Why watch wonder bloom?
As we start the school year and as my family moves to our new home in Fort Lee, VA, I've appreciated that I've had time to slow down and notice all that I learned in my time in Sanford, NC. I moved here to teach and am moving to VA as a military family. As a new teacher, then as a grad student, then a beginning teacher support staff person, and then as a parent, I have seen first hand the importance of a sense of a wonder. I have a BS in Environmental Geology and spent a semester studying mountain ecosystem conservation, so you'd think I've had read the works of Rachel Carson... I haven't, but admitting that will likely inspire me to read them :). In my first job at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, I stumbled upon (and flipped through - at least :) one of Carson's books, The Sense of Wonder: A Celebration of Nature for Parents and Children. The phrase, "sense of wonder" has stuck with me, especially on hikes and pretty, sunrise runs - and in tough moments with a very young baby.
Early in my teaching career, I started to realize that my students were scared to wonder - wonder meant they did not know, that they had to ask or search for answers. Wonder is scary - it means what we know might change. I began to spend two weeks at the beginning of each semester on questioning - just getting comfortable with wondering, asking, and exploring - everything changed! Students were more excited and engaged and I did not feel like I was trying to shove content into brains that weren't open to new information. In my first semester at UNCG for my MEd we read part of Eleanor Duckworth's "The Having of Wonderful Ideas" which helped me understand why my emphasis on questioning worked. It's all about cultivating a sense of wonder so that we can #watchwonderbloom.
There is VERY little in life that we can control, but we can be curious about all the craziness that happens - we can allow ourselves to wonder and we can help others do the same. We can wonder why our kiddo is crying for 3 hours a night before falling asleep - perhaps replacing our frustration with curiosity. We can wonder why a student didn't turn in a paragraph - perhaps before we jump into assigning a low grade. And, we can start to plant the seeds of wonder that lead to excitement, research, reading, practice, and learning for the kiddos in our lives.
"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." - Rachel Carson, 1955
So how can we promote a sense of wonder?
Set the stage for wonder: We can read a book about a place or character different from ourselves. We can do something wrong or in a silly way on purpose - my little one is VERY into sitting in tiny containers so I might try putting items into containers they don't fit in then I might "sportscast" my wonder about sizes as we try together to put things away. Go for a walk and talk about what you notice, watch bugs scurry and leaves float, wave to shadows and more. We can put complex toys out in our classroom or home. We can read current events or pose real-world problems to our students. Allow open-ended play and choice. Don't rush to answer a question - help your kiddos or students figure out how they can find their own answers.
Explore authentically: What is really great about focusing on wonder is that we, as the adults in the room, are relieved of having all the answers. Our kiddos get to help us find the answers (or more questions) and to make meaning of the what we discover. So, as Rachel Carson says, as the adults (I love the language #Tinkergarten uses - "guides"), we have to be willing to also rediscover - we may be in for some surprises too. Our kiddos may come up with unexpected solutions or want to try something that makes us nervous. Staying in that sense of wonder is key - it can help us stay simultaneously curious and caring, allowing our kiddos to learn a bit more fearlessly.
Let the questions soak in: You don't have to have all the answers and it is okay to end the day with more questions than answers; more problems than solutions. That leads to longer-term engagement that leads to longer learning. For example, think about writing a resume. You likely work on it once, find things wrong with it, and work on it again and again and again - this makes your resume polished before you submit it AND helps you do well in interviews. Same with learning a new thing for kiddos - the more times they struggle through a problem or play with a concept, the better the know it in the long run.
Find a community to wonder and explore with: Change is tough, community can make it less so! One of the reasons I am most excited about leading Tinkergarten is that I get to facilitate the space for children and their adults to wonder together. I cannot wait to help families #watchwonderbloom in our new home - Fort Lee, VA!