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Awe and Wonder 

Spring has sprung after a long and challenging winter. The winter weather brought us snow days off from school, icy roads and limited time for outdoor play. Very often it is within our challenges that new ideas and thoughts are developed. Difficult challenges open up opportunities to think differently and think of new ways of doing things.

One day this winter while children were out in our snowy playground, they came upon an interesting discovery; a toy tractor buried in the snow. This created a challenge for the students. They wanted to take the tractor out of the snow but it was frozen in place. The challenge created a motivation for them to think differently and explore new possibilities. Some used their hands to loosen the snow while others brought over other tractors to try digging it out. Once they were able to remove some of the snow, they had to join together to pull on the tractor to try to release it. Their persistence and determination were outstanding. Although the tractor did not budge they were successful in their efforts and determined to keep trying next time they went outside.

Daniel Pink, bestselling author and contemporary thinker, writes of the importance of understanding the changing roles of teachers in today’s society. He says “the emphasis on cognitive skills like computation and memorization is evolving to include less tangible, non-cognitive skills, like collaboration and improvisation.” The scenario of the frozen tractor demonstrates the understanding that the teachers in our ECC have of their role in supporting children as they learn to collaborate and improvise. Sometimes the problems present themselves and the children are motivated to solve them and sometimes the teacher must present problems to encourage that spirit of curiosity and wonder.

Putting out provocations in the classroom and listening for children’s questions is an integral part of the teachers’ work. Sometimes these happen intentionally and with a lot of thought. Other times they happen spontaneously. When my hand had to be in a cast as the result of a torn ligament, the children had many questions. “Where is the booboo?” “How did you get the cast?” “How will the cast come off?”

The role of the teacher is also to scaffold on to the children’s natural curiosity and create new learning experiences. Thanks to the kindness of my orthopedist, I was able to show the children a videotape of the cast being removed and let them hold and touch the cast after it came off. Surely a cast was not in anyone’s lesson plan book, but what a valuable learning experience it became.

Passover is the holiday most associated with encouraging questions and seeing the divine in the world around us. May we all be inspired to listen to our children’s deep questions, encourage their curiosity and support them in their motivation to make new discoveries each day.

May 29,2020 /  6 Sivan 5780