Curiosity is the emotional engine that drives learning. That would make curiosity probably the most important tool in a parent or teacher’s toolbox for rearing and teaching children. But if you think you can force a child to be curious about something, think again. Curiosity is an intrinsic desire to gain knowledge and understanding which resides within a child. It can’t forced on someone. Happily, it can be taught.
Another challenge is that no two children are alike. I mean, all of them will be interested in things that come into their reach, view, hearing, smeller, etc. But the nature of each child’s curiosity about a thing also reflects prior learning about that thing.
A child’s curiosity is further impacted by her individual set of personality traits. Parenting magazine published a list of 9 personality traits of children: Activity level, Regularity, Sociability, Adaptability, Intensity, Disposition, Distractibility, Persistence and Sensitivity. These become evident by age 3 or so.
These traits combine in thousands of ways that then manifest in a vast range of how curiosity is expressed for a given kiddo. Thus, they also shape the structure of learning for a given child. We can’t do much to change personality traits, but we can nurture a child’s curiosity, enhancing his eagerness to know and shape his inquiry approach. We can do that by sharing our personal “wonderings” and observations about the world, and by demonstrating how asking questions expresses our own curiosity, our inner conversations. We can encourage and accept children’s inquiries and thoughts about whatever corner of the world they find themselves in. In doing so, we anoint deep thinking and become their guides in pursuing their own explorations.
Lifelong learning is THE primary goal of education. If we can just support the development and maintenance of curiosity we have gone a long way to ensuring the perpetual education of our kids. Education success cannot be seen in their passing to the next school grade or in their testing performance. Education is much bigger than schooling. It starts at birth and is handed off to schools and professional teachers at about age 5. Each school year a child becomes more independent in her thinking, until she fledges into adulthood, leaving that once safe nest for a lifetime of learning adventures. Enjoying and expressing her own curiosity with friends, colleagues, family and her own children can become a source of lifelong fulfillment.
If educators do their jobs well, what the we give back first is active literacy, expanding here-and-now inquiry to include great minds and grand adventures of a civilization. Literacy is then expanded by the learning of the various disciplines: science, mathematics, anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion and sociology, and the fine and performing arts. Each of these has its own unique approach to expanding and expressing curiosity. With these in place children are set up to learn throughout their entire lives and to share effectively what they learn with others.
Active and persistent curiosity lights each individual’s path to personal fulfillment. Energetic inquiries and eager explorations by children are the hallmark of parental and teacher success.
So…how’s it going?