This is a short follow up post.
I like to consider myself a curious person. I have always liked objects, trinkets and curios, I have loads of them kicking around in desk drawers, boxes in the loft, on window ledges and various other places.
I was compelled to buy a small cabinet of objects from eBay not so long ago. It is a lovely little handmade wooden cabinet with small alcoves containing all manner of little oddities. Animal bones, insects in resin blocks, fossils, old and foreign coins... it's great.
If only Mrs W. would help me find a space to put it!
The power of using strange and unfamiliar objects with children is huge.
They need to think carefully, apply knowledge and reasoning, make connections, form arguments and justifications, when they can't grasp the answer they have to seek out information, work and think collaboratively in order to create new understanding.
I have never yet found a child not get animated and excited by handling animal bones and trying to layout the skeleton to try and figure out what it might have been and how big it was, what parts are missing and what they might look like... (I have a sheep in a shoebox too! Literally!)
If the idea interests you too then I recommend the following two books, they are wonderful and document, in this case:
Gordon Grice documents his love of natural history and hid personal desire to collect it. He also gives lots of advice on where to get or how to create/build your own cabinets.
Create little cards to explain the object and use it as a focal point for discussion and learning.
I might be planning my class project next term here...