Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Asking questions is my business

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I had a very curious young visitor over New Year.

Arriving with his grandmother the first thing my young visitor said was, ‘Bruce’s house needs a makeover!’ And he was right!

The motivation for the visit was to refresh his memory of the glowworms living on one of the tracks he remembered from his last visit. Until it was dark enough he had to wait somewhat impatiently. So I took him on a bush walk during which he told me about the ferns and plants he knew. He had seen simlar plants on a recnt holiday in Fiji. He eagerly took in whatever knowledge I shared with him.

Back inside he turned his laser like attention to the various things I had collected over the years. He noticed more (or at least expressed his curiosity more openly) than the last twenty adult visitors.I was pleased to tell him about some of the objects he was attracted to.

In particular he really liked the idea of a couple of whales teeth I had on my shelf. I could almost see him imagining them in a whale’s mouth. It took me all my verbal skill to convince him I needed both of them – finally I had to fob him off with a piece of rock crystal!

Until it was dark enough he then engrossed himself in nature book happily sharing his thoughts to the adults around.

Such evolutionary curiosity, this desire to know and make personl meaning, is a trait that should be valued at all costs. Unfortunately it is too easliy neglected as teachers react to the imposed pressure to improve literacy and numeracy. As important as these are they come well behind, what one writer calls, ‘learnacy’;the very trait my young friend exhibited. As another writer has written, ‘The evil twins of literacy and numeracy have all but gobbled up the remainder of the curriculum.’

Curiosity and creativity are the basis of all learning. If they are lost education soon turns into 'schooling' and students in begin to ‘turn off’ and they wish they were elsewhere. Their ‘voice’, their identity as a learner, their questions, their queries and their theories, it seems, are no longer required.

Lively curiosity is turned into dull compliance.

So far my young friend has retained his desire to learn - let’s hope he keeps it.

Imagine a class of such students busily exploring what attracts their attention, either based on their own questions or what the teachers has cunningly put in front of them.

It would be fun for both students and the teacher - and I bet the kids would do well at both literacy and numeracy!


Anonymous said...

The school holidays are a chance for children to explore their environment- that is if they can be prised from the technology in their bedrooms.

A knowledgeable adult is an important ingredient to assist children develop awareness.

Anonymous said...

If only we could keep this curiosity alive. It seems a shame that formal schooling ignores student's qestions and queries in their attempt to teach students what they think the students ought to know!

Anonymous said...

I know an 82 year old who retains the curiosity of a young child that you talk of. Going on a walk with her you have to be prepared to stop regularly, look at plants, seed capsules on the footpath and anything and everything that is happening in the environment. I admire this. I think there is often a rediscovery of the wonder's of the world as you get older, with others it is a lifelong adventure.

Bruce Hammonds said...

It is a sign of hope that curiosity is for some people a life long trait - possibly the secret of living a full life - being forever curious - open to learning.

Guy Jean said...

Great post, Bruce, and pic. Now, do you have any advice for how to re-ignite curiosity that has been stifled by school? I'm all ears!

Bruce Hammonds said...

Read the material I recently posted about John Holt or look back in my blog for ideas about personalising learning - or my blogs about Robert Fried.