April 20, 2018
After spending additional time at Ridge Early Childhood Center over the past few weeks, I have been able to witness the true wonder of learning — the magical sense of first discoveries. Watching our youngest learners learn has reminded me of the importance of fostering curiosity and this delight in learning new things. There’s that look of wonder, excitement, and discovering that unmistakably leads to learning. I will attempt, from my seasoned vantage point, to capture a few thoughts about what wonder can do for children at schools.
For some reason as we get older, we lose some of that sense of wonder. Isn’t that a shame? What I’ve noticed is that we stop asking the question, “Why?” Why does a lightning bug light up? Why do some big letters look like their little letters and some not? And my favorite: Why is it so cold in April? (I actually do wonder at this question, and struggle to answer it.)
There’s excitement and curiosity in just about everything that happens with the young learner. When we crack open this an egg, we discover there’s something very different inside; it’s not just a shape. Look at that ant on the sidewalk following that other ant — where are they all going? Smell the air outside… it smells fresh and cold, and soon, like flowers. Just about everything in our youngest learners lives is filled with wonder as they learn about the world.
Schools need to do a better job of protecting and fostering that wonder for our students. It’s hard to find a prescriptive recipe for teaching people to be creative. However, I can think of myriad ways we can dull creativity: memorization, worksheets, long lectures, and learning that doesn’t connect to relevance. These are a few ways we’ve sapped joy from the learning experience.
As students get older and know more, they should be approached with curriculum and instruction that ignites the desire to learn even more. With the advent of technology usage in schools, much of the information that my generation learned in school can be more quickly retrieved from Google than it can from my memory. This leads us to the realization that we need less recall and more application in schools. Here’s the big “Why?” question. If we know kids have access to an overabundance of factual information, why don’t schools transform themselves by asking them to apply it?
By creating environments where students, especially older students, are free to ask their questions, schools would be more engaging, allow for increased creativity, and foster a degree of wonder. These are all transferable skills, relevant to the real world. These investigative and critical thinking skills, either enhanced by technology or in other ways, will help our schools remain relevant throughout our kids’ educational experience. How “wonder”-ful is that?