The more curious a child is, the more they learn. Nurturing children in their curiosity is one of the best ways you can support a child to engage in authentic self-sustained learning. It can create learning habits for a lifetime.
All children are naturally curious - they are born that way. Children are always seeking to discover how the world works. As educators, we don't need to make children curious or push children to learn, they will seek out these activities on their own if we give them the time, materials, and opportunities to explore on their environments and make their own discoveries. Think about how you scaffold curiosity in the classroom.
Model interest in the world around you and ask questions out loud. Do you take time to think aloud in class, wondering, "What might happen if I mix yellow and red paint together?"
Follow children's interest. Do you let your plans go, when all the children rush to the window to watch a flock of birds go by? Do you follow up on their interest in the birds by starting a conversation and then following that conversation with a provocation the next day?
Give children time to process their questions. After all, their minds are growing and it can take longer to put ideas together. Ask a question, and then add, 'Let's all take a little time to think about our answers." This gives a little space for all children to reflect on the question.
Provide questions rather than answers. When a question is asked of you, do you come back and ask the question back to them, what do you think? How might we find the answer to your question?
Think aloud with children when you don't know an answer. If you don't have an answer do you let them know? "I don't know the answer to that question, how could we find out? Where might we look for the answer?
Use more open-ended than closed questions. Closed questions have a yes/no response. Open-ended questions can start with... "Tell me about?” "How do you feel about?", "What do you think we might do next?" These kinds of questions encourage children to develop their thoughts and ideas. Asking questions and authentically listening helps us to have a window into children's inner lives.
Foster an interesting environment. Foster environments that are full of open-end materials (those materials with more than one purpose). Think about your space. Can it be messy? Can children mix materials together to create new ways on thinking about their work?
Provide opportunities to extend explorations. Do children have opportunities to work on their projects over a period of days? Are there protected spaces in the classroom that encourage children to revisit and extend their work? Providing these spaces invites children to extend their interest over time and dive deeper in learning.
Rotate materials. Are materials rotated in the classroom? Rotating materials can bring energy into exploration and allow children to make new connections to their work in the classroom?
Embracing and fostering curiosity is one of the greatest gifts we can give children.
How do you foster children's curiosity in your program?