Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Curiosity and Inquisitiveness

(Luis Valentino) Among the many challenges in raising our son is helping him to understand the social construct that is school, the community he engages with, and the home he inhabits.  Setting expectations, providing opportunities for him to practice and reflect on them, and establishing a system of accountability for a six year old an important part of our parenting.  However, establishing boundaries for him cannot, and do not (at least we hope) stifle his creativity and his curiosity.

As Gini Cunningham describes in the article below, Curiosity and Inquisitiveness, keeping our children's curiosity alive is a collective effort.  Together, we can help students to be explorers and discover their world, and not stifle its possibilities.

By Gini Cunningham

Kids are naturally curious as they inquire about their surroundings and the rest of the world. Few
children refuse to admire bugs, even going to the extent of picking them up, petting them, and often trying to sneak them into the mouth for a quick flavor check. Kids wonder at sparkling rainbows, gurgling streams, fluttering birds, and flashing stars. Their curiosity grows as older siblings, friends, family, and parents inspire study and discovery. This curiosity is snuffed when this same group is too quick with explanations, thus extinguishing exploration, or with discouragement when it comes to figuring out answers through experimentation and wonder. Some of this tamping down may be a necessity in a burgeoning classroom of students or with harried, exhausted parents racing to meet urgent needs, but it is sad to watch kids slink into "Just give me the answer" mode for the sake of speedy teaching and learning.

To retain and build curious, inquisitive minds we need curious inquisitive parents, instructors, and school leaders. While tossing out the correct response is simple and fast, it does little to ignite the imagination of young minds and so, over time, kids develop their "get it done fast" way of thinking. Why show work in math when it can be solved mentally (or by copying from a friend)? Why delve into the cause and effect of an event when the aftermath is already visible? Why use hands-on experimentation when a brief glance at the Internet will reveal the potential answer with no muss or fuss? Why write an essay, a letter, or jot down notes when novel thoughts and ideas are not hailed or encouraged? Why stress about thinking when instant data from multiple-choice exams churns out numbers galore offered up as proof or failure of concept attainment? Why hire and mentor highly trained teachers when a computer program can warehouse enormous numbers while expediting a worry-free, thought-free, assembly line class of students?

Because, as you already can surmise, an excellent instructor supplied with ample materials and tools, can reach and teach and change lives in personal ways that no sure-shot program or purchased media can. We do not need more kids in isolation. We already have this in the game-enthralled, finger-tapping engrossed, electronics-addicted kids of today. Notice the next time you chat with a youngster or adolescent if they are able to make instant eye contact as you launch a conversation. Many do not, or worse yet cannot, because they are accustomed to looking down at a device not up at a face. When the child's eyes finally engage yours, conversation is often difficult as s/he is used to texting not talking. Moving into complete sentences is another challenge. When abbreviations like LOL reign, single word answers suffice as the response of choice. And don't even get me started on writing. Between abbreviations, quick answers, spell-check, and spell-neglect, formal writing is drifting away at an exorbitant speed.

As a teacher it may be tough at first but in time you can bring kids back to inquisitive, curious thought and exploration. "What if... ?" "How come... ?" "Theorize and explain why... " are just three questions that should guide instruction and learning. Hands-on always trumps computer generation of facts; personal research and investigation always beat out a pat answer. Parents, you have an even greater responsibility to step up from birth with questions and situations and experiences of wonderment. While at times the repetitive "Why?" of a child may drive you crazy, focus on the astonishment and surprise, the inquisitiveness and marvel that you are creating. Relegate the video games to the closet, the television to limited access, the computer to a far corner so that you can re-engage and re-ignite wonder of living and life.

Article Source:  Curiosity and Inquisitiveness

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