Nudging people back to being curious again...

Do you see yourself as a curious person? Not really. A bit. Not very.

These are often the answers we get when we pose this question to an open audience.

Who is the most curious person you know?

My 5-year-old. My niece / nephew.

Rest assured it will be a child. Or a person who still lives with that child-like wonder.

So we were all really curious. Once. And believe it or not, we still are. Deep down. But why won’t we admit it? Or better still, use this curiosity to live an amazing life?

0001-119015605Last year, we were invited to conduct a Curiosity Workshop for the freshers at IIT, Gandhinagar. This was part of an orientation program that the Director had organised for the new batch. His express purpose was to expose students to life outside of academics right at the outset. And as someone described it, to bring students back down to earth from the heady feeling they are usually riding on, having cracked one of the world’s toughest exams.

So there were workshops on origami, pottery, theatre.

Ramanand and Harish conducted a Curiosity workshop.

We talked about Questionable Intelligence – which we define as the ability to ask a lot of questions, a lot of relevant questions. We strongly believe that to do well in any pursuit in life, you must have a very high QI. We also asked them a few quiz questions on topics from their daily lives and helped them create workable quiz questions.

The most surprising thing for us was that the students didn’t seem to be ready to accept that they were curious. We actually had to prove to them that they were – by explaining what curiosity means and how they exhibit curiosity in different forms. In the end, we created a Curiosity Map for the whole batch by plotting various topics that everyone was curious about. It will be interesting to create a Curiosity Map of these same students in their final year at IIT!

This workshop also helped us look at curiosity in a different light. Sometimes people just need to be nudged (back?) in the direction of being curious by looking at other curious folks and what they do. (A thought that made us launch the Curiosity Cases series where we ask super curious people about their habits and what keeps them going. Check it out here and if you know anyone who you think should be featured in that series, let us know.)

This month, we will bring the Curiosity Workshop to parents and teachers, at the British Library in Pune. If you would like to be a part of it, you can check out the details on their page.

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5 things we learnt conducting a school quiz league in Pune

FSQL 2015 - school champions Symbiosis receiving their trophy from actress Sonali Kulkarni In 2014, we began thinking of a school quiz league for Pune. None of us at Choose To Thinq has actually come up the "ranks", so to speak, of a systematic school quizzing programme. We thought quizzing talent in an educationally-rich city like Pune deserved something which could help schools to identify and nurture school quizzers. We also wanted to foster curiosity among middle-school children (often the best age to get into the quizzing swing - hungry to know more and not burdened by preparing for competitive academic exams).

Thus the Firodia School Quiz League was born, with the H. K. Firodia Memorial Foundation sponsoring the league, which is now in its 2nd edition. Choose To Thinq organised it end-to-end: we set all the questions, hosted all the quizzed, did the ground-work before, during, and after the quizzes, and in the process, got to meet and interact with over a thousand bright students and their enthusiastic parents & teachers.

Quizzing is fun!

Here are 5 things we observed while conducting "the quest for Pune's best young quizzers" over the last 2 years:

The Choose To Thinq team with Sulajja Firodia Motwani (Vice Chairperson, Kinetic Group), Sonali Kulkarni (actress), Rahul Chandawarkar (Resident Editor, Sakaal Times)

  1. Participants are 'quizzing-sharp'

    Students continuously surprised us with how much they knew and how 'quizzing-smart' they could be. The average question's style was closer to the open quizzing style practiced in India, with slightly longer questions, plenty of audio-visuals, and with clues liberally sprinkled. Most FSQL quizzers, especially the ones that made it to the final, took intelligent guesses, tried to work out answers, and became comfortable with formats such as "Infinite Rebounds". There was hardly a question or two out of the 400-odd qns in the entire quiz that went unanswered between the finalists and the audience.


  2. Girls can definitely quiz as well as the boys

    Traditionally, quizzing in India tends to male-dominated at most age levels. School quizzing is slightly different because you do get more girl quizzers than at college or open level. FSQL has seen several excellent girl quizzers. In 2015, one pair from Symbiosis school excelled by finishing on the podium in 2 quizzes. They received a special commendation, which, as J. Ramanand (quizmaster for 2 quizzes and co-founder, Choose To Thinq) put it, was not just in recognition of their performances but to inspire younger girl quizzers who had been watching them quiz.

  3. Sports is no longer a strong point

    About a decade ago, 2 school quizzers from Pune won the ESPN School Sports Quiz, a popular TV quiz of its time. Awareness of sports had always been a strong point among school children, and not just about TV-friendly sports such as cricket or football. But that has dipped in recent times - in both editions, the Sports quizzes proved to be the toughest of all the 5 themes (the others being History & Heritage, Science & Tech, Travel & Geo, and Entertainment & Culture).

  4. City knowledge could be better 

    A key aspect of the FSQL format is its emphasis on local knowledge. Each quiz ends with a round on Pune, with questions on the city's contribution to the theme of the quiz. In all quizzes, this proved to be the difference between the podium finishers and other finalists. But that's the reason for emphasizing Pune knowledge - we think knowing more about one's city is a critical step in ensuring these students become more committed and engaged citizens. On seeing topics such as "Ghashiram Kotwal" feature in the Entertainment & Culture questions for the Pune round, the Chief Guest for the finale, film and stage actress Sonali Kulkarni, was curious to know if the Gangnam-style era young participants knew about them. Some teams definitely did, which surprised her and others, but not us. These quizzers are good!

  5. We learnt as much as they did

    Setting and hosting a quiz is never a one-way street. We learnt new things and refreshed old 'fundas' in the process of putting together the quizzes. Each quiz also featured a couple of TED talks relevant to its theme and had a chief guest from that area. Along with the participants, we learned several new things about the world around us, turning this into a learning experience for us as well.