Children are naturally curious. We know this from the numerous questions they ask each day. However, for some reason it seems as children get older the number of questions asked become fewer. As educators we want to encourage students to continue asking questions and to stay curious and engaged in learning, but how? We’ve all said “there are no silly questions” and while true, is there more we can be doing in the classroom to help encourage inquiry? The answer is yes, and below are four examples of how curiosity can be fostered in the classroom.
1. Value curiosity
It is important for students to know the value of curiosity. This can be done by noticing and reinforcing curiosity when it occurs in the classroom. Praise students for asking good questions. Also encourage students to dig deeper and expand on their question. Remind students that the process of finding an answer (discovery) is just as important as the answer itself.
RESOURCE: For junior high and high school grades, watch The Power of Curiosity (5:22) as a class. The video demonstrates the importance of asking ‘what if?’ and “why” and “why not.” Some of our greatest inventions and theories have come from these simple questions. What hypothetical questions do your students have? How can these questions be answered?
2. Model curiosity
Curiosity is contagious! Model curiosity by thinking aloud when going through learning activities with students. When doing a read aloud or watching a video, pause to question what is being read or watched. Explain to students what you are thinking, questions you have, and anything that has piqued your interest – be enthusiastic about learning! Encourage students to model this behaviour when reading on their own. Another way to model curiosity is to become familiar with well-known individuals who have used their curiosity to change how we see the world!
RESOURCE: For elementary grades, read aloud The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with Chimps by Jeanette Winter, Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating and/or On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. If you don’t have access to the books you can watch the read aloud videos: The Watcher (11:12), Shark Lady (7:42) and/or On a Beam of Light (13:51).
3. Make it personal
Give students the freedom to explore what interests them. You can have structure around their choice by giving students a general topic (ie. Needs of exotic pets) and provide opportunity for students to refine the topic to meet their individual interest (ie. How to take care of a pet budgie).
4. Encourage curiosity outside of the classroom
Curiosity does not stop in the classroom. Encourage students to continue asking questions at home, and elsewhere outside of school. Encourage them to be observant and curious about their environment when walking home from school, while on the bus, or when playing at recess. Help parents/guardians understand the importance of curiosity and why asking questions is valuable!
RESOURCE: With parental/guardian permission, students can download the Seek app. Seek uses image recognition technology to identify animals, bugs, and plants that students find while outside! This child friendly app does not require an account to be set up and no user data is collected, and is sure to keep students interested in learning about the world around them.
For more resources on fostering curiosity in your classroom, be sure to visit our Stay Curious webpage for grade specific discussion questions and classroom activities (curriculum linked) that accompany this year’s poster and are available for you to download! What are some other ways you encourage curiosity in your classroom?