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How to get children to have wonderful ideas+ #51

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Quote of the Week

“There are two aspects to providing occasions for wonderful ideas. One is being willing to accept children’s ideas. The other is providing a setting that suggests wonderful ideas to children-different ideas to different children-as they are caught up in intellectual problems that are real to them.” -Eleanor Duckworth, Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education, in her essay ‘The Having of Wonderful Ideas’

Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and working together. We are also a founder-member of the Gifted India Network– if you are interested in issues related to gifted education and talent development, an easy way to keep updated about talks, programs and resources is to join the Gifted India Network telegram channel (

In this week’s main post ‘How to get children to have wonderful ideas’, we present an extract from Eleanor Duckworth’s essay, The Having of Wonderful Ideas’. This is a seminal piece that lays out the elements required to nurture curiosity and inventive thinking in children. The entire essay is a must-read for any teacher aspiring to excel in her/ his profession and would also be of interest to parents who are passionate about fostering learning.

Join this conversation on learning, by commenting on our posts or writing to us.


How to get children to have wonderful ideas

Upcoming Events

How to get children to have wonderful ideas

The below extract is from Eleanor Duckworth’s essay, the full text of which is available here. This is a seminal piece that lays out the elements required to nurture curiosity and inventive thinking in children. The accompanying sketch is our own to help readers understand the extract more easily.

Hank was an energetic and not very scholarly fifth grader. His class had been learning about electric circuits with flashlight batteries, bulbs, and various wires. After the children had developed considerable familiarity with these materials, the teacher made a number of mystery boxes. Two wires protruded from each box, but inside, unseen, each box had a different way of making contact between the wires. In one box the wires were attached to a battery; in another they were attached to a bulb; in a third, to a certain length of resistance wire; in a fourth box they were not attached at all; and so forth. By trying to complete the circuit on the outside of a box, the children were able to figure out what made the connection inside the box. Like many other children, Hank attached a battery and a bulb to the wire outside the box. Because the bulb lit, he knew at least that the wires inside the box were connected in some way. But, because it was somewhat dimmer than usual, he also knew that the wires inside were not connected directly to each other and that they were not connected by a piece of ordinary copper wire. Along with many of the children, he knew that the degree of dimness of the bulb meant that the wires inside were connected either by another bulb of the same kind or by a certain length of resistance wire.

The teacher expected them to go only this far. However, in order to push the children to think a little further, she asked them if they could tell whether it was a bulb or a piece of wire inside the box. She herself thought there was no way to tell. After some thought, Hank had an idea. He undid the battery and bulb that he had already attached on the outside of the box. In their place, using additional copper wire, he attached six batteries in a series. He had already experimented enough to know that six batteries would burn out a bulb, if it was a bulb inside the box. He also knew that once a bulb is burned out, it no longer completes the circuit. He then attached the original battery and bulb again. This time he found that the bulb on the outside of the box did not light. So he reasoned, rightly, that there had been a bulb inside the box and that now it was burned out. If there had been a wire inside, it would not have burned through and the bulb on the outside would still light.

Note that to carry out that idea, Hank had to take the risk of destroying a light bulb. In fact, he did destroy one. In accepting this idea, the teacher had to accept not only the fact that Hank had a good idea that even she did not have, but also that it was worthwhile to destroy a small piece of property for the sake of following through an idea. These features almost turn the incident into a parable. Without these kinds of acceptance, Hank would not have been able to pursue his idea. Think of how many times this acceptance is not forthcoming in the life of any one child.

But the main point to be made here is that in order to have his idea, Hank had to know a lot about batteries, bulbs, and wires. His previous work and familiarity with those materials were a necessary aspect of this occasion for him to have a wonderful idea. David Hawkins has said of curriculum development, “You don’t want to cover a subject; you want to uncover it.” That, it seems to me, is what schools should be about. They can help to uncover parts of the world that children would not otherwise know how to tackle. Wonderful ideas are built on other wonderful ideas. In Piaget’s terms, you must reach out to the world with your own intellectual tools and grasp it, assimilate it, yourself. All kinds of things are hidden from us-even though they surround us-unless we know how to reach out for them. Schools and teachers can provide materials and questions in ways that suggest things to be done with them; and children, in the doing, cannot help being inventive.

There are two aspects to providing occasions for wonderful ideas. One is being willing to accept children’s ideas. The other is providing a setting that suggests wonderful ideas to children-different ideas to different children-as they are caught up in intellectual problems that are real to them.

Upcoming Events

Tilings is part of the Kaapi with Kuriosity series from the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) and is scheduled on Sun, Mar 27, from 4 to 530 PM IST (Free online session). Mahuya Datta from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata will be giving the talk. The session blurb says-

Tiling is a way of arranging plane shapes so that they completely cover an area without overlapping. They are very common in our everyday life – we see them on floors, on walkways and also in brick works. Tilings can also be seen in nature. They have also appeared in various artworks since ancient times. The most common tilings use regular polygonal shapes; occasionally we also see tiles with curved edges.

In the first part of the talk we will discuss regular and semi-regular Euclidean tilings which use regular polygonal tiles. While regular tilings use congruent copies of one single tile, the semi-regular tilings (also known as Archimedian tilings) use more than one type of tiles. All these tilings are known for thousands of years. They can be found in ancient Roman structures dating back to the First century. The notion of tiling can be generalised on round spheres in Euclidean spaces. They are intimately related to regular convex polyhedrons, known as Platonic solids. In the second half of the talk, we shall describe their classification using Euler number which is a topological invariant. We will also relate Platonic solids with certain finite subgroups of the Orthogonal group O(3). Links to attend the online session are available here.

Summer Programs from GenWise (Residential)- May 8- May 29 (Paid)

If your child is currently in grade 7, 8 or 9, check out the Genesis Summer Program from May 8-29, 2022, at Manipal University, Manipal. While most students will attend the entire 3-week program, there also exist 1 or 2 week options. View the program brochure here.

The academic enrichment component of the program features 3 courses- one in each week.

May 8-15: Reason like Sherlock Holmes– Become familiar with the reasoning process employed not just by detectives, but also by doctors, lawyers, historians, archaeologists, and virtually every domain where one is trying to piece together the full picture, from available clues. Unpack short stories from Sherlock Holmes (and potentially others, based on student interest) to appreciate the process of reasoning better.

May 15-22: Molecular Gastronomy- Intro to Culinary Science– This course at the intersection of Chemistry and Cooking is a great way to experience the power of science in our daily life experiences. The course emphasizes the role of sciences in cooking and how the world over, it has started to make a difference if the chefs understand the science that goes into it. Sessions at the world-class kitchen of the Welcomgroup School of Hotel Administration will involve working with materials like liquid nitrogen, dry ice and agar gels to create some exceptional dishes through the application of science.

May 22-29: Experiment Design for Critical Thinkers– Appreciate the importance of Experiment Design in exploring answers to relevant questions, whatever the domain (Economics, Engineering, Psychology, Marketing, Materials Science, Medicine, etc.). Often not taught formally at school (or even at College level), learn the vital skills necessary for understanding the role of variables, apples-to-apples comparisons, the role of bias, and how to attempt to overcome bias.

The program is much more than the academic enrichment component represented by the courses listed above and the goal of the program is to help with the development of the whole child- read more about the program experience in this post.

Please note that the Genesis Summer Program runs concurrently with the GenWise Summer Program (open to Ei ASSET Talent Search (ATS) Gold/ Silver/ Bronze scholars).

Students of both programs will be participating in common activities together, outside of the academic hours. 

Feel free to reach out to our leadership team at the numbers below.

Rajesh  @98409 70514; Vishnu @93422 47734; Shrikant @98600 33502; Sowmya @75985 66949

Quest Fest– a contest for students and teachers. The last date for submissions is March 31, 2022.

The purpose of this contest is to celebrate simple, unique observations and questions from both students and teachers. Science often begins with a simple, unique but puzzling observation or a question. Yet, school students as well as teachers are seldom given this opportunity in our schools. The idea behind this contest is to provide them with this enriching opportunity and celebrate the process of science rather than just the results. Prizes are also offered. To register, fill this form. For any further clarifications, you can reach out to the organizers at


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