Thursday, December 15, 2005
Being curious -the key to all learning
a need to know.
Many Years ago I read a book called the ‘Silent Spring’ by Rachel Carson. Its message has been with me ever since; it provoked an understanding how ‘progress’ and technology were destroying our natural environment. Later, she wrote (in 1956) a book, for her nephew Roger, called ‘A Sense of Wonder’. This was a photo filled book all about taking a young person on nature walk.
Her messages are more in need today than ever.
‘Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies around you. It is learning again to use your eyes, ears, nostrils and fingertips, opening up the channels of sensory impression.’
Students today, given the opportunity, are still hooked by an intense curiosity and drawn by an enhanced sensory awareness of the natural world, writes Robert Fried, in his book ‘The Game of School’. But to do this they need to be encouraged to think with all their senses.
When I visited primary schools, many years ago, it was common to observe student’s involvement with their natural world.Classroom environments celebrated poetic and creative writing, observational and imaginative art, and it seemed, most of the class studies related to learning about the natural world. The environment and real world experiences were the basis for the creative teacher’s literacy and content learning programmes. This was in more relaxed days when compliance to preplanned curriculum, and unrealistic accountability demands, were beyond imagination.
It is important to appreciate that by learning to observe the natural world, not only is curiosity stimulated, but it is also the beginning of development true literacy. Learning about the natural world is not about the need to name all the plants and animals, but more expressing a relaxed interest along side the learner. It about enjoying the experience; young children soon pick up knowledge.
Rachel Carson talks about a ‘learning spirit’ and, in her book asks that we provide a gift for each child in the world of a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, and the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial and that alienate us from the source of our strengths. All of this before the advent of virtual reality.
I would wish that junior teachers, once again, would learn to appreciate the power of the natural environment to inspire student’s curiosity language and vocabulary. I wish that teachers would realize that ‘before the word is the experience’ and, before ‘real’ books, is the nned for books written by children based on their own experiences and imagination.
Today literacy is seen as an 'achievement to target' in its own right. In this process teachers bypass the very source of student’s ideas and imagination; the children’s own thoughts, when ‘scribed’ or written, are the true basis of literacy learning.
We have fragmented everything in learning and, in the process, made it all too complicated – let’s get back to helping students do their own learning by valuing the power of their own ideas and their intrinsic need to make sense of their environment. We have cut then off from their natural source of learning.
Students need to seen as inventors of their own minds and meaning and not be limited to isolated skill teaching which, at its worst, degenerates into sterile isolated phonics all in the name of doubtful ‘achievement’.