“Remember that time in 8th-grade science class when Mr. Oetting blew into the pig’s lungs?”
“Oh, man! I haven’t thought about that in years. Yes! That was so cool!”
Has this ever happened to you? Have you suddenly remembered something that one would think would be unforgettable? Something that once seemed really important or interesting? How can that happen? I think it’s because many events that could serve as a catalyst for further inquiry are only a momentary focal point before we have to hurriedly move on to another focus. And unfortunately, this happens all too often in our fast-paced world and the modern classroom. It is something like, “Goodbye pig’s lungs, hello respiratory system.”
But what if families were intentional about discovering and feeding their child’s interests from the cradle onward? Then, when the child enters school, teachers could continue to nurture those interests and offer children models of deep inquiry into what they love all the way through to graduation. And families and teachers together could provide a consistent invitation and generous permission to students to read and learn about what they find intriguing.
From an education perspective, this may sound difficult to achieve since we’ve chopped the curriculum into subjects for the sake of teaching convenience. But when put together, all school lessons should be an interlocking puzzle of life in our culture.
Subject focused lessons also could provide students opportunities to identify what interests them. Things kids will absolutely remember because of the gravity of its personal importance.
I’m not suggesting that individually driven inquiry monopolize the entire curriculum, but for every child, there could be a period of time every day when they are invited to find and use new and expanding resources from each school subject which has some personal fascination. Part of any lesson could be dedicated to connecting the day’s focus with various ongoing kid inquiries.
Talk about maximizing individual engagement!
Talk about memorable lessons!
Then, young adults who have spent time regularly engaged in personal inquiry will effectively own a lifetime of personally valued learning. It will be in their blood.
When the school doors close at the end of their last day they will be positioned to remember every skill, embody every attitude and articulate every concept that will allow them henceforth to pursue those personal learning goals full time.
If we can help students develop a habit of daily inquiry that includes reading and conversation about their own interests and talents, then we will succeed in supporting lifelong learning.
That’s what educated people should be capable of doing and it would be a truly comprehensive way to deliver an education that never stops and lasts a lifetime.