An inquiry into curiosity

If you look up the term “curiosity” on Wikipedia, this is what you’ll find:

Curiosity (from Latin curiosus “carefuldiligentcurious,” akin to cura “care“) is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in human and many animal species.[1][2] The term can also be used to denote the behavior itself being caused by the emotion of curiosity. As this emotion represents a thirst for knowledge, curiosity is a major driving force behind scientific research and other disciplines of human study.

Interesting how the word is strongly linked with emotions. Armed with the new connotations attached to curiosity (careful, deliberate, emotional),  I went about observing how the students behaved in each science center. When I asked my kids which center they enjoyed the most (emotions), most of the boys pointed to the Break-A-Machine- Apart center. To be honest, I did not think they would learn much here as the machine were mostly electronic devises and had lots of wires and batteries inside them. However, when I sat with them and looked a bit closer, I saw a plethora of simple machines! But most of all, I caught a glimpse of Curiosity! I observed how they caught their breath; the delightful gleam in their eyes as they managed to unscrew a gadget and take a peak inside the mysterious world of machines.

Curiosity Rover on the red planet, Mars

As I sat chatting with the kids at the end of the day, I realized I still needed to explore areas that would peak some of the girls’ curiosity. I also realized that not all learning engagements have to directly relate to the understanding of the principles of simple machines. If I was able to make them wonder, while experiencing the feeling of being happy, I had ignited enough neurons to create lifelong learners!  Brain research indicates that students learn best when they are happy.

However, I am still working on how to motivate some of the girls in my class.

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6 Responses to An inquiry into curiosity

  1. Carole says:
    Amazing website for curiosity


  2. colleenkr says:

    Like you, I never considered the connection between curiosity and emotion. It makes sense, though, doesn’t it? The feelings we experience when we wonder “what if” are so satisfying sometimes, especially when we are provided with materials with which we can answer some of our questions & curiosities.
    Thanks for sharing these thoughts.


  3. CliveSir says:

    I don’t really get this – how could curiosity NOT be related to emotions? How do YOU feel when you’re engaged, exploring and discovering?
    Girls are naturally as curious about what makes machines tick as boys, in my experience. Take the case off a PC to let a mixed bunch of kids see what’s inside and you’ll find the girls elbowing their way to the front! It has to be a “safe” environment, mind. Safe to do such things, make wild suggestions and so on, without being ridiculed.
    I would love to give a group of children a pile of old hard disks and the special screwdrivers needed to open them. Don’t tell them what they are, get them to make predictions, let them get on with it, and then report back what they discovered and how they felt. Heaps of learning for everyone!
    But then maybe I’m biased – I am an electronics engineer after all 🙂


  4. nainibasui says:

    Hi Clive,

    I did not, if you will notice, say all girls. I alluded to some of them based on my observations.. And what I meant to say was, they were clearly not emotionally engaged when I gave them a screw driver to break apart machines. The reason I dwelt on the topic of curiosity, was that, at times, it becomes a tokenism. “There is the wonder wall, so put up your questions”…At times the questions are asked at the very early stages on inquiry. Some educators may need to appreciate and understand the link between curiosity/happiness/ conducive learning environment. Also, culturally (and we cant ignore this) men are the mechanics; the guys who love to potter around with tools. At times, the obvious stares us in the face 🙂 and we don’t see it.


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