Knowledge Leads to Curiosity

Knowledge Leads to Curiosity

BY: Beanie Geoghegan

It is often the case that the more you know about a subject or the world around you, the easier it is to learn. More knowledge tends to lead to greater curiosity as well. Think about the young child whose favorite word is “why?” With each bit of information shared by the adult being questioned, another question is formed. Children know there are unlimited things to learn and are naturally curious about their world. The role of adults is crucial in this process, as they are the ones who can provide foundational knowledge for children that catalyzes their curiosity.

In our home, we viewed everything as a potential learning opportunity. My four children almost always accompanied me to the grocery store, where we discussed the different fruits and vegetables they saw there. We took frequent walks and bike rides around the neighborhood, often stopping along a creek to throw rocks or explore the critters they discovered. Even though we had a tight budget, my pilot husband wanted to spark their interest in flying. We took regular trips to the regional airport (aptly nicknamed the “little airport” by our children) to watch the small planes take off and land. As adults, they will tell you we were very frugal while raising them, but they will also tell you they had a great childhood filled with wonder, adventure, and an appreciation for learning about the world around them. These early learning experiences have impacted their development, fostering a lifelong curiosity and love for learning.

Books were also a staple in our home and played a vital role in filling the knowledge gaps about people, places, and things we couldn’t learn in person. When my children were little, Magic Tree House books were new and very popular. While they are works of fiction, they included just enough information about real places or events to spark our curiosity. Judging by the introduction and popularity of “Magic Tree House Fact Tracker” books that soon followed, we weren’t alone. The stories planted a seed that took root and blossomed into a desire to learn more about the places and events in them. This is the effect knowledge has; far too many children today are missing out on the sowing of it.

On my morning runs, I often think about Dr. Seuss’s book, “To Think That I Say It On Mulberry Street.”  As busloads of children heading to school pass me by, I can’t help but grieve the fact that almost none of them are ever looking out of the window. I assume most have their eyes focused on a screen of some sort. In the Dr. Seuss classic, the little boy, Marco, reflects on his father’s sage advice-“Keep your eyelids up and see what you can see”- as he walks home from school one day. Not only does Marco keep his eyelids up, but he lets his imagination run wild. I would argue that the only reason he can imagine such vivid scenes of animals and people from far-off places is due to his solid foundation of knowledge about the world around him. Knowledge sparked his curiosity and set his imagination on fire. 

Now, consider that some children are deprived of the patient adults to answer those “why” questions, take them on “field trips” in their communities, or read books about unknown lands and their inhabitants to them. Contemplate the reality of children whose families don’t regularly discuss daily life around the dinner table, visit their local park or zoo, converse with a parent while riding in the car, or spend any time in the library. In far too many homes, devices have become the primary babysitter and “teacher,” robbing children of so much. 

These children come to school with a clear deficit in their knowledge bank. It is an obstacle to their learning and creativity, but it is not insurmountable. Schools, as the primary institutions of learning, play a crucial role in addressing this deficit. They can lament the lack of knowledge some students come to school with, or they can adopt curricula that help form the foundation for future learning and imagination to be built upon. More screen time, as some schools seem to think, is definitely not the solution. Students need human teachers who consistently use solid content-rich curricula, engage in classroom discussions, and answer the ‘why’ questions that stem from newly acquired knowledge. By providing a supportive learning environment and engaging students in meaningful learning experiences, schools can help bridge the knowledge gap and foster a love for learning in all students.

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