'I’m So Excited I Could Burst’
How do we cultivate curiosity, interest and wonderment? If we want students to genuinely inquire it is important that we give them the context for that to occur, a situation where curiosity, wonderment and excitement become a natural part of the learning process.
When working with a Grade One class that was exploring a unit on changing materials, to get the students thinking about the concepts driving the unit we decided to do the ice balloon activity from the Exploratorium site. http://www.exploratorium.edu/afterschool/activities/docs/iceballoons.pdf
The difference between the way it is laid out in the explanation on the site and the way we do it with younger students was that we set no boundaries or expectations. The only instruction provided to the students was ‘you have to cut the balloon away from the ice.’ The rest was up to them in terms of what materials they used and when they used them. All materials were made available to them. It was an opportunity for open inquiry and free exploration (with guidance as they were limited by the materials placed on the table.)
Timing is So Important!
We decided to prepare the activity before break time with the hope of building curiosity and enthusiasm, to get students excited about what was to come. It was wonderful to see the excitement on student’s faces about the possibility of what was to come and the students started asking question. ‘What do you think we are going to do?’ ‘Wow that is so interesting; what is it?’ ‘Look at what they are putting on the table, what are we going to be doing?’ They left to go to break with the wonderment of what was to come, with a level of curiosity about the possible learning they would be involved in. We are often told by teachers that their students do not ask questions. Our answers are usually how are you provoking them, what are you putting in their way to make them curious to make them wonder, to naturally ask questions. If students are interested have made connections, questions will naturally flow.
When they came back to the class everything else was set up and they were looking at the tubs with the ice balloons and the resources. ‘I’m so excited I could burst,’ one student shouted. The anticipation, the excitement and the sheer joy of what is to come was so clearly evident in their body language and noises of excitement.
As stated the students were given the instruction to cut the balloon off and told they could use any of materials on the table whenever, however they wanted. ‘We can do anything?’ We love those moments when students realize they are in charge of their learning, they decide what to use, when and how to use it without a step by step instruction. Some students took the inquiry further heading to the soap dispenser to see if soap would have an impact on their ice balloon. Creating their own theories and questions and self-directing their investigations. As this is when you get students exploring when there are not huge limitations placed on them, when the teacher is not out the front saying do this, now do this, when they can touch, explore and experiment and when the inquiry is open enough that they are directing their own learning.
Role of the Teacher
The role of the teacher in this process is to actively listen. It is not to direct, or to suggest, however instead to illicit understanding and listen to students to see what questions they are asking and what they understand or the misconceptions they have. It was wonderful to hear teachers ask questions such as; ‘what makes you say hat?’, ‘how do you know?’ ‘what happened? Why?’ these questions do not lead students to an answer an instead provide opportunities for teacher to truly understand what student misconceptions are and what they understand.
As for the students their questions and theories were ongoing. ’what will happen if we add this?’ ‘wow add more let’s see what it does?’, ‘look look, look at what t is doing’, ‘why is it doing that?’ as the experimentation continued it was clear that students had misconceptions however as the lesson was so open it was also clear that many had already grasped some of the outcomes they were expected to cover in the unit.
Inquiry is children discovering for themselves, its about teachers providing the opportunities for children to figure it out themselves. It’s authentic and it is active.
How do you plan and build for curiosity?
Copyright: Innovative Global Education