Cultivating curiosity at the SCIS Hongqiao ECE
Shanghai Community International School recognizes the importance of cultivating curiosity within our learning communities. Curiosity drives inquiry and is the foundation of the teaching practice within the Primary Years Program at SCIS. Visitors to an early years classroom will see students full of wonder exploring their environment.
Classroom environments are carefully planned to ensure that students have intentional opportunities to explore the world around them. In looking around classrooms you will notice the careful placement of furniture and materials that invite students to explore and direct their own learning throughout the day. Materials are selected to provide students with opportunities to use them in a way that piques their curiosity. Seashells could be used for digging sand, sorting, creating patterns or counting. A basket of sticks could be used for building, counting, creating letters or serving as a magic wand or musical instrument during dramatic play. These carefully curated materials provide numerous intentional learning opportunities for children especially when coupled with a skilled inquiry teacher.
To further support teachers’ understanding of ways in which curiosity can be supported, we welcomed education consultant, Kath Murdoch, to spent time with teachers and administrators specifically on the topic of cultivating curiosity. Many ideas were shared with teachers to promote curiosity and inquiry in the classroom. These ideas can easily be adapted for caregivers who are seeking ways in which to support their child’s curiosity. Here are a few suggestions adapted from those teachers use in the classroom:
• Model curiosity: Stop and wonder at the flower growing in your garden or ask questions about the design or purpose of a familiar object.
• Plants and animals provide numerous opportunities for cultivating curiosity. Don’t have time for pets? A trip to the zoo or aquarium will offer similar opportunities for wonder, as will books or photographs of wildlife. Some websites stream videos from animal habitats. An online search will yield many possibilities. Panda cam might be a good place to start. Please check https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/panda-cam.
• If your child is curious about something, provide the time and resources for him to find the answer rather than just providing it. A trip to the library or the natural history museum encourages your child to satisfy his curiosity through inquiry.
• Old appliances offer opportunities for children to take things apart and explore how these objects work. Just make sure they are appropriate to the age of your child and that there are no small parts that may be swallowed.
• Allow your child to explore intriguing objects. That souvenir you bought from your last visit to Bali or a box of unworn jewelry might capture your child’s curiosity. Where is it from? What material is made from? Are there others like it?
• Sounds from a white noise machine or music may provoke curiosity in your child. How does this music make you feel? How can you move your body to the rhythm of the sounds you hear?
• Older children can keep a wonder or curiosity journal where they take note of things that interest them. Ideas about how and where to find answers to these curiosities could be noted as well, supporting actionable inquiry.
Curiosity is characterized by the joy of discovery and the motivation to seek answers to the unknown. A challenge for teachers is keeping the spirit of curiosity alive as children move throughout their education. We invite families to share in our mission to sustain a child’s curiosity well into adulthood. For additional information about how children learn through play and inquiry, we invite you to visit your child’s classroom and meet with his or her teacher.
(The article is contributed by Heather Knight, vice principal at SCIS Hongqiao ECE campus.)