Building A Better Student: Leveraging Curiosity

girl holding toothpick and marshmallow model of a cell

We’re all curious about different things. You may be fascinated by the way colors combine to create unique shades, while I might gaze for twenty minutes at the way ants go about their business, crawling in and out of their colony. Who’s to say what grabs our attention, right?

>Now imagine a classroom of twenty-five students, with twenty-five different interests and twenty-five separate styles of learning. Every day teachers are asked to inspire each of those students to learn and develop at the same pace.

Right.

So how can a parent help?  (And make no mistake, parents should be partners in this process.)

At the very least it’s important to understand that getting a child interested in learning is one of the earliest and most important components of education. Once you engage a young person’s mind – when you leverage their natural curiosity – you find that they’re actually hungry to learn. It’s the act of engaging that is paramount to success, using real-world applications.

One of the best I’ve ever seen at this process is Steve Spangler, an educator who today inspires the teachers who work with your kids.

Steve has found that fun, entertaining experiments bring the sometimes-challenging concepts of science down to an “a-ha” level for both adults and kids. His lessons are brimming with ordinary household items that suddenly produce extraordinary results. You can find many of these in his wildly-entertaining books, and you can even see them in action during one of Steve’s frequent appearances on the Ellen DeGenerous show.

What he’s doing is teaching adults how to reach into a student’s mind and tap into their inherent curiosity. Sure, you can show a child a formula for acceleration, and that’s fine; but strap a two-liter bottle of soda onto a skateboard – which Steve does – then drop in some Mentos mints and . . . well, suddenly you have created a rocket car which does more to explain the process than any textbook would ever do.

The world is actually one big laboratory. I recently walked around a small lake with a ten-year-old, and in that one forty-minute stroll managed to show examples of erosion, the life-cycle of trees, and duck propulsion. It was a walking classroom. And, best of all, I found out later that the student went back out on her own the next day.

Her natural curiosity was leveraged through practical – and interesting – observation and conversation. Teachers would love it if you’d spend a little bit of time engaging your child away from an electronic screen. Find the elements of math, science, history – anything educational – that grabs her interest and use it to connect the dots. Honestly, nobody will know what triggers your young student better than you do, right?

And once you leverage that innate curiosity, the classroom will begin to not only make more sense to her, but will also become less intimidating.

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty-three years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit student development foundation. His new book, Smart is Cool, will be published in August, 2014. More info at www.DomTesta.com Find out more about Steve Spangler and his fantastic experiments at SteveSpanglerScience.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their kids to love learning.

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