Photo by woodley wonderworks From the article Using Books to Meet the Social & Emotional Needs of Gifted Students, Judith Wynn Halsted writes that gifted children must (among other things):
learn to take responsibility for finding ways to satisfy their intellectual curiosity and to express their creativity.
As a teacher I also have a responsibility to offer opportunities for intellectual curiosity and expressive creativity.
I always try to expose students to interesting ideas beyond the scope of our classroom, whether this means bringing in The Beatles, showing a strange animation, or peeking at the grammar of another language.
These simple tastes automatically stir up curiosity from students. Many latch onto the idea and explore it at home. However, this leaves the development of curiosity and creativity in the hands of the student at home.
Is there a way to bring in more explicit instruction to guide students in pursuing curiosity?
Offering Time To Be Creative
In another article, I paralleled our gifted students to employees at Google, who receive one day a week (paid time) to pursue personal projects. These personal projects often become official Google products.
A favorite speaker of mine, Merlin Mann stated that employees’ motivation increases when they get to “build a robot” once in a while. That is, their boss gives them opportunities to be curious and creative beyond the scope of typical work.
Can we do this at school?
Offices have “casual Fridays,” can we have “curiosity Fridays?”
Now, don’t mistake this for the kind of “Fun Fridays” which are really an hour of free play on the blacktop. No, this will be rigorous, accountable to standards, and chock-full of creativity and curiosity.
If you really dig into your standards, you’ll find treats that offer incredible freedom. Our CA 6th grade science standards, for example, have a section on the scientific method (emphasis is mine):
As a basis for understanding this concept, and to address the content the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
- develop a hypothesis.
- select and use appropriate tools and technology (including calculators, computers, balances, spring scales, microscopes, and binoculars) to perform tests, collect data, and display data.
- construct appropriate graphs from data and develop qualitative statements about the relationships between variables.
- communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written reports and verbal presentations.
- recognize whether evidence is consistent with a proposed explanation.
In Language Arts, we have the following writing standard:
Create a multiple-paragraph expository composition that
- engages the interest of the reader and states a clear purpose
- develops the topic with supportive details, precise verbs, nouns, and adjectives to paint a visual image in the mind of the reader
- concludes with a detailed summary linked to the purpose of composition
Is there one hour a week where students could perform tests and collect data on a topic of their choosing?
Is there an hour a week for students to research and practice high-level chess, writing a “multi-paragraph expository composition” about their discoveries?
This would be carefully scaffolded and structured. Depth and complexity would be built in. Standards would be met. But for an hour, kids could engage in an activity that promotes curiosity and creativity.
The next posts will explore the structure necessary to set up Curiosity Fridays.