In the words of Thomas Edison, ‘the greatest invention in the world is the mind of a child’. Infants are born curious and curiosity is strongest during childhood. Curiosity is vital for learning as it fosters motivation and makes the learning process more enjoyable. Without curiosity, Italian mathematician Galileo Galilei may never have pointed a telescope at the moon, Alexander Fleming may not have discovered penicillin, and Alexander Graham Bell may never have patented the telephone.
Last term I wrote an article on creative thinking. This has been labelled a 21st century learning skill and it incorporates curiosity, imagination and the ability to generate new ideas and make new links. So important to learning is this skill that it underpins both the Australian Curriculum and the new senior Queensland Certificate of Education.
Unfortunately, curiosity seldom survives into adulthood (Keen 1973) because, as students continue through school, they start believing that answers are more important than questions.
Schools play an important role in provoking and extending student curiosity, questioning, critical thinking and learning. Both within and outside of the classroom, schools foster student openness to experience new things and empower them so they are encouraged to take ownership of their own knowledge and their own personal creative development.
At Girls Grammar, teaching staff build curiosity by encouraging students to ask questions and to seek our possibilities. Some examples include:
Our Years 5 and 6 are currently participating in literature circles. These focus on higher level thinking skills by facilitating a learning situation where students must sustain a conversation around their novel. The structure of the conversations centres on students’ observations, questions and wonderings and encourages engagement in the text, curiosity about the plot, characters and themes and opportunities to challenge, ask questions and debate ideas.
Our Year 4 students researched characters as part of their Australian studies unit. As they explored the background, lives and challenges of their characters, they used their inquisitiveness to pose questions, investigate history and present possibilities.
In Science, our girls are regularly provided with opportunities to develop inquiry skills through the provision of investigative problems. Within their fieldwork in Year 7, students explored ecosystems, asking questions to plan identifying variables that could be changed and measured, before collecting and analysing data.
Science lessons also incorporate hands-on activities that provide a tangible way to make students wonder, question and engage. These activities arouse students’ curiosity about the concept, making them more motivated to learn about subjects that could be considered boring or difficult if presented from a textbook.
Our Years 10 and 11 art students recently attended a two-day camp at Ferns Hideaway. Rather than being told what to create, or how to represent their ideas, the girls were given a series of challenges which they were free to interpret in individual ways. Workshops with guest artists provided additional stimulus, but the girls explored the area to select their own resources and develop their own creative responses to the challenges.
In English, rather than completing a traditional plot study, students are encouraged to be curious by actively analysing and challenging perspectives and representations of concepts, identities, times and places within the texts they are studying. Year 10 students currently completing a film study are asked to question the representations, putting forward an argument about why the director has made those choices to influence the audience.
The hands-on learning environment of the new agriculture garden enhances depth of understanding of theoretical aspects. As they engage in planting and growing crops, they ask questions, make observations, experiment and find solutions for problems. Their intrigue at the progress of their crops reflects their enjoyment in the experience of learning.
In mathematics, students learn more easily if they are interested in the topics and can see how they are related to life. Real-life situations and problems are used to ‘hook’ students into the mathematical concepts and provide opportunities for them to ask questions, analyse and draw conclusions. Some activities that are used to promote curiosity include investigating number patterns with dice, investigating probability and asking questions that ask them to wonder about some day to day contexts.
In enrichment, students are pursuing independent learning projects, allowing them to engage in topics of personal interest, explore the aspects about which they are curious and go beyond the usual time and space restrictions of the standard curriculum.
The desire to learn or know makes our brains more receptive for learning. Fostering curiosity in learning helps children enjoy their learning and therefore supports positive dispositions and approaches towards learning. I would like to thank our teaching staff for finding opportunities to develop this important life skill within and across the curriculum.
5 weeks to go!
Despite there being only five weeks remaining until the Christmas break, there is much happening in our community.
Best wishes to our Year 12 students as they commence external examinations next week. Following the release this week of their confirmed internal results, the girls know exactly their scores heading into their final pieces of assessment. We wish them our support and much success.
With the Year 12s on study week in preparation for their exams, our Year 11s have commenced their role as the new leaders of the school. To celebrate, this morning we hosted a breakfast on McKeague deck for the Year 11s. Our guest speaker was Old Girl Madelyn Holmes.
Good luck to our touch football teams who commence the finals series over the coming weeks.
Auditions are well underway for Girls Rock – we have some very talented students and look forward to seeing this year’s performances. More information will be provided to families in the near future.
Preparations have commenced for Speech Night with invitations to be posted shortly. Please read Dr Fry’s weekly report to keep abreast of the details for this year’s event.
Year 12 farewell events will be held in their final week of school. Details will be provided in due course.
Our School Party, with this year’s theme of carnival, will be held on Friday 26th November. Our Year 11s are planning a fun day of activities for our students and staff.