I just got back to my hotel in Atlanta after the first night of 2010’s National Association of Gifted Children Convention.
This was a panel discussion moderated by Camilla Benbow of Vanderbilt University and featured:
- Dr. Kathryn Sullivan – Former NASA astronaut
- Dr. Niescja Turner – Professor at Florida Institute of Technology
- Joseph Stunzi – Named “America’s Top Young Scientist of the Year” by The Discovery Channel
Undeniable Pattern: The Importance of Curiosity
Each panelist said a pro-curiosity environment was the most important factor of their early lives that led to their tremendous careers in science and technology. Their homes were centered around answering questions. They watched their parents be curious and were encouraged to be a part of the process.
When asked about how school helped lead them to research, each panelist mentioned people who encouraged them to explore their interests, even if they were “impractical.” They discussed their unique opportunities to explore paleontology, African-American literature, French, and astrophysics before college. Unfortunately, it seems that these experiences occurred at either special schools or through mentorships outside of a traditional school.
The panelists emphasized a need for teaching research skills first and content second. Panelists explained that guided curiosity was the key to their own deep understanding of content. When I consider those areas in which I am an expert, it is definitely consistent with their statement. The areas I’ve explored most deeply are those that I have been most interested in. And the discipline to explore properly was learned from my teachers. We must teach our students how to explore and learn with a high level of expectations.
This panel really made me glad that I started implementing Curiosity Fridays this year (although it’s now CuriosiTuesdays!). I will definitely be incorporating the panelists’ ideas to improve this time of guided curiosity.
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