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Written by Whitney Raver
on January 28, 2019

Some say curiosity is vital to learning.

 

But that belief doesn't do justice to the deep relationship between learning and curiosity. 

In fact, curiosity isn't just important in learning, it's where learning begins. 

I have a bad habit of lecturing. When my husband and I adopted our oldest daughter we subjected her to what's probably culminated in a total of days of pointless lecturing about anything you can imagine. Don't worry, she didn't suffer. Instead, she shut down and stopped hearing anything I said within seconds. 

It was frustrating. I couldn't wrap my mind around it: why wouldn't she want any of the very useful information I shared with her so freely? You know what I mean?

Then one day it dawned on me. Our brains need a lot of energy. Actively listening, digesting, sorting and using information requires focus and energy, two basic resources our minds are loathe to expend without a reward.

In order for learning to take place, our minds must view information as a reward.  

Hence the importance of curiosity. Curiosity presents a need for new information. That need drives us to seek out answers through inquiry, experimentation and play. And the new information we use becomes integrated in our intellectual database - learned.

To make sure your students are actually learning, the best thing you can do is give them curiosity. Empowering students with wonder helps them understand the relationship between questions and answers. It sets the framework for lifelong learning by making the process of learning feel rewarding. 

Here are five simple ways to inspire curiosity in your classroom every day. 

1.  Find Your Hooks. Intrigue is the spice of life. It's at the heart of curiosity. Everything has something about it that makes it intriguing. You just have to discover and present what that is. Sometimes, suggesting intrigue is as simple“Exploration creates the need for more discovery so that more joy can be experienced.” as changing your tone of voice or asking a question. If you're having trouble, just go back to the basics. Visuals and storytelling are invaluable to hooking your audience.

2. Allow Exploration.  It can be difficult to find time to allow your students to enjoy unstructured exploration, but you must find a way. Exploration is the course to discovery, learning in it's truest form. Children will find their way to the answers if you let them. And they will be more inclined to try to deeply understand difficult concepts - from the world around them to what exists beyond the stars and how to get there - if we allow them to find the answers on their own. 

This doesn't mean set them adrift, of course. Stay close to answer questions when they're asked. 

3. Provide Choices. Choice breeds decision and the opportunity to fail. Ask any scientist, entrepreneur, artist and they'll tell you the road to success is paved with little golden bricks of failure. When children fail, they learn it's not the end of the world. They learn how to analyze their mistakes and incorporate new information into their next attempt. They begin to develop their own method of learning, one which becomes natural to them. This is how you create life-long learners. 

4. Make It Relatable. Presenting children with completely foreign concepts can overwhelm them. It's hard for a young mind to find a starting point when it comes to unraveling the mystery of a new idea. Instead, present a new concept by linking it to one your students already understand. You'll empower them to start exploring on their own, asking their own questions, and finding answers relevant to their interests. 

5. Model Curiosity For Your Class. Every interaction with your students, both individually and as a group, is an opportunity to exhibit curiosity as innate and cool. Asking your students knowledgeable questions about the things that matter to them gives them a chance to be the teachers, and reinforces the idea the learning is a lifelong adventure. 

Children are natural scientists. They are already insatiably curious, pre-programmed to learn everything they can. As a teacher, it's your job to keep that curiosity alive and show your students how to use it to interact with the world around them. Weighed down by the pressure to make sure your students perform well on assessments and exams can make it stressful to even consider switching things up. But it's worth it. I promise. 

Good work out there, hero. 

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