Curriculum Corner: How to Cultivate Curiosity Through Science

In this installment of the Curriculum Corner, Lower School Science Teacher Chloe Banks discusses how to cultivate curiosity through science.

Elementary science is such a broad subject matter. It encompasses many events and phenomena including the creation and discovery of fossils, plant and animal life cycles, the solar system, and the various types of forces, just to name a few. My goal is to encourage the boys to begin to understand that science is everywhere and that so much of what we do every day is either a type of scientific discipline or connected to a branch of scientific study. Occasionally, I play a game with them. I ask them to think of something that is not connected to science. Ideas range from a baseball to robots to Mars to the food they ate at lunch!
As a teacher, my challenge is to discover how to tap into the boys’ passions and spark their love for learning. The first step is to harness their curiosity. While reading the most current issue of Education Week, I came across the article How Can Teachers Foster Curiosity? by Erik Shonstrom. In it, the author uncovers the roots of the word curiosity. He writes, “The word is associated with the irregular form of the Latin verb cura, which can mean worry or care about or cure. The word closest in meaning is inquisitive, which also has a Latin root: quaere, to search into, to seek.”
I continue to cultivate curiosity within the boys through an inquiry-based approach, and with each new topic of study, curiosity plays a starring role. I strive to create a space where they feel their questions have value and are nurtured. When they form questions about the world around them, they are attempting to create a schema, to make sense of a world that, with each new school year, gets increasingly more complex and more globally connected. Soliciting curiosity as a vehicle for learning science allows for the opportunity to teach a myriad of other skills. The modern-day skills that are articulated in science class include critical thinking, collaboration, communication, information literacy, social skills, flexibility, and productivity.
Our topics of study allow for numerous access points for the boys. All students have an opportunity to engage in the topic at hand. The scientific activities I present support the Next Generation Science Standards. These are standards that were developed in 2011 by members of the scientific community, Nobel laureates, and cognitive scientists, and adopted by the state of California in 2013. Along with the expected Earth, Life, and Physical Sciences, and Engineering Design units, there is also a strong component of the standards. My goal is to create solutions that are innovative and empathetic. For example, students have “saved” budding plants from the scalding San Francisco sun, created solutions to prevent wind or water from changing the land, and solved a problem of communicating over distances using patterns of sound.  
Asking the how-what-why questions are not only essential in my class, but these inquiries also help boys grow and mature as learners, in general. In Warren Berger book, A More Beautiful Question, the concern is raised over the decrease in questioning over time. Although it is ultimately a book about management and business acumen, the topics and ideas raised are applicable in the elementary school science lab as well. Berger suggests a reframing and refining of questions that can ultimately lead to growth and change. The challenge then becomes finding the answers together, which will inevitably lead to more questions, and, thus, the cycle continues. A family visit to the Academy of Sciences, or even to your local park, can lead to weeks of “research,” and produce a child who looks at the world in new and different ways.
If you have questions about this Curriculum Corner, How to Cultivate Curiosity Through Science, please contact Chloe Banks.

Cathedral School for Boys

1275 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94108 Main phone 415.771.6600 Fax 415.771.2547
Located in San Francisco, CA, Cathedral School for Boys is an independent elementary school for boys in grades K-8. Our mission is to provide an excellent education through intellectual inquiry and rigor that is centered in the Episcopal tradition and is respectful of and welcoming to people of all religious traditions and beliefs.