- your blood is your energy.     Jack

The feelings from your heart go into your brain.      Esther

As we were wondering about trying to document the pathways and connections from our remote learning a small group of children offered to try and map the experience. Their obvious understanding and ability to re-trace the group’s learning reaffirmed our belief in children’s capabilities as reflective learners.

When we first began to construct this story we were on term break from four weeks of face to face teaching. Now as we sit here and put the finishing touches on, we are knee deep in our return to remote learning. How wonderful to be able to reflect on the insight we’ve gained into children’s understanding of curiosity and their potential as interdependent learners. With our image of the child reinforced we are ready for the challenges ahead.