Over the summer I watched and played with my nephews (two and four years old) as they explored and played with their Legos and other newfangled toys. I realized that there were two likely traits of a successful toy. The first trait of a successful toy, for my nephews anyway, is that you can throw it, hit (with) it, or kick it. The second, is that the toy sparks curiosity. This is what I want to talk about today, maybe I’ll get to the throwing, hitting, and kicking another (more stressful) day 🙂
One of my favorite parts of working with young people is the opportunity to watch them be curious. In time, I have come to strongly believe that curiosity is one of, if not the most important character strength in successful people. Each day at break as I make my usual tour of the café, courtyard, and soccer field I keep an eye out for students who are lingering on the periphery. When I first started I was concerned about these students, worried they weren’t making connections with their peers. Over time, however, I’ve come to understand that many of these kids are just pursuing their curiosity of the world around them.
During China Trips last year it was wonderful to see the wide eyes and ‘ohs and ahs’ as kids explored the outdoors. The opportunities for exploration of curiosities in that setting are almost endless. Similarly, the chances for students to independently pursue curiosity exists here at school as well. As an example, there was a sixth grader last year who took a direct route to the bushes near the field at lunch. It took me a couple days to realize that this was a pattern and when I wandered over to see what had drawn her curiosity she explained that there was a spider who had spun a web and she was admiring the geometric patterns while hoping that it would trap something. She was curious, she wanted to watch and wonder in awe about how this tiny creature had created something so seemingly perfect but at the same time she was concerned that it wasn’t “working” because nothing had yet been trapped.
Curiosity is a character strength that is, perhaps, more easily fostered than actually taught. I couldn’t have paid some students to be interested in that spider web but others would have had the same sense of curiosity and awe if they had been exposed to that wonder. They, however, hadn’t gone searching for it like this little girl had done – which is where we come in. There is currently a lot of research going into character education and I think we’re still a ways away from any definitive answers as to how we could teach some of these character strengths. However, we can facilitate them and foster their growth when the time is right. So, how are you helping to encourage curiosity in your classroom and beyond?
Our students have incredibly curious and creative young minds. Feel free to allow them the opportunity to open up and explore new ideas. Some of the greatest minds in the world have been successful because they’ve been freed of restricted thinking and have been allowed to think openly about their ideas. If curiosity really killed the cat then I guess we’re all lucky not to be cats…open yourselves to exploration and let’s do the same for our kids!!
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein
“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.” – Bernard Baruch
“Curiosity is the lust of the mind.” – Thomas Hobbes
There is a fast-growing movement in education right now around 20-Time. It is based on a similar concept perviously used at Google and other companies to encourage the pursuit of passions during working hours. I’m not asking you to turn over one class every five days to the pursuit of curiosity but I think there is definitely room for including pieces of this concept in our day-to-day lessons.
20-Time informational website: http://www.20timeineducation.com/
An interesting article about Google and 20-Time: http://www.wired.com/2013/08/20-percent-time-will-never-die/