Tag: curiosity

A new standard for good questions

March 15th, 2011

Few tools are more critical to learning than the ability to ask good questions. Unfortunately, most people believe that a good question is open-ended and a bad question is closed-ended. Not true.

This traditional standard is grossly inaccurate. Exceptional questions can be open and closed-ended. My daughter asked me, “Can dogs see better than humans at night?” This is an excellent question. The fact that it is closed-ended doesn’t matter.

Abandon the old definition of a good question. Don’t worry about whether a question begins with who, what, where, when, why , or how.

Consider a new standard for good questions:

1) Was the question’s origin authentic curiosity?

2) Did the question awaken curiosity in others?

3) Did the question generate additional good questions?

Promote learning and engage students at a deeper level by asking excellent questions. Better yet, teach students how to recognize and ask good questions for themselves. Few skills are more important for life-long learning.

    Kindling the Curious: Whitey’s Tour of Trees

    November 17th, 2009

    I was running along a trail in the mountains a couple months ago when a woman walking in the opposite direction stopped me. “Have you seen Whitey Lueck?” she asked. “He usually travels up here on Thursdays to walk, but he doesn’t use trails.” She provided a physical description that didn’t resemble anyone I had seen. I pondered how I was supposed to spy him if he didn’t use trails. Cascade forests are dense. I spared her my musings and simply answered, “No, I’ve not seen him. If I do, I’ll say you’re looking for him.” We parted ways.

    A couple weeks ago I received an email about a tree tour at the University of Oregon hosted by none other than Whitey Lueck. What a coincidence! Far from the mythical, hobbit-like person I pictured, Whitey is a well-known, well-respected local naturalist and all around outdoor guru. He knows more about trees than I expect I’ll ever gather about a single subject. I signed my family up.

    Two elements of Whitey’s tour particularly intrigued me. The first was the simplicity of the curriculum: trees. Whitey took us from one tree to the next, gave us a few interesting facts about each, then invited questions. The second striking aspect was his wholesale engagement in his subject matter. Whitey’s interest, passion, and knowledge were unmistakable and inspiring.

    Our tour group comprised a blend of adults and children. Kids are natural learners. Curiosity is in their being. One need not teach them to learn. They want to know and make meaning of what they see and experience. Their questions are often pure, unrefined, and earnest. They want to suck meaning out of things to satisfy their curiosity, an appetite I find contagious.

    I encourage you to take a tour, with children, if possible. Note what made the tour helpful or unhelpful. I’m a believer that the qualities of a good tour guide are the same qualities that are central to good teachers, parents, and managers. You will see this most clearly in how he or she responds to the questions people ask. The best tour guides welcome questions and contributions from the group. Second, notice the children’s questions. How would you describe them? Study their faces and notice what curiosity looks like. This is how we get close to curious and how we rekindle it within ourselves.

      Ratty Horse Sense

      September 28th, 2009

      A few weeks ago my wife and I were garage saling with our three young daughters. We stopped at a sale near the close of the day. The hosts were visibly exhausted. They had gobs of things left and were vowing to never host a sale again. Desperate to rid themselves of extraneous items, they offered to give us a toy horse. They made the offer, of course, within earshot of our girls who promptly began to beg.

      The toy horse was covered with ink markings—tattoos if you will—placed there by an unsupervised, creative child. The hooves were tattered and in process of defecting from the shanks. Our kids were unfazed. A free horse, they thought. What could be better?

      Five minutes later the stuffed beast was the sixth passenger in our minivan. Our kids named the horse Shortbread. They converted the playhouse to a stable and harvested grass from the yard for hay. In the days that followed they fed Shortbread oats for breakfast and read him stories before bed.

      It struck me how something so simple (and free) can enflame a child’s curiosity and imagination, which are central to learning and growth. The same is true for everyone—from infants to adolescents to mature adults. We flourish in a life space that offers ample room for creative exploration.

      Peak under a board that’s been sitting on top of grass for a long time. The grass is discolored, withered, impacted. It’s not healthy. Remove the board and in time the grass will regain its rich color and grow tall (and children just might harvest it to feed to their stuffed horse). In the same way our lives, and the lives of those in whom we are invested, hold more promise of thriving outside the weight of extraneous objects, activities and words that can suffocate our natural, childlike impulse to improvise, imagine and create.

        • Page 1 of 2
        • 1
        • 2
        • >