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Exploring Curiosity in Early Learning

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At Bellbird, we're passionate about providing resources that ignite curiosity in Early Education. In this article, we explore ideas on how incorporate curiosity throughout your program.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

It is our innate nature to be curious - from birth, children act as continuous explorers and scientists as they seek to understand the world around them from the feedback gained through interaction. Curiosity leads to discovery and new ways of thinking that often make our lives simpler. 

Throughout history, it has been the contributions of ​​​​​curious minds that have shaped the way we live today. Those with questioning minds become some of the greatest pioneers and inventors, including scientists like Professor Graeme Clark. Since the late 1970s, many thousands of Australians' lives have been forever changed by being fitted with Cochlear Implants to improve inner ear damage and hearing loss.  His work continues, as there are currently around 14,000 Australians that are benefitting from this incredible technology.

In the case of very young children, developing a curious disposition focuses upon them making connections between themselves as individuals who are separate from others and the world around them. 


 

Why curiosity is important to learning and development

As described in Outcome 4 of the Victorian Early Years Learning Framework  (VEYLF) Children are confident and involved learners there are statements that explain the association between dispositions such as curiosity and creativity and their links to learning. Children resource their own learning through connection, for example: 

  • Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity 
  • Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving,  inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating 
  • Children transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another 
  • Children resource their own learning through connecting with people, places, technologies and natural and processed materials

​​​​​​The majority of learning comes from having a vested interest in a topic or concept, and once captured it makes engagement much more natural as there is often no attachment to a particular outcome. 

Through curiosity, skills are learnt, practised, and refined, as are attributes and characteristics of learners and learning itself.  

Making connections between materials and resources is vital to brain growth and cognition. For a toddler splashing in water puddles it is not only enjoyable, but essential to experience for a connection and understanding to be formed. It is sometimes simply the joy of getting wet that is the focus!   

For older children who can draw upon past experience with water play, their interest in its properties may be in predicting how much liquid could be contained within a jug or bucket or what happens to the puddles when they disappear from the footpath. Setting up a rain gauge to measure rainfall or filling up a bucket from a  water tank can become a more meaningful experience than getting it from a garden tap.

Learning is a very personal and individual experience as is development. No two children learn at exactly the same rate or time. Encouraging children to recognise the way that they understand and apply new information as individuals, is an important way of strengthening their level of confidence and ability. 

By identifying these preferences it will support their natural curiosity and make learning a more genuine experience. 

 

How curiosity leads to learning

Though individual learning occurs when interacting with materials, it takes on an entirely new level when linked to conversation and discussion with others. Educators can assist to shape learning and understanding to extend knowledge, through the process of scaffolding.

Growth and development can only advance if children are being stimulated through verbal encouragement and interaction to explore and learn new skills. 

Curiosity is enhanced and rewarded when carefully planned learning experiences are chosen that are inspired by children’s questions and wonderings. Awareness can then be explored, leading to children creating their own theories, beliefs and ideas. 

Challenging an infant to develop their sensorimotor skills by providing them with a treasure basket and rattles,  helps to stimulate their senses through small objects in a safe way that is both purposeful and relevant to their stage of development. 

Placing mirrors and objects that have reflective surfaces within early learning programs encourage children to explore mathematical elements such as perspective and geometry long before they can verbalise their understanding of physics. 

Infants progress from being totally dependent upon adults to take care of their physical and emotional needs to encourage their growth and survival in the first year of life. Around the time they are toddlers and have grown in confidence in their physical capabilities their needs change. 

Crawling through a tunnel, pushing a pram or mastering a trike there are new reasons to discover what the world is like around them as they are captivated with developing independence. 

 

How to engage children’s curiosity

To encourage curiosity in young children, the fastest and easiest way is to model and demonstrate how things work. Allowing them to observe and process what they are seeing can give them the desire to try something new; giving them time and space to explore independently is the next natural step to develop their inquisitiveness.

For curiosity to be nurtured and rewarded it is important to offer frequent opportunities for children to explore boundaries safely. Setting up role play spaces like a shop that includes food, cash-register, money can help children to make sense of the wider world they live in, to ask questions about where food comes from and to explore these in comfort through play and interaction. 

Processing information about what children may be questioning can instil confidence in them before going to hospital or the doctor’s surgery. With dress ups and doctors bag they could alleviate fear and address questions about how their body works, preparing them for what they might experience. 

 

Developing the links between curiosity and creativity

Engaging children by respectfully listening to their ideas and questions is an opportunity to create genuine participation and support to develop their curiosity in many areas of their learning. 

Taking time for daily reflection about the natural order of the day, allows educators to set up provocations that encourage preschool-aged children to ponder their own questions. 

Often these questions centre around the mysteries of life such as space exploration and how dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Teasing out their theories and presenting open-ended resources through sensory play experiences encourages characteristics such as enthusiasm, perseverance and adaptability. 

Deep investigation can be further developed through sensory play activities. Children have the scope to become engrossed with open-ended materials and resources for as long as they wish without having to come up with a final outcome. 

Presenting some planned and intentional questions can help them to determine how they may want the play to continue, and an assessment of what an educator may suggest or provide to encourage continued exploration. 

They could be as simple as having children check in with their own body awareness through their senses, what they are experiencing and how it is feeling to them. This could be communicated verbally or non verbally or through invented words as their vocabulary increases.

Curiosity is something that we are all born with. From a first survival instinct to an integral human characteristic that drives us to appreciate the joy and wonder of life, we all have the drive to ask questions to find out about how things work. 

At Bellbird, we place a high value on curiosity as a character trait of our team members. Employees are encouraged to explore, to ask questions and to try new things, to encourage their own personal growth.

Nurturing curiosity is a cyclic process of staying open, being responsive to children’s interests and encouraging them to find many of their own answers through independent learning. In doing so, it creates a more active than passive focus that is likely to become more memorable and enjoyable. 

Teaching children to question what they are experiencing instils confidence to develop critical thinking skills that can be carried with them for the rest of their lives and pass it on to future generations.  May this curiosity continue to stay with them as they influence others with what they create and offer the world with their unique gifts, talents and contributions that make life so fascinating.

 

 

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