We Need Wonder-Moments (curiosity-moments) in Learning.

While at the NSTA regional conference in Nashville I had the privilege of hear the keynote address from Jeff Lieberman. Lieberman was one of the hosts on the Discovery Channel show “Time Warp”. http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/time-warp/time-warp.html
The show displayed everyday things with super slow motion cameras. A truly amazing show.
In the address Lieberman showed clips that were WONDERful.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoQ0DQpwwHU
http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/time-warp-bullet-through-soda-cans.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90VyvOhPmA0&feature=BF&list=FLXiUMVYFFqxs&index=2
He talked about the difference between children and adults and time spent in “emotional wonder”* after seeing something amazing. The younger the person the longer the emotional wonder lasts. Primary age children wonder moments can last 2-3 minutes. Where as adults might stay in wonder for only 30 secs or so before asking “how does it work.”
Creating wonder with students is key to helping students have buy-in for a particular topic of study.
A fact I have been sharing with my students the past couple of year is it takes 31.5 years to count a billion seconds. Now the first thing you are doing is saying “that can’t be right. Seems like it shouldn’t take that long to count to a billion.” Well it does. Now, a kid would say, “wow.” Then with eyes wide open the child will be eager to learn more.
So the trick becomes how do we get the wonder back, especially in our students.
Jeff said “Help students see things beyond the range of their normal experience.”   We can do this by slowing things down, speeding them up, giving a bigger picture, or tuning the fine focus.
In the Captain Underpants books school is really boring and George and Harold are constantly doing things to make the school more interesting. “You see, George and Herold weren’t really bad kids. They were actually very bright, good-natured boys. Their only problem was that they were bored in school. So they took it upon themselves to ‘liven things up’ for everybody.”** The school likely had fact based learning. Memorize this, repeat that….etc. If George and Herold had been given more creative ways to learn or had more activities the produces wonder-moments then they might had spend less time changing the lettering on the school’s marquee.
However, many of us teachers already use attention grabbing tactics before lessons, but do we really create wonder?
I realize what I am saying is not new. Inquiry and project/problem based learning have been around for a while. Some subjects and topics lend themselves to those types of learning better than others. The important thing is to search for ways to “Help students see things beyond the range of their normal experience.”*
Ultimately the goal is to increase the level of wonder thus increasing the students desire to learn the topic.
One approach is to help students search out the relevance of a particular topic. For instance Meiosis. Helping students see the real world application if meiosis and the problems that arise from mistakes in the process will help them gain interest in the topic. Hopefully it will help the obtain a level of wonder which will propel them to a higher level understanding of meiosis. This action will not be limited to meiosis, it just happens to be my focus for the next couple of weeks.
I hope to open students eyes with moments of wonder. Please share with the rest of us how you help students gain interest in topics in your class.

* Quotes from Jeff Liebermann – His website – http://bea.st/
** Quote from Dav Pilkey’s book Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Porfessor Poopypants. pg 17.
– please forgive grammar errors.

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About 2footgiraffe

High School Science Teacher Dickson, TN
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