Children are naturally curious. They touch, taste, hear, smell, and see the world around them. Their curiosity is what enables them to learn. Think about the toddler who wants to get into everything and ask "why" more often than most adults want to hear. This is how the young and old understand the world. Because it is so closely tied to learning, curiosity must be encouraged and fostered.
Unfortunately, well-meaning adults often squelch curiosity. We tire of questions, so we become exasperated, and our children sense it. We take away the excitement of exploration by not sharing our children's enthusiasm about what they found out. Curiosity is fueled by the opportunity to share findings and excitement with others.
As teachers we need to ask ourselves questions.
- "What am I doing to encourage my students' natural desire to explore?
- Am I letting them discover the power of their own learning?
- Am I giving them opportunities to problem solve themselves or am I giving them answers too quickly?"
We need to capitalize on students' passion, curiosity, and thinking. We urge you to try these suggestions for creating an environment conducive for exploration in your classroom.
Redefine Failure—When children don't understand a new concept or make a mess of a science experiment; let them know this is always a part of the learning process. Failure only happens when you refuse to keep trying. Emphasize determination.
Encourage Questions—We all learn by asking ourselves or others about what puzzles us. This doesn't mean we have to answer every question. We need to steer our children towards finding answers for themselves. We have to admit when we don't know the answer to a question.
Flex your own curiosity muscle by joining your students in their explorations. Voice what you want to know more about. Listen closely to what your children find out. Ask questions yourself. "What do you think...? How did you...? What do you want to find out next?"
Albert Einstein said, "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." This is the key. Teaching children to be passionate and curious about the world around them is the pathway to learning. It is one of the best skills you'll ever nurture.
"If we let them, children can reintroduce us to the world. When we truly allow a child to share his discoveries with us, we experience the joys of rediscovery — and in doing so, learn ourselves."
Dr. Bruce Perry