I love spring! All of the clichés are true. Spring is the herald of new beginnings and new growth. Spring offers promises; it invites hope.
Even in my Sonoran Desert home where the signs of the season can be a bit subtler than in lush green places, the spring blooms on the prickly pear and saguaro cacti are welcome sights to desert eyes.
When I served as a school librarian, I especially loved spring in the elementary library. (While I also enjoyed the feeling of spring in secondary school libraries, some of that feeling was not as conducive to academic learning…)
In spring, primary-age students noticed nature in a way they may have set aside over the winter months.
Students looked to the sky and remarked on cloud formations. They observed the effects of rain on plants. They felt and welcomed the change to warmer temperatures. They captured insects on the playground. And most exciting for their teachers, they brought their questions about the natural world into the classroom and into the library.
“Curiosity starts out as an impulse, an urge, but it pops out into the world as something more active, more searching: a question” (10).
The image above shows a child observing the bright orange caterpillars he found in a neighbor’s yard. Why were they that color? Didn’t the color mean that birds would see and eat them? He learned to harvest the plants on which he found the caterpillars and wondered whether or not they needed water as well as food. He learned about metamorphosis and asked questions about how these creatures would change their form. When he observed the chrysalis in the terrarium, he wondered if what he was seeing could possibly be what he had learned from asking questions.
It wasn’t until the butterfly emerged that he believed this process was real.
“Curiosity is a form a power, and also a form of courage” (15).
Through curiosity and questioning, he was motivated to learn more. He experienced the power of change—both in the caterpillar and in his own understanding of metamorphosis.
He also had the courage to do what he knew was “right.” He set the caterpillar turned butterfly free—free to be its transformed self.
Students’ curiosity and questioning are the driving forces in inquiry learning. In some schools, student-led inquiry is practiced in primary grades only; in a few schools, it is practiced throughout the grades.
In many schools, secondary students conduct traditional “research” projects that may not spring from students’ interests and as a result, fail to motivate and engage them. For some secondary students, their “senior project” may be their first K-12 learning experience prompted by their passion to pursue a personally meaningful question. It may be the first school-based learning experience that inspires them to take action in the world based on their new knowledge.
When school librarians aspire to coteach empowered learners, we show respect for students’ minds. We show that we trust them to be curious, to ask questions, to seek answers, to learn, and to take action in the world. We believe in the power of knowledge to transform students and the world.
Here’s to the opportunity spring affords us. Let’s see students’ learning and our instructional practice through fresh eyes. Let’s trust in the learning process—students’ and our own.
Let’s be curious – together – and reach for a “bigger life”!
Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Image Credit: From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon, Used with Permission