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Curiosity – The Fuel of Learning

10 March 2016

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind”

                                                                                          -Samuel Johnson (1751)

 

  • Curiosity

Over the last few weeks of great activity at BISS Puxi, it has been highly evident that we are a thriving community of creative and curious people. From performances to project and science investigations – our teachers are ensuring that students are given the stimulus and opportunity to nurture and develop the important characteristic of curiosity. As educators we know that curiosity is the engine of intellectual achievement — it’s what drives us to keep learning, to keep trying and to keep pushing forward to fill the gaps in our knowledge. The scientific research also tells us that children and young people who often experience curiosity and act on these feelings to explore their world, perform better at school, in relationships, at work, and end up being intelligent, creative, satisfied people.

We are all, to some extent, naturally curious but we are not all equally curious about everything. Curiosity is a quality, which rises and falls throughout our life, depending on what we're doing, where we are and who we are with. This is both reassuring and daunting. Reassuring because it means that as teachers and parents we can have a big influence in nurturing and awakening curiosity in children but also daunting because doing so involves a sustained and conscious effort and there is no “one model fits all” approach.

So what are some ways to cultivate curiosity in our children? Firstly, the best way for parents and teachers to encourage children's curiosity is to stay curious themselves, but that's also harder than it sounds. As we get older, we have a tendency to fall back on what we know, but curiosity is like a muscle: it atrophies without use. To keep it strong, we need to adopt the perspective of young children, and remain intensely conscious of what we don't know. We need to be good role models for our children.

We know that young children are constantly asking questions and as adults we often rush to give the answers. However, it is the question that stimulates curiosity; being told an answer quells curiosity before it can even get going. So as parents and teachers, we need to devote more time to developing and asking genuinely interesting questions — ones that open an information gap and feed curious minds. More asking - less telling.

We’re not curious about something we know absolutely nothing about but as soon as we know even a little bit, our curiosity is piqued. This is why we need to help develop a growth mindset by actively planning for new experiences that challenge and move children and students out of their familiar comfort zones and require them to stretch their skills and knowledge to the limit. By repeatedly being curious, children become more open to new experiences, more comfortable dealing with tension and anxiety, and more resilient. But is important to remember to be responsive to what each child is interested in and cares about as this will allow more autonomy and ownership of their actions, allowing curiosity to flourish.

We also need to encourage children to be open minded and flexible thinkers. Through our actions and words we need to remind them that there is always more than one perspective to look at an issue and that they should consider more than one whenever possible. We need to encourage them to remain curious and continue to learn about and from others, rather than falling prey to stereotypes. We need them to work collaboratively and develop personal and intellectual confidence to challenge and be challenged.

Our children can't feel good all the time but they can almost always be open-minded, and curious. With this mindset, they are liable to “catch” happiness and feel more fulfilled in their school and personal lives. Curiosity is alive and well here at BISS Puxi but we need to continually strive as a school community to ensure that we promote and allow curiosity to flourish in all our students. We will work hard on this at school and hope that you will work hard on this at home!

Niki Meehan, Vice Principal.