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?
I too worked with a teacher to introduce Genius Hour and had a similar experience. It took some time for the students to recognize that questions and their learning didn’t have to be what they thought “school” was all about! I remember two grade 6 boys who struggled with a focus up until one day they came in from recess with a worm in a jar and asked if they could build it a home. One said, “I wonder what it would need?” And that simple question became their project and led to learning about animal needs, ecosystems, food chains, respect for animals, and much more!
When I visit classes and hunker down beside kids to ask what they’re learning, I always try to ask an “I wonder” question, and then ask them what they wonder about. It’s important to make it explicit that wondering is an important part of learning!
Thanks for your comment, Carol. Genius Hour is so difficult for some students, but the wonder is in there! You are right, we have to be explicit that wondering is a part of learning it also has to be just a regular part of the day and we have to not see wonders as distractions but opportunities for learning.
Thanks for the blog post. One of the ways I think we support wonder is by modelling risk taking ourselves. When teachers say “I don’t know, let’s find out more” or when we acknowledge our mistakes and try again, we demonstrate that it’s ok to dream, it’s ok to try and the best way to learn is often to try something out, test it, learn and refine for the next step.
I wonder what it would take to allow all teachers to feel like they were completely supported with their risk taking as good modelling for children?
Thanks for your thoughtful post,
Thanks for the comment Jordan.
So true, there are so many ideas that also can be applied to educators too. We are all learners after all! With such a diverse and large district it is a great task to get to a place where all teachers feel completely supported with their risk taking. I don’t think it’s impossible though. Having opportunities to share our successes AND mistakes is a great step.