Every teacher knows that curiosity is one of the pillars of education. The desire to know, to explore, to understand what makes things do what they do. Give your students a taste of discovery and they’ll always come back for more. Unfortunately, modern education is at risk of losing this essential virtue. The world is changing at an unprecedented rate, and the strategies of bygone years are no longer sufficient for the classrooms of today.

My colleague Terra Tarango likes to say, “Teachers are no longer the ones best equipped for disseminating information in the classroom, Google can do that far better. Instead, the new responsibility of teachers is to facilitate inquiry-based learning experiences which cultivate students’ comprehension and critical thinking.” I believe she’s right. In order to foster student curiosity and creativity, we all need to start thinking outside the box. While this can feel daunting (especially with COVID looming over us) it doesn’t have to be. In fact, here are just a few easy strategies you can employ in the classroom or virtually.

Building a Curious Classroom
  • Gameify Your Lesson: You don’t need cutting-edge technology to get kids invested in a game (though if you’ve got it, go for it!) Board and card games have a long history of teaching students practical skills through strategy, modification, and practice. The basic elements of a game can be applied to any lesson: there’s an objective you’re trying to reach, some sort of obstacle in the way, and a visual representation of your progress. With a little adjustment, this can be applied to virtually any lesson.
  • Provide Student Choice: Learning doesn’t have to be a linear experience. Simply provide students with more room to explore. If the assignment is to present data to the class, let them choose the method of presentation. Allow them to experiment with different types of graphs. Let them choose a topic they’re passionate about if assigned a paper. Over time, as their curiosity begins to develop, you’ll be able to provide them with more and more choices.
  • Structure with Stories: Who doesn’t love a good story? A beginning, a middle, and an end, are what construct all stories. A character and a conflict drive each phase. When preparing for a lesson, look over the information and see if you can’t incorporate it into a story. Can the chemicals you’re using double as characters in a narrative? Tie a moment in history to modern day events. Present mathematical formulas as riddles to your protagonist. Spin a good enough tale, and students will be hanging on your every word!
  • Reflect through Journals: The most practical approach to curiosity is having students keep a journal. Have them write down any questions they might have after a lesson. Later, take time to review these questions together as a class. You may not get to everything, but by prompting students to think past the standard notes, you’re helping them to develop as critical thinkers.
Tools and Resources

If you found these ideas useful, be sure to check out Blue Apple’s free Instructional Strategies for other ways you can encourage student creativity. By working together, we hope the year ahead will be one in which all teachers and students feel empowered to grow. Remember, once you ignite the fires of curiosity, there’s no limit to what students may discover!

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