By Traci Morihara '91, HBA Elementary STEM Coordinator
Children are naturally curious. They observe the world around them, wonder how things work, and ask a ton of questions. Nurturing the natural curiosity of children can help them become lifelong learners, and develop within them a joy of learning. In addition, curiosity plays a large role in academic success. Recent studies show that curiosity prepares the brain for learning, enhances long term memory, and develops connections in the brain that make learning easier. With all these benefits, what can we do to help develop and sustain a child's sense of curiosity?
Here are a few things that can help foster curiosity in your child:
- Take time to observe the world around you. Whether at a park, in your yard, or on a hike, have your child describe what he/she is seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling.
- Ask open-ended questions that may have more than one "right" answer. When asking questions, focus on the "what" instead of the "why." "What" questions help to stimulate thinking and allow the child to be the subject matter expert.
- What do you notice?
- What do you think will happen next?
- What else can you do?
- Pursue new interests as a family. It may be scary for a child to try new things by him/herself at times. By making it a family adventure, curiosity can be fostered in a safe environment.
- Encourage tinkering. Whether it's a tinkering basket with a variety of recycled materials, apps to animate stories, or traditional paper and pencil for poetry writing or drawing, providing opportunities to tinker allows your child to imagine, innovate, and create.
- Redefine failure. A famous Michael Jordan quote says, "I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." When failure is celebrated as a stepping stone to success, a child is given the freedom to be curious and develop the courage to make mistakes and try new things.
- Model curiosity. Share with your child things that you are curious about. Ask him/her about the things he/she is curious about. Turn traditionally boring situations, like waiting in line, into curiosity adventures by wondering aloud with your child and being on the lookout for interesting things.
At Hawaii Baptist Academy, curiosity is nurtured at every grade level, from Kindergarten to 12th grade. At the elementary campus, the newly created Innovation Station utilizes open-ended STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) challenges to encourage young minds to brainstorm, design, build, collaborate, and try new things as they explore various scientific and mathematical concepts.
In middle and high school, curiosity and exploration continue through courses such as robotics, applied engineering, digital arts, and computer programming, as well as clubs like Math League and Science Olympiad. Hands-on, project-based activities are at the core of STEM learning throughout all stages of academic development. If you would like to experience HBA STEM, watch the video below of the annual Boat Regatta held at Wet 'n' Wild where students conduct labs regarding pendulums, energy, wave motion, water quality, and much more.
Want to try your own STEM challenges at home? A quick online search will generate a multitude of activities that can be done by children (and adults) of all ages.
Deeper learning. Empathy. Motivation. Additional benefits of curiosity. There's a whole world out there to explore. Allow curiosity to be the spark for a lifetime of learning, discovery, and play.