Curiosity Drives Discovery

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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. baruch

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.

burnettLifelong 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?

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6 Responses to “Curiosity Drives Discovery”

  1. Connie Hebert January 7, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

    Well said, Mark…important insights worthy of ALL educators’ attention (and application)…

    I wrote The Teachable Minute: The Secret to Raising Smart & Appreciative Kids mainly because of every kid’s natural curiosity, coupled with the need for attention. It’s filled with ideas so parents can tap into both! Let me know if you’d like me to send you a copy.

    Keep thinking, writing, & sharing…

    Stay curious!

    Dr. Connie Hebert
    National Literacy Consultant

    • Mark Condon January 8, 2017 at 11:39 am #

      Coming from a person with your advanced expertise in such things, that’s a lovely comment, Connie. Your book reviews are glowing. I’ll read it with … well, DEEP curiosity!!! Ha!

  2. Brian January 7, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    Well said

  3. Anya Yankelevich January 21, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    Mark, your blog is the only one I read with any regularity. Now that I have decided to leave the teaching profession after 13 years in public schools, blogs like this one sustain me as I head into the final stretch. Honestly, I think this one encapsulates the philosophy all schools should be based on. From day one, my job is to MAKE kids interested in the curriculum I am to teach, the irony of which has never escaped me. The fact that most children lose interest in school-learning by the end of elementary school is a testament to how wrong we’ve gone about this whole business. If I were Queen, the only thing teachers would do is ask children on the first day of school, and every day after that, “What do you want to learn about?” That, to me, would be the whole basis for curricula and how we spend our days in school. Too idealistic?? Oh well. Anyway, thank you so so much for reminding me why I chose this profession, and also for helping me let go of something that never was.
    Many thanks.

    • Mark Condon January 27, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      I truly appreciate your commitment and your journey, Anya. Thanks for sharing and ALL good wishes to you, lady.