Our Extraordinary First Game
What can you do to become more curious?
This was a central question we had in mind when developing content to support students in practicing Be Curious, one of the 6 Essential Habits focused on with Quest Forward Learning. Students have opportunities to practice being curious every day through quests and projects.
However, there’s value in explicitly practicing being curious in small ways every day. Earlier this year, a group of us began working together to tackle this challenge.
Why It Matters
Curiosity is fundamental for learning. And like any skill or mindset, it is one that needs to be practiced. Research has shown that there are a number of benefits that go along with being curious:
- Encourages active learning, exploration, and inquiry
- Increases receptiveness to learning and they retain more information
- Functions as a key predictor of academic achievement
- Linked to well-being, including life satisfaction and greater sense of purpose
- Helps individuals adapt to different environments, including developing tolerance to anxiety and uncertainty, thinking unconventionally, expressing positive emotions—including humor and playfulness—and having non-defensive, critical attitudes
A Curious Card Game
“The Extraordinary Ordinary” is a card game that recovers a fresh sense of wonder and curiosity in high school students.
The game includes 23 cards (i.e., a deck of playing cards), each with a unique activity to practice being curious. The card’s practices invite students to perform everyday, “ordinary” actions and tasks.
However, the game adds some sort of twist to these actions. As a result, the students come to see how the ordinary world around them can be amazing.
The practices in the game allow for a variety of group sizes (independent, small, and large) and durations (several minutes to several weeks). They are easy to accomplish and accessible to most students. Additionally, the practices require minimal materials and planning.
Flexible, Engaging Play
The way this game is played varies depending on the school, mentors, and students as well as the time available. Here are two ways the game can be played:
- Students complete a certain number of cards by the end of a term. Time is provided during advising or homeroom periods to play and discuss progress. Students can work independently and in small groups to complete the practices on the cards.
- Every day for a month, students and mentors spend five minutes at the start of class playing and discussing the game and curiosity. Mentors can facilitate activities and related discussions. This can be done in any class.
To maximize the impact of this practice, mentors facilitate a discussion about curiosity after students complete the activity. They might ask questions like:
- “What emotions did you feel while you were doing this activity?
- What were you thinking about?
- What questions did it bring up for you?
- What does this activity have to do with being curious?”
From this experience, students begin to realize the curiosity comes in many forms. There’s much to be curious about, even in the seemingly ordinary and everyday tasks, movements, and objects.
Cards range in the amount of time it will take to be completed:
- S | Short: a few minutes
- M | Medium: a few hours
- L | Long: a week or more
In an activity called “No-Look Hello,” students first greet their classmates by making eye-contact. Then they greet their peers without making eye-contact. Students described the activity in positive ways, including it being amusing, humorous, and interesting. Many also felt it was “uncomfortable” and “awkward,” but trying new things often is uncomfortable!
So, what did students get out of this experience?
One student felt that “eye contact really helps [with an] introduction” and felt more “respect” for this seemingly ordinary activity. When asked what questions this activity raised, students had a lot to say, including:
- “Why do we look at the ground [when we meet people]?”
- “Why is our immediate reaction to look at people in the eyes?”
- “Do different cultures’ greetings cause the people of those cultures different emotions (for example, does bowing cause different emotions than shaking hands?) or are all of these activities so routine there are no emotions involved?”
- “How did different methods of greeting people get invented?”
Clearly, students were curious!
For this card, students partner up and attempt to copy one another’s hand writing.
After completing this activity, one student said, “On first thought, it seems a little boring, but once you do play the game, it may spark your interest, as it sparked mine…Once I thought for a bit, I did become more interested in this seemingly everyday thing, writing, and was able to compare it to speaking and voice. The game was able to make me think into the topic and use my curiosity to observe and make connections.”
The Conclusion on Curiosity
Through reflection, students see the relevance of these activities to their lives and begin to express related curiosities. We’re currently prototyping this game at Quest Forward Academy Omaha and Quest Forward Academy Santa Rosa. Based upon the positive feedback of the prototype, we are excited to roll out the game globally in the coming months.
We’re also creating curriculum and activities for all six of the Quest Forward Essential Habits to support students in developing these habits, while also having some fun.
Jolene Zywica, PhD
Dr. Zywica is Opportunity Education's Senior Director of Learning Strategy. She ensures that the resources, tools, and experiences designed for teachers and students effectively support teaching and learning. Prior to joining the team in 2014, Jolene dabbled in teaching both high school and college students, was a high school literacy coach for 5 years, and has spent over 18 years designing and studying the impact of learning programs aimed at engaging students through active learning and technology.