The Monkey-Proof Box

Curriculum design for building knowledge, developing creative thinking and promoting independence

By: Jonathan Lear


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Products specifications
Attribute nameAttribute value
Size222 x 182mm
PublishedMarch 2019

Written by Jonathan Lear, The Monkey-Proof Box: Curriculum design for building knowledge, developing creative thinking and promoting independence is a manifesto on how to dismantle the curriculum we’re told to deliver and construct in its place the curriculum we need to deliver.

A group of monkeys. A box full of nuts. A lever. A chute. The monkeys excitedly poke at the box with rocks … nothing happens. Meanwhile, one monkey sits to the side, observing. Then, when the others wander off, he gets up and – with a curious push of his palm – presses the lever and the nuts tumble down the chute! Not believing his luck, he eats the nuts, presses the lever again and is rewarded with yet more nuts. He’s cracked the challenge of the monkey-proof box.

In their early years, children experience a world full of monkey-proof boxes – it’s a time of discovery, observation and experimentation, as they engage in the frustration and joy of learning how to release life’s nuts. Then, as they progress through school, learning becomes more formal, easier in many ways. The nuts are handed to them on a plate and something important is lost.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this absorbing book, Jonathan sets out how primary school teachers can resist the ‘nuts on a plate’ approach and deliver a curriculum rich in authentic learning experiences that help children learn from one another and grow into empowered, knowledgeable and creative thinkers who are driven by insatiable curiosity.

In doing so, he inspires educators to unclutter their classrooms of the latest shiny initiatives and to foster a more refined pedagogical approach – incorporating elements of facilitated and concept-based learning – that simply improves pupils’ learning.

Suitable for teachers, middle leaders and head teachers in primary school settings.

Picture for author Jonathan Lear

Jonathan Lear

Described as having a breathtaking understanding of how to engage children, Jonathan Lear is an award-winning teacher, education consultant and author. He has worked for many years on a compelling mix of inspirational teaching strategies, and has shared his passion for learning as an advanced skills teacher, a deputy head and an Associate of Independent Thinking.

Read, When Two Tribes Go to War', Jonathan's interview with

Click here to listen in on Jonathan's podcast with Pivotal Education on How to Teach Guerrilla Style'.


  1. Jonathan Lear has created a wonderful book about the importance of ensuring the curriculum celebrates the joy of learning and supports teachers to ensure their classrooms are places where children experience authentic learning experiences. The key words highlighted on the front cover are “creative thinking” and “independence” which are crucial elements for us to support children to master.

    Throughout the book, Jonathan takes you the reader through key things to consider about the curriculum and the essential pedagogy that should sit behind the delivery. There are a range of points to pause and reflect on, whilst also lots of food for thought in terms of what is important for us as a profession to consider. The book concludes with the words that form the start of Jonathan’s schools curriculum policy. You can find these below, which in themselves provide a simple, but powerful marker for what primary education should be all about!

    “Our curriculum is skills based and knowledge rich; we cover less because we believe that our children should have the opportunity to study areas of the curriculum in greater depth. We want our children to produce exceptional outcomes whilst developing their independence, curiosity and creativity. We want to produce collaborators, innovators, leaders and more than anything else, young people who understand what it means to be human.” (Jonathan Lear 2019)

    Read the review on Best Trust website here.

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