Cultivating curiosity in young minds (2024)

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Cultivating curiosity in young minds (1)

Curiosity, that innate human desire to explore and understand, has been the spark that ignites our love for continuous learning. That relentless pursuit of “why?” has propelled us through life and ignited our journey of learning from when we were learning to move around as kids. This is why, as toddlers, we always reach out for a bright object, get fascinated with crawling bugs, and enjoy imaginative play. Has this spark diminished among Filipino children today?


Curiosity is more than just a character trait; it's the engine that propels our intellectual and personal growth. It encourages us to delve deeper, ask questions, and challenge assumptions. Children are naturally drawn to new experiences, eager to explore their surroundings, and unafraid to experiment. This insatiable curiosity lays the foundation for critical thinking and problem-solving skills and sparks creativity, making the learning journey more exciting and inspiring.


Somewhere along the way, our young kids’ curiosity seemed to have diminished. Whenever I visit high school campuses, I ask some of the students basic questions about geography and science. The chances of getting the right answers would be as slim as guessing the winning lotto combination right. Their inherent curiosity should have helped them know the right answers. In today’s fast-paced world, rote learning, pressure to perform, and standardized testing often take center stage, inadvertently pushing curiosity aside. We all know that a world devoid of curiosity would stagnate, lacking the innovation and creativity necessary to solve complex problems.


Diminished curiosity may also explain why Filipino schoolchildren have been assessed to be relatively poor in creativity. Of the 124 places around the world (some countries had several cities assessed) that participated in the latest creative thinking assessment conducted by OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Philippines was almost at the bottom of the ranking, at 123rd.


How can we help our kids develop the trait? They need us to give them time and handhold them through the journey of curiosity. We should not be afraid to answer our child’s endless “why” questions with patience and enthusiasm. This shows them that their curiosity is valued and encourages them to continue questioning. We should embrace the power of play because it is their natural learning language. Open-ended and unstructured play opportunities where children can explore, experiment, and discover at their own pace. Instead of yes-or-no questions, let us ask questions that encourage deeper thinking. For example, instead of “Do you like this park?” ask, “What's your favorite thing to do at the park?”


We can make learning an adventure by turning everyday experiences into opportunities for exploration. Point out interesting shapes in clouds while on a walk, or create a scavenger hunt to explore the wonders of our surroundings. If they are fascinated by bugs, visit a butterfly garden or explore insect life in your backyard together. We should encourage exploration and experimentation. Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes; that’s how we learn and grow. It is also important that we show them our own curiosity by asking questions, expressing wonder at the world around us, and engaging in activities that interest us.


Today’s kids are fixated on social media. We need to limit their screen time because it can stifle creativity and independent thinking. Let us make them realize that books open doors to new worlds and ignite imaginations. Find time to read them stories that spark curiosity, ask questions about the characters and plot, and explore different genres together.


In a rapidly changing world, the ability to learn, adapt, and innovate is paramount. A society that fosters curiosity in its young people thrives. The spark ignites scientific breakthroughs, artistic expression, and technological advancements. It fosters a belief that intelligence is not fixed but can be developed. This growth mindset allows children to embrace challenges, persevere through difficulties, become resourceful, and achieve their full potential. Children who are curious early on develop a love of learning that stays with them throughout their lives. They become self-directed learners who are constantly seeking new knowledge and experiences that drive innovation and progress.


Education leaders, schools, and parents should understand that curiosity is more than just a thirst for knowledge; it's a catalyst for growth. It pushes our young people beyond the familiar, prompting them to ask questions, experiment, and seek new experiences. It will allow them to have more fulfilling lives by finding joy in discovery and fostering a sense of purpose and fulfillment. The world needs curious minds to tackle tomorrow's challenges. By nurturing curiosity, we empower our young people to become innovators, problem-solvers, and leaders who will shape a better future. Remember, a curious mind is forever young and open to life's endless possibilities. ([emailprotected])


(The author is an executive member of the National Innovation Council, lead convener of the Alliance for Technology Innovators for the Nation (ATIN), vice president of the Analytics and AI Association of the Philippines, and vice president of UP System Information Technology Foundation.)

Cultivating curiosity in young minds (2024)

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