Children need to have a look. Grab it. Squeeze it (unless it is a cat, they don't like it!)
I want a child to develop a lively and inquiring mind - so how can we encourage curiosity?
“in the small moments of discovery that big dreams are born. When little fingers are buried in the earth, an archaeologist has made his first dig. When curious eyes peer at stars through a paper-towel roll, an astronaut has made her first spacewalk. When chubby hands wrap a washcloth cast around a cat’s tail, a doctor has healed their first patient… Let the children play. Our future depends on it.” L R Knost
Do you have things to make children curious?
I don’t mean Challenge Based Learning/Games Based Learning/Mantle of the Expert and so on. All of these approaches have various benefits and like any system or approach to teaching and learning can work well and help children to succeed academically, socially and personally.
I mean ‘Curious’.
Puzzled, Perplexed, Inquisitive, Intrigued, Eager… [Insert thesaurus link here…]
I mean getting a genuine WTF?! Moment. (Perhaps not literally, but most certainly figuratively!)
Sometimes, I like to give children a ‘thing’.
Ø A Bird’s Nest
Ø A Skull
Ø A Plant/Cactus/Leaf
Ø A Piece of Wood/Bark
Ø A Deer Antler
Ø A Unusual Artefact
Anything which I think will spark a little interest from the children.
This goes without saying, but I have sometimes met children who aren’t. They just want to be told the answer, the explanation, they aren’t seeking the answer themselves. I worry that some times the answer is “Google it”. As though the internet has become to children (as adults – Guilty Your Honour!) the sole, all-encompassing fountain of all the required knowledge and understanding available. I recently taught a child (11) who referred to himself as a ‘Wikispert’ – he had everything he needed to know on WikiPedia – now that is scary!
Although I was impressed with his noun creation.
When presented with a ‘Curiosity’, children’s discussion can be very powerful indeed.
I asked them 1 question and 1 question only, the rest came from them.
My question: “What is it?”
Discussion grew organically and followed a sequence including all these responses, talking to each other, not me …
- It’s fake
- Definitely not real
- It’s a skull
- Not a human one
- It’s got teeth
- They’re big teeth
- They’re big, flat Teeth
- They’re Molars
- No canines though
- It’s from a Herbivore
- A what?
- A herbivore only eats plants
- Is it a Goat?
- Or a Sheep?
- It’s too small for a Cow or a Horse
- My dog has sharp teeth
- So does my cat, it’s teeth are REALLY sharp
- Yes, they are the canine ones, for gripping
- Dogs aren’t herbivores
- No, they eat meat
- A dog is a Carnivore, like a Lion or a Crocodile
- What does a dog’s skull look like?
- I bet it is different to this one….
The vocabulary they used, understood, shared and modeled together then led to some purposeful research, done both online and in the library just outside the classroom. The written and Art that was produced was excellent and was scientific in nature and saw the children applying the language that had been used in discussion.
(On a small aside – The OfSted Inspector at the back liked it too!)
I only asked 1 question, 3 words, 8 letters…
The rest came from curiosity.
We had the initial “Ewwwww!”, “Gross!”, and an internal “WTF?!”
They could then draw upon and apply knowledge and understanding and use it to build more.
Getting children to investigate and utilise that inherent curiosity they have in spades is important, the guidance is important too.
Remember the Nature Table?
I do – so many fond memories.
I find they aren’t as common as they used to be. What with Health & Safety, cleanliness and other such protocols – all of which have such valuable learning and experience value for young children, have limited its use.
Either that or a ‘Curiosity Table’.
Something that could easily be changed for different themes and topics, gives the children time and opportunity to work out objects origins, uses, materials, ages etc.
They can question, practice and investigate. They can get it wrong and try again.
Sticks, tools, rocks, fossils, bones, egg shells, flowers, historical artefacts, nests, feathers, crops, various leaves…
Anything that allows you to start with “What is it?”
The simplest and one of the most powerful questions you can ask!
Second only to “Why?”
And aren’t these the 2 questions that children ask the most?
Let’s ask them instead!
If you'd like to share a picture - let me know.