To me a “wonder room” holds connotations of Roald Dahl, edible wallpaper and rivers of chocolate. For Professor McFall of Nottingham University a wonder room consists of antiquities, rare flowers, puzzles and curiosities, and I have to say, I think he might be right.
All of us are guilty of losing at least a portion of our sense of wonder; time shortages, responsibilities and a host of other factors prevent us from taking time to ‘smell the flowers’. For McFall, the flower in question is a voodoo lily and the smell is rotting flesh.
The unusual flora omits the scent of decayed flesh for a single day in a bid to attract flies, pollinate and continue the survival of the species, a wondrous life cycle that is truly thought provoking. As McFall proffers, “how can you appreciate the smell of a rose until you have smelt a voodoo lily?”
I didn’t know this until I heard him explain the strange flower in the video below. I was immediately intrigued by the bizarre organism and eager to learn more, and this is the point of a wonder room.
It is these rare and fascinating ‘finds’ that fill the wonder room and lead school children to engage with the unknown. Formal visits are common, as is a curious mind taking the opportunity to simply ‘drop-in’. Occasionally items will be sent to be used in classrooms to aid teachers in piquing pupils’ interest.
The purpose is to provoke bemusement, intrigue and wonder – a series of tiny sparks that could potentially light a fire in a young mind and fuel a long and successful career.
Pupils are often inspired to start their own collections. These can be as basic as a shell collection, but some begin remarkable collections such as the periodic elements – cementing their interest in science.
“I like to think that every subject that is taught in the school finds its place somewhere in this room; sometimes obviously and sometimes darkly, through shadows.” –Professor McFall ‘Agent of Wonder’
One child’s feedback reads “I have been so inspired by the wonder room. Every school should have a place to sit and stare.” A fantastic observation, every school certainly, every office, and every home too I would suggest.
Could your school make use of a wonder room inspired project? A wonder box or shelf perhaps is a little more achievable but could help inspire your pupils to become engineers, botanists, doctors, or any number of wondrous professions.