Frank Schofield, superintendent, Logan City School District

 

 

Did You Know? Did You Know?

Did You Know That it’s All Right to Wonder?

These first lines from a song debuted by Fred Rogers in 1979 pose a question that might seem unnecessary. Do we really need a reminder that it’s OK to wonder? Yet in a world that can often seem obsessed with having the “right” answer to whatever question or challenge we are presented with, we all might need permission to wonder a little more and worry less about simply making sure we are right.

This becomes especially important with children. Curiosity, our sense of wonder, is one of the best ways to help children learn new things. In 2009, researchers at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) found that when we are curious our brains indicate “the type of feeling you have before the curtain goes up on a play you have wanted to see for a long time.” When research participants felt this curiosity, their brains were more powerfully primed to learn new things, and retain that new knowledge, making curiosity a prime element of effective learning.

In addition to helping us learn, curiosity inspires experimentation and innovation. It increases our adaptability as we are open to new questions and ideas. It can lead to empathy as we seek to understand the experiences of others, and it encourages the exploration that leads each of us to new experiences and interests that enrich our personal lives. Curiosity is so important, so fundamental to who we are as human beings, that psychologists put it on par with the drive to eat and sleep!

Considering the ways in which curiosity can positively affect us, we each have an interest in encouraging curiosity in the children we engage with. In the book When You Wonder You’re Learning: Mister Roger’s Enduring Lesson for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids, the authors have a number of recommendations for doing just that. For example:
• “When kids are in a state of wonder, they’re more likely to retain what they see, hear, and experience. Pay attention to what elicits children’s curiosity — when their interest is piqued, their brains are primed for learning. When kids ask why the wind blows or why leaves change color in the fall, it’s sometimes helpful to ask open-ended questions in return, especially if you’re not entirely sure of the answer yourself. The process of discovery can be just as important as finding the factually correct answer.”
• “Once I saw a teacher who had in her classroom something called an ‘Ask it Basket.’ When children would ask a question, she would write it down and say, ‘That’s a great one to put in the Ask it Basket.’ Whether or not you could answer it as the adult — either in that moment or later on — that simple action told children that their questions matter.”
• “Kids can catch curiosity, so it’s important for them to see adults indulging interests of their own. What makes you curious? What do you love to do, and why? If you’re not sure, this is a great excuse to reexamine old hobbies — to pull out those abandoned paintbrushes or dust off that old guitar. It’s also helpful to verbalize your questions and thoughts: ‘I wonder what would happen if I mix these colors together?’ or, ‘How does this knob change the instrument’s sound?”

As families engage in activities this summer, the opportunities to encourage curiosity are practically limitless! Whether we are indoors or outdoors, with a large group or one-on-one, during the day or at night, adults can find ways to demonstrate their own curiosity and encourage the curiosity of the children they care for. If these activities feel less structured than we as adults might like, remember the closing lines of Mr. Rogers’ song “Did You Know”:

“Did you know when you wonder, you’re learning?

Did you know when you marvel, you’re learning?

About all kinds of wonderful,

All kinds of marvelous,

Marvelously wonderful things?”

I hope you have a marvelously curious summer!