ENroute Yearbook 2015-16
To Cultivate Curiosity...
Maria Gauci, School of Applied Sciences, Fellow
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled” said Plutarch some
2000 years ago, and that statement still holds true today. We tend to be so
inundated and consumed by the number of topics that we need to cover and
skills that we should impart to our students that we end up doing just that, filling
up the vessel.
What about kindling the fire?
Ramsay Musallam said that the educator’s job is to cultivate curiosity, to challenge
the students and entice them to take an interest in learning by asking questions.
However, as my case study suggests, we have to give our students examples
relevant to them as much as possible. If we ‘package’ our topics as some theoretical
notion or as an application that is hard for the students to visualise and grasp, they
will just ‘distance’ themselves from the topic and dismiss it as ‘not applicable to
them’. This situation hardly creates an environment conducive to curiosity, questions
When I was a young student myself, I was at risk of dismissing chemistry as ‘not
applicable to me’, as our teacher at the time was giving us examples pertaining to
the petroleum industry and industrial dyes, something a teenage girl would hardly
think about on a daily basis. However, after some further research, I discovered that
the same processes described in our lessons were the same ones used for making
perfume or dyes used in sweets. My own perseverance led me to discover that
chemistry was not, as previously thought, a specialist subject for the select few but
a remarkable subject with strong ties to our everyday lives.
And that is the message I strive to convey when I teach the subject to this day.
Play Maria Gauci’s presentation video