Over the past few days I like many other teachers have been getting ready to go back to school. This year is different from the last two in that I know exactly where I will be all year this year. In January of the last school year I found my school home and landed in my absolute favorite grade level, grade 4/5. There is so much that students at this age can do around wonder and wondering, expanding beyond their immediate world to begin connecting with the broader community.
For the past two nights I have been watching a list of what I call my “Pump Up Ted Talks” a mixture of traditional Ted Talks and TedX talks that inspire me as an educator. The two that have really stood out to me the last two days are both by Dr. Ross Liard a former instructor of mine, I have imbedded both videos at the bottom of this post. I had the privilege of working with Ross as part of the Interdisciplinary Expressive Arts (IDEA) program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Ross has been one of the most influential people in my classroom philosophy. Even at the university level his program asked us to wonder, play, create, build and have fun. This program focused on the connection between academic and artistic disciplines and helped us to make our own understanding of the world and our place in it.
As teachers this year we get a new start with new students. One of the best things about teaching is that each year we get a chance to rework and rebuild our teaching. This year I want to move to the side of the room not be at the front. The students are the most important people in my classroom. I am a guide, my role is to respond to their needs and wonderings and follow them to allow them to grow as much as possible in our year together.
I would like to give students more time to create and to wonder. Wonder and creativity have led to solutions to major problems as well as inventions that have changed the world. I truly believe that wonder is innate in all people but we get so caught up in the what we are supposed to be teaching we forget to create time for wonder. I wish I could create more time however this year I am setting a dedicated period on Wednesday afternoons as “Wonder Wednesday”. This is my first step and I don’t know yet how it will play out, but it’s something I’m ready to explore. Whenever possible I would like to take my students outside, to find places to sit and observe nature and the weather. Wonder Wednesdays will hopefully become the start of a larger culture of thinking and wondering in our classroom. In our wonder time I want to create moments of stillness, time to sit and think and reflect. As a student in the IDEA program Ross frequently asked 3 questions, “what did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about society? What did you learn about creativity?” These questions ask us to look deeply at our own learning and it is this line of questioning I am hoping to adapt for my own students to help them reflect on their own learning and growth. My questions for my students are, “what did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about other people? What did you learn about the world?”
I see wondering as crossing all of the curriculum and the core competencies. Wonder allows students to think creatively and generate novel ideas but also encourages them to think critically to begin the search for an answer or solution. Wonder also supports student’s positive self-awareness and their awareness of others, as they share their wonders they work to understand each other and their feelings.
In listening to Ross speak on wonder and finding wonder in moments of stillness. I began to think of my own summer break and when I found my moments of wonder. I found the eclipse to be one of my largest moments of wonder. My viewing of the eclipse took place in a unique location, it is not one that I would have ever imagined viewing it at how ever it’s where I ended up. My grandpa and I had been talking about watching the eclipse together from when it first got media attention. For weeks we had been making plans to sit and watch in my grandparent’s yard together, however a week and a half before the eclipse my grandpa ended up in the hospital for what would be a three week stay. Even though he was in the hospital I was not going to give up on our plan, I had to get creative and tweak the plan. I asked the nurses a couple days before and they said that he could go outside but not leave hospital grounds, so I had my first solution, we could go outside. I got my hands on 2 pairs of eclipse glasses in the days leading up to the eclipse. So I watched the eclipse with my grandpa and grandma on the patio outside the hospital cafeteria. But it was not the setting that made it a moment full of wonder. Seeing the sky begin to darken and feeling the air grow cooler even though it was 10 AM it looked and felt like dusk as the moon passed over the sun. the view through the glasses was even more awe inspiring, it looked to me like the moon was erasing parts of the sun as it passed over.
I had many moments of wonder as part of the STEAM Days program this august at Science World. I was able to explore and try many things, and while the robotics and many other projects were interesting and exciting one project stands out making me wonder more than others. That project was indigo dying, the process at first looked simple enough, prepare a piece of white cotton by twisting and folding it and tying off parts with elastics to create patterns. I got a bit carried away with the first step but am impressed by how it turned out. When we brought our white cloths outside do the dying vats I was amazed. The liquid in the vats was a lemon yellow colour and smelled strongly of Sulphur. How was a yellow liquid going to turn my white cloth blue? Our instructor explained the chemical reaction which I will admit I still don’t fully understand, chemistry was never my best science, but the idea that this yellow liquid reacting with air creates a blue dye is simply amazing to me.
I also found wonder in one of the mediums Ross suggests in the first video, on the water. My family spends a lot of time in the summer on the water boating, weather at Alouette lake wake surfing and tubing or at Goose Bay fishing. I find that when we are on the boats which in the summer is often a few times a week, I have a lot of time to sit out on the bow, watch the water go by and wonder. I am fully relaxed on the bow of the boat weather a larger wake board boat or a small Boston whaler fishing boat, to me this is time to think, wonder and dream. I find I get lost in my thoughts and wonders a lot when fishing as were trolling and waiting for a bite. Often my wonders are inspired by something we’ve seen from the boat that day, a pod of whales or dolphins, a solitary seal or sea otter or the antics of the birds overhead. Storms two provide their own fuel for wonder and the imagination as waves crash and churn and our small boat bounce from one wave to the next.
I know for myself the chance to escape into my thoughts and explore my own wonders is often a relaxing and calming time. It is a moment of stillness and peace in an otherwise hectic world. My goal this year is to help my students discover the joy in their own wonders. I want our wonders to drive our learning, using the big ideas as a starting place. Students wonders can also help them become more passionate about learning more on a particular topic, as a teacher I want to help my students discover and follow their passions. I have written in previous posts about mentors who guided me to follow my own passions. It’s now my turn to help guide students to wonder and discover what they are passionate about.
My question to other teachers for this school year is how are you brining wonder into your classroom? individualized
The first video about wonder and the importance of taking the time to wonder.
The second video is about transforming our education system and returning to a more individualized way of learning.