Inside a 9-year-old’s imagination

Son1 attends an International Baccalaureate (IB) World Continuum School. I have no idea what the ‘world continuum’ bit means, but I do know that there are students enrolled from more than 80 different nationalities, and the importance of diversity and acceptance is hammered home to them.

I have to say, I do enjoy seeing the sea of faces in the playground, and all the myriad shades of skin and hair colour – there are Scandinavian children with the whitest blonde hair, Asian kids with beautiful, dark, almond-shaped eyes and perfect skin, and smiley, dark-haired youngsters from countries such as Iraq and Jordan. Other nations well represented at the school include Germany, France and South Africa.

Four IB programmes are offered, and something that’s quite different from the education I experienced is the focus on presenting their work orally. Besides breeding a new generation of toastmasters, I do think all this speaking in front of the class is instilling a level of confidence in these school kids that’s sure to be valuable in their careers down the line.

A leap of the imagination and you never know what you'll find on board
A leap of the imagination and you never know what you’ll find on board

But it also comes with its fair share of angst. (Being a risk-taker is another key IB ‘principle’, and as my friend put it, if your child isn’t a risk-taker, another system might be better).

Personally, I’ve been really impressed with the IB curriculum, especially by the way it encourages ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking; however, this weekend saw me nervously chewing my lip over Son1’s homework.

The words ‘Prepare an oral presentation (two minutes – not more, not less)’ immediately got my attention – as did the instructions to rehearse the speech, paying attention to clarity of voice, expression, posture and eye contact. Remember, these children are 8, going on 9 – and only cue cards were allowed.

The prompt we used was finding a bottle on the beach with something inside it. Son1 had to continue the story. At first, it was like extracting teeth – he ummed and ahhed, dropped his pencil, half slid off his chair, then ran off to the toilet, his mind a blank. It was only when we hit on the idea of a bottle from the Titanic that his imagination started firing on all cylinders.

Suddenly, his brain synapses went into overdrive. I could almost see his electrically excitable neurons lighting up, and out of his mouth flowed a (rather inspired, I thought) story about raising the Titanic from the seabed. To paraphrase, there was a magic ball in the bottle that was dropped over the shipwreck site, creating enormous waves that caused the Titanic to come to the surface.

“That’s great,” I encouraged, as he really got into the swing of it. “And was the ship in one piece?” (Yes) “As good as new, really?” “And what about all the passengers? Were they all brought back to life and reunited with their families?” Clearly, I needed a happy ending to history’s best-known maritime tragedy.

“Oh no, mummy!” he said, his eyes shining with story-telling glee. “They had blue skin, and their faces were falling off. They were zombies! There was a message with a handprint of blood, telling me I had to shoot them. All of them.”

If I do manage to make a writer of him, I think it’s safe to say his genre will be fantasy sci-fi.

2 thoughts on “Inside a 9-year-old’s imagination

  1. iotamanhattan says:

    Oh gosh, this reminds me of a very shameful memory I have. My son was 6 or 7, and had particular difficulties writing. Delayed motor skills or something. Not bad enough to get special help, but his writing definitely looked a year or two behind his classmates. One day, I went into school, and on the wall opposite his classroom, were pinned up stories that the class had written. There was one from each child, written and then illustrated. Most of them were one page of beautifully neat script, with a tidy picture, and the subject matter was something wonderful and happy. There was my son’s. It was nearly 3 pages of scrawl, legible if you could make the effort, but quite an effort! The picture was obviously done hastily, and the subject matter… zombies! Yes, zombies! Half-dead people rising from the ground… you know the kind of thing.

    But… here’s the shaming bit… I had seen those stories, and had secretly wished that the teacher hadn’t put up everyone’s. But when I was hovering outside the classroom with other mums, waiting to pick up my son, one of the other mothers said she’d read my son’s story and loved it. I thought she was just being nice, so I mumbled something about “difficult to read”, and she replied yes, but well worth the effort. “It’s so creative!” I remember her saying. “Such imagination!”

    Maybe she WAS just being kind, but at the time I didn’t sense that. I sensed that here was a woman who’d bothered to read through my son’s story (perhaps she had a few minutes to fill in), and had seen it it qualities that I, in my embarrassment as to how it looked, hadn’t bothered to notice.

    I’m not a sci-fi fan, but it’s probably worth becoming one, if you have a son who is that way inclined!

    • LOVE this story Iota! This morning, in news writing in class, my son drew him and his mates playing with nerf guns. I’d suggested all the other things we’d down this weekend, but no, the nerf guns were the highlight. I’m surprised there wasn’t a fictitious zombie in there too!

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