FOSTERING THE GIFT OF CURIOSITYBy: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
You can see it in their eyes. It sparkles and lights up their faces. It’s curiosity, and it must be cultivated and nurtured, or it will die.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “…at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Curiosity might be the mother of invention, but it is also the mother of learning.
Some children seem to lose some of their drive to learn and explore as they approach the middle school years, and teachers and parents become anxious to get back that childhood enthusiasm for learning. Where did it go?
Many books have been written, teaching techniques explored, and countless hours of research spent in the quest for the answer to what keeps the desire for learning at its peak.
Of course, there is no simple answer, but after many years of teaching, I believe that parents and teachers must continuously act as facilitators for learning. They should be relentless in their efforts to follow the interests that the child expresses and to provide materials and experiences in those particular areas of interest.
A child is his or her own best teacher.
Childhood is full of opportunities for exploration through toys, games, books, movies, television, and countless child centered activities. Places like the Museum of The Albemarle, Arts of the Albemarle, and Port Discover are settings where kids can experiment and find their personal interests.
For all of the criticism directed at media, they also provide many golden sparks for kids’ curiosity. Finding Nemo, the Ice Age series, Madagascar series, Wall-E, Lorax, Rio, Bambi, and 2001, A Space Odyssey all cause kids to wonder about the world of science.
Although the science is not always the most accurate in such programs as Sponge Bob and other cartoons, they still might cause the child to ask questions and become interested.
That’s when the parent can seize the opportunity to acquire books, magazines, and materials from the library, take the child on a field to a museum or science program, or just probe for questions that the child might be wondering about and try to answer them.
One avenue that can be helpful is keeping up with current science events. Just this summer there have been so many topics to explore like global warming, drought, flooding, space exploration, archeological discovery, and the list goes on and on.
One of my newest discoveries is www.neok12.com which is a treasure house of free online videos, lessons, quizzes, games, and puzzles for kids, teachers, and parents. Organizations such as the British Broadcasting Company offer documentaries on a variety of topics such as prehistoric America, dinosaurs, and the Ice Age.
Remember that a child’s first question is usually “Why?” As their first teacher, you can easily become equipped with all that you need. You will probably learn something together, and that’s the fun of it.