noun. The quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful.

   In the midst of a pandemic, I found myself supporting a sort of one-room-school-house mixed-age group of children. Due to their ages when the pandemic began, these students had a variety of schooling experiences and “holes” in their education. For that reason, we integrated skills they may have missed from multiple grade levels that would likely be useful in future schooling, all while simultaneously evoking the goal that learning should be interesting and meaningful. One such topic was map skills, including the basics of land and water formations.

     The Next Generation Science Standard for land and water formations is in second grade, and reflects several important areas of knowledge and skill that would be required for the task. Students had to notice patterns in the natural world, recall various vocabulary terms and understand their meaning, understand that maps are used to show where things are located including land and water formations. All of those science skills would be used to build a model to represent patterns found in the natural world. In this case the specific task involved multiple levels of cognition: to recall vocabulary terms for land and water formations found on Earth, understand what each formation looks like, and apply that to building and labeling a model.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” - George S. Patton

     After visiting a variety of stations around the room to study and practice the various land and water formation vocabulary words, students were asked to create a model using what they learned. Two sets of materials were offered: one basket of Lego bricks, and one basket of mixed materials such as fabrics, rocks, paper, and blocks. Students worked in small groups, choosing their supplies, building a model inclusive of eight land or water formations, for which they created written labels. This example illustrates that critical and creative thinking are closely intertwined. In this case, students had to think creatively to utilize their knowledge of land and water formations and visualize ways to represent those with the materials available; they also had to think critically, to ensure that their product represented the critical attributes of the formations and worked logically as a model of land and water (example: students made a waterfall that flowed into a river.) As a proponent of playful learning and working with loose parts to encourage creative thinking, I enjoyed seeing the purposeful engagement of older students completing their science task, as well as the variety of creative ideas, and the pleasure and pride on all their faces!

Launch Curiosity

Curiosity is innate in humans. Think about it…

It is the motivator to roll over as infants, to crawl, walk, reach.

At what point does curiosity diminish, or does it simply go dormant as we grow out of practice?

In my work with younger students, the practice and development of curiosity is a foremost objective. Through practicing the skills of curiosity: wonder, questioning, investigation, and connection we develop children’s curiosity as well as critical thinking, scientific and research skills, excitement for reading and much more!

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