The Boxes of Curious Noticing: A TD Park People Grant Project

October 15, 2020

Helen Garbiec

While the pandemic has brought out a number of challenges in our communities, it has also spurred innovation and creativity at a time when we need it most. Over the summer, the Vancouver Learnary Society created Boxes of Curious Noticing, a unique curated collection of games to play, books to read, questions to explore, and adventures to be had. Surya Govender, Co-Principal of the Learnary, shared that the Boxes were designed “to spark curiosity in a new way and engage with one another in a safe way.” The Boxes of Curious Noticing were supported through a TD Park People Grant.

The Learnary seeks to entice people to learn about the world in a new way.  In 2019, with funds from a TD Park People Grant, this creative community organization hosted Fixery with Frameworq, Singalong Sunday and Makedo in the park—all nature based art events taking place in their local green space, Clinton Park. This year, with the pandemic limiting physical contact, Surya reflected on what could be done to spark curiosity in one’s home, outside, and with one another while maintaining health and safety guidelines. Taking a walk through the Learnary’s shop, Surya found that the inspiration for themes bubbled up organically and soon enough, it was hard to stop at just one idea! 

The first box was the Animal Box. Other themes emerged from there, including Land and Soil, Sky, and Ocean. Each box is filled with exciting and thoughtful activities for all ages, from an origami airplane kit to compelling books. Within each box is also an opportunity to connect with a new friend – a blank postcard is included in the box, waiting to be addressed and left back in the box so the next person can send you a message. In the meantime, another postcard will be in the box, stamped and addressed so you can write a greeting and send it off to a new friend. This offers a wonderful opportunity to connect with one’s neighbours in a safe and novel way. 

The Boxes are also a testimony to the power of partnerships. While searching for wood boxes to use for the program, Surya found it difficult to find any made locally. She decided to try reaching out to her network on Facebook, asking if anyone knew someone who could make custom boxes. Within the same day, Mariska McLean responded, up for the task. Mariska, a carpentry apprentice, built each custom box, which tied together the Boxes of Curious Noticing. 

The Boxes have been warmly received by the community. People of all ages, from young children to mature adults and everyone in between, have enjoyed the diverse activities and the opportunity to reconnect with nature as well as one another. 

Staying connected and engaged is now more important than ever. In Surya’s words, “those connections are what life is all about, it’s what saves us.” She emphasizes that engagement is important to focus on now since it is what stands between us and loneliness, which can be damaging for our wellbeing. She strives to connect people, reminding people that they are linked to others. “This is a small way, and small ways add up,” she says.


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