A message from Assistant Superintendent Jane Ann Kammeyer:
As a grandparent, I love when my little ones ask all those why questions. Every parent and teacher knows that young children ask a lot of questions. Young children have more questions than answer and they have an amazing sense of wonder. In the January 2016, ASCD Education Update, Kathy Checkley wrote about Oakland Elementary School in Inman, South Carolina. In the first grade at Oakland Elementary, the students have many questions and they know where to go for the answers. They could ask their teacher, but more often than not, students will write down their questions and post them on the “Wonder Wall” located in the main hallway of the school. Fourth grade students are responsible for selecting a question, researching the topic, and then posting their answers for the entire school to see.
This activity supports many learning goals: the younger students learn that asking questions is encouraged and they recognize that their teachers and other students can be reliable sources of information. Fourth Grade students research answers to the questions and share what they have learned. When we give students time and space to wonder and follow their curiosity, students extend their learning far beyond expectations.
We can create classrooms that are not merely academic but also intellectual if we will explicitly invite students to ask probing questions. “The desire to know something has to be protected at all costs,” states Wendy Ostroff, a cognitive science and developmental psychology professor. “Preserving and cultivating curiosity in the classroom has to be our number one priority.”
Asking subject-matter questions is important, but the process of encouraging kids to come up with the questions that matter to them is even better. In the September 2015 issue of Educational Leadership, Alfie Kohn states, “Deep questions help kids stay curious and grow increasingly resourceful at figuring things out, and become active meaning makers.” Subject-matter relevance comes, as students become active meaning makers through their questions.
With technology, we have answers to just about any question we can think of right at our fingertips. In today’s world, again through technology, we find ourselves increasingly surrounded by new and unfamiliar information; we are experiencing something like being a young child, with our many questions, all over again. Everywhere we look; there is something to wonder about and investigate.
To help our students be successful in school and add relevance to their learning, as grandparents, parents and teachers, one of our most important jobs is to foster student’s curiosity and teach them to ask good questions.