TEDx West Van Ed: I Wonder How to Encourage Wonder?

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One of the many reasons I love spending a whole day taking part in a TEDx is that it forces me to sit, listen and reflect. I attended TEDx West Vancouver Ed: Rethinking Education yesterday and now am filled to the brim with reflections and ideas of my role in education and as a parent. This will be the first of a few blog posts that I have rattling in my brain.

The first speaker was “Inquiry Based Learning Consultant” Kath Murdoch @kjinquiry (Kudos to her for having to go first!). Kath spoke about how classrooms need to be a place where we invite wonder in. I loved her image of a car being a wonder bubble. As anyone who has had to drive kids anywhere knows, car rides stimulate many questions from kids. The longer the car ride, the more out there the questions get! How can educators replicate the wonder inducing environment of a car ride into the classroom?

During lunch several colleagues expressed that they were frustrated that their students, when asked, weren’t able to come up with questions or wonders. They felt that their students needed to be taught how to ask questions all over again and that for some reason as early as grade one, the sense of wonder was stripped from their students. Last year, while introducing Genius Hour to several intermediate classes, I was dismayed that our students could not ask a good question or name a passion they would like to explore. I automatically chalked this up to the idea that kids have learned to expect to be told what to do and the older they are the more difficult it is to get them to independently learn or even want to learn.

While this is somewhat true, I have to wonder, what are we as educators doing to encourage an environment of wonder? Why are we expecting students to come up with great wonders on demand? How would you answer right at this moment if you were asked, What do you wonder about? I don’t know about you, but I get anxious just thinking about it. Will my wonder be good enough? What will everyone say about my wonder? Now I wonder… how do our students feel?

We all have an innate sense of wonder, it is part of what makes us human! We just can not expect students to reveal wonders on demand. While some students will share wonders with anyone, I believe most students (as most adults) need time and a conducive environment to germinate wonders. I love the idea of a wonder wall. I have seen many examples and think it’s a great idea for students to feel free to add to it at any time they have a wonder. Then, when it is “wonder research time” or genius hour, they have a wall of wonders to choose from. However, if students do not feel like they have a safe, respectful class environment, wonders will never be revealed. Maybe this is why car rides are so great for wonders!

So, with this all in mind, what are you doing to encourage an environment of wonder?