Curiosity is powerful. It encourages us to ask questions, seek answers, think critically, and find solutions to problems both big and small. It helps us to be open to others, build understanding and foster empathy – and it needs to be nurtured. Astrophysicist and science educator, Neil deGrasse Tyson has lamented that “kids are born curious about the world. What adults primarily do in the presence of kids is unwittingly thwart [that] curiosity.”
However, curiosity is an essential part of learning. Research suggests that curiosity in a subject area positively correlates to retention of information. Teaching that promotes curiosity can help improve student success at meeting learning outcomes.
Our theme for the year Stay Curious focuses on sparking curiosity and wonder about our natural world including the animals in it. Sparking curiosity through animals is supported through the biophilia hypothesis.
Put forward by biologist E.O. Wilson, the biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans have an innate drive to connect with nature and other living things – a byproduct of human evolution. As such, children are born intrinsically curious about the natural world around them, including, and especially about animals. This makes animals a natural conduit for sparking curiosity that can be extended to others and the environment.
Current global challenges require that we seek innovative ways of doing things that respect the planet while promoting and improving the well-being of all living things. Young people, with their creativity, imagination and optimism have the greatest potential to create positive change – let’s not hold them back.