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Quotes to Teach By


Interest in Science

"My interest in science was excited at age 9 by an article on astronomy in National Geographic. For the next few years, I regularly made star maps and snuck out at night to make our back yard." By Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Prize-Winning Chemist

Another in our Quotes to Teach by series – What can we preschool teachers learn from Dudley R. Herschbach?

Primarily, I think that we ought to note that excitement and interest are what motivate thinking and learning. An interested child is far more likely to want to learn, to be curious about learning, to search for and to make discoveries than a child who is not interested.

It’s incredibly important for us to remember that our value to children’s thinking and learning is in exciting them to want to think and to want to learn.

Not every child will be excited or interested in every experience we offer them. That’s okay.  It is, however, our job to find many experiences to excite the interest and curiosity of every child. That is a subtle, but significant difference – not everything needs to excite every child’s interest, but every child’s interest needs to be excited by something.

What does that mean for your practice?

Offer many varied, exciting and interesting experiences for young children. Pay attention to what things fascinate which children.  Then, help them to really think about those things for as long as their interest and excitement remains. Help them think about how they could find out more…and let them find out more!

Dr. Herschbach became interested in astronomy early in life, but ultimately dedicated his life to chemistry. Your work as a preschool teacher need not set a child’s future in stone. Just excite them enough that they get a lot of practice getting excited to learn.


"People love to wonder, and that is the seed of science." by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another in our Quotes to Teach by series – What we teachers can learn from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Curiosity is the heart of science because it is what makes scientists search for answers.  The same is true for children.

While curiosity may have killed the cat, it is the very basis of science and of scientific thinking. Scientists have to have an incredible amount of curiosity to be successful and in many ways, it’s curiosity and wonder that drive science.

Yet, so often, school seems to squelch children’s curiosity. It’s science time when it’s science time, not when the child notices the lichen on the tree. Every time the child hears, “Don’t touch that!” or, “Why do you always bring in all that junk from outside in your pockets?!” it reinforces the idea that school is no place to wonder and discover.

One of the best ways that you can teach STEAM to young children is to stimulate their curiosity and help them follow their interests to learn more. There is so much in the world that excites, delights, and intrigues children! We want to spark that curiosity and celebrate it, not squelch it.

The first step in the Investigation Method is to encourage children to pay attention to the world around them, to observe, to notice things that interest them. When children notice something interesting or surprising, they (and scientists) become curious and want to know more about it.

You can try to get them to do something or learn something, but if the child is not interested, it will be frustrating for both of you. Instead, pay attention to what interests the children and follow their lead. Then, capitalize on that interest to help children make discoveries about what makes them curious.

Remember that young children will learn facts and develop skills BETTER when they are interested, curious, engaged, and playing. Be intentional about noticing children’s curiosity and using that as your springboard for teaching, thinking, and learning.

For example, a child who notices that paper crumpled in a ball goes farther when thrown than a flat piece of paper will be more likely to talk about that, think about that, and learn about that than they will be to talk about how “pumpkin starts with the letter “p.” They’re also more open and receptive to thinking about what letter “paper” starts with when they’re dictating words about their paper experiment to you as you write down what they’re doing.

Let curiosity reign supreme in your classroom. Create opportunities for new and exciting experiences, nurture the love of wonder, let the learning bloom. Capitalize on the excitement to introduce other thoughts and ideas. Don’t let the standards, the standardized tests, destroy wonder. Make sure learning happens because of curiosity, not that curiosity has to find a way to survive in spite of school.

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