Curiosity is such an important trait to develop, not only in ourselves, but also the children that we work with. When I speak to children and run character/positive psychology workshops with them I really encourage curiosity, in the form of experiencing new ideas and concepts, but more importantly in asking questions. As someone with a disability I allow children the space to ask questions from a place of genuine curiosity - and in the process of my answering their questions, they can learn, not just about me, but also about themselves and their own perceptions, concepts, and ideas on disability and difference. Curiosity is about looking outwards without prejudice, and really engaging with the world around you. In the VIA Character Strengths research, curiosity is regarded as being an intrapersonal and heart based character trait, and one that links to wisdom, creativity, and love of learning. Curiosity has also been named as one of the top five character traits that lead to higher levels of happiness. So it is certainly very important to encourage curiosity in the classroom.
Curiosity is about developing the ability to ask the right questions at the right time, the openness to new ideas, and the ability to try new things (such as activities and experiences). But how can we encourage this kind of active curiosity in the classroom? The VIA Character Strengths team have a few ideas on how you can boost curiosity, based on academic research, and here are a few of them:
- - Have the children think of an activity in school that they don’t like doing, i.e., tidying up at the end of the day, sitting at a table they don’t want to, doing maths, etc. When they are doing the activity instruct them to try and find three things about the activity they have never noticed before and report back to you. This shifts the focus from all the “unpleasant” parts of the activity to a place of open-minded curiosity and helps them associate more positive feelings about the activity.
- - Practice “active curiosity” by doing some mindfulness-based environmental exploration. Either in the classroom, or take your children out into the playground, and ask them to spend the next 10 minutes noticing new things in the environment they have never seen before. Have them write them down, and after the activity have a discussion about what they noticed around them.
- - Watch some movies (age appropriate of course) that illustrate the character trait of curiosity. The VIA Character Strengths research team are huge advocates of the power of movies to role model character strengths. Some movie suggestions are: Alice in Wonderland, Curious George, James and the Giant Peach, The Goonies, and Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Some other suggestions to develop curiosity include:
- - Take your children to a museum or art gallery and have the write down and discuss some of the exhibits they saw.
- - Take a vote on an animal to research and have your pupils try and discover new and surprising facts about the animal.
- - Invite speakers from diverse backgrounds to visit your class and ensure that there is time for Q&A
I hope these activities help you to bring a little more curiosity into the classroom. If you would like more information about VIA Character Strengths check out their website here - www.viacharacter.org