Helen Keller, Samuel Morse and Christopher Columbus
Jonah, who is seven years old, came home from school one day last term and told us that he had to choose a person that had done something amazing in the world as part of his Amazing Achievements project. He then had to research this person and put together a presentation for his classmates, their parents and visitors to the school in a few weeks time. Bringing this task to the dinner table was interesting because as parents it is important to show an interest and to fully support your child in their school work but not to impose your own thoughts and ideas on the learning process. It was vital that Jonah ‘owned’ the process and had the passion and enthusiasm to research and present on someone that he really aspired to.
Who would you choose for your amazing achievements project? Who is your hero?
Of course my emotions and initial instincts tempted me to suggest the likes of: Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi… but I resisted and we took the approach of brainstorming his interests and things he likes to read and find out more about before making a decision. His list went something like this:
Inventing things, science, poetry, animals, helping people…
After taking these ideas on board I did publicly suggest my ideas around the table, ‘wouldn’t it be great to do Charles Darwin, Dr. Jane Goodall or even better Wilfred Owen – it is the 100th anniversary of WW1 – what a great connection.’ After explaining who these remarkable people were and why I thought they had contributed amazing achievements I was not getting much enthusiasm from Jonah. Jonah’s mother then suggested that he actually think more locally and choose somebody related to Thailand and possibly someone that may even still be alive and could be involved in the research process (a great idea). So we then considered:
Khun Lek (Elelphant Nature Park), Nancy Gibson (Love Wildlife Thailand) and Khun Mechai Viravaidya (The Bamboo School)*
*Posts to follow soon on each of these inspiring people and speakers
Jonah started to show more interest and liked the idea of being able to actually meet the person he was researching and presenting on and having primary information – possibly even involve them in his presentation as well! By the end of (an extended) dinner time we had discussed a wide range of ideas and possibilities and left him with the weekend to make his final decision and to come up with someone who he wanted to do his project on.
With a little help from the iPad, Jonah finally came up with Samuel Morse as his amazing achievements person. He was intrigued by Morse code and how it works, why it is used and how and why and when it was invented. It had really caught his imagination and the more he read and the more he inquired the more he realised that Samuel Morse met most of his interests and passions. I must admit at first I was not that impressed with his choice of person but soon realised as Jonah used his research (including an e-mail to and a reply from the Samuel Morse museum in the UK) that this was somebody that achieved a lot more than invent the Morse code, that there was a personal tragedy that motivated and ultimately urged him to help others and improve the world that he was living in at that time. I enjoyed learning through Jonah and being part of his amazing achievements project and was an immensely proud father when I got the chance to see his presentation.
This type of learning draws on personal emotions and encourages intrinsic drive and outcomes – ultimately creating amazing achievements for the young people that have been involved and supported through the process.