Living in a Learning Bubble
I have to admit that the last several months have felt like we were confined to our own pandemic learning bubbles. At times it even felt like being trapped in a bubble of chaos, uncertainty, overconsumption of technology, along with many other layers of unknowns. Something interesting to know about bubbles is that they are free and not attached to anything. They are always round because there are forces pushing on the bubble from the inside and the outside in equal directions. Also, spheres happen to be the strongest and most efficient shape in nature. Did anyone feel the forces pushing on your bubble from the inside and the outside? While the forces were pushing on our patience and our will to persevere, we still managed to remain strong and resilient. Why? We are educators. We are in the business of multitasking and developing solutions to many kinds of challenges, all while keeping our students’ best interests at the core of everything we do. Now take a journey back in time…remember when you were just a child and you intently watched a bubble float through the air and wondered how long it could glide along before it popped? That curiosity made you feel energized, invigorated, and enthralled because you knew it was bound to happen. Do you recall the feeling you had when it finally happened? You probably felt a sense of excitement and motivation to blow more bubbles and rediscover that same feeling. Well, within the constraints of the pandemic learning bubble, we were all wondering how long it would take for the bubble of chaos to pop. And now that we’ve started to emerge from our bubbles, we find ourselves anxious to go outside, explore our new worlds, and take a well-deserved break from the virtual bubbles we have been living in.
Wonder Surrounds Us
As things begin to open up and we start to feel some sense of normalcy, many families have been wondering how they will keep their children engaged in learning over the summer months since regular summer plans may have been interrupted. Family friends, (especially those with primary school-age children) have been inquiring about how to capitalize on their children’s inquisitive qualities and keep their summer filled with meaningful experiences. From my very own personal experience, the best way to keep my own children engaged in learning is to make them feel like they are not really working at all! One of the gifts the pandemic brought to many, is that it was an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the more simple things. The feeling of slowing down has prompted us to think, observe, and reflect, perhaps even just a little bit more than we have before. If you really stop and look around, you may recognize that there are wonders all around us! What do I mean by that? Well, there are opportunities to learn in authentic and relevant ways that do not have to feel like you are doing anything extraneous! This learning can be done with children naturally by utilizing nature and daily routines to model our own curiosities through dialogue that is critical to the cognitive development and growth of learners. Curiosity is a state of mind that turbocharges thinking, exploration, wonder, and the ability to question. Think about this…when a child picks something up, opens a drawer, explores the environment around them, asks informational questions, this evokes powerful discussions and stories. When children generate their own questions, they are more likely to pay closer attention, process information more efficiently, connect new and old knowledge, work harder and persist longer, and employ more effective learning strategies. Additionally, this exploration of the world is a unique opportunity to enhance learners’ language skills, increase their vocabulary, and help them express their thoughts and feelings. Check out a short article by Ann Murphy Paul titled How To Simulate Curiosity to learn more about practical ways to use curiosity to drive learning. It is vital to keep in mind that the best questions don’t always have answers; they usually lead to even more questions. All of this thinking about emerging from our virtual learning bubbles and tapping into learners’ curiosities sparked some memories about some inquiry work I did with young learners about how we can cultivate habits of discovery within our natural surroundings. Here is the book that inspired this learning: A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough and some ideas to keep learning fun and energizing throughout the summer months and beyond!
Ideas for Cultivating Habits of Discovery
- Think about the places you visit in your everyday life!
2. Use this template as a conversation guide, sketch, or writing guide as you discuss these places:
3. Other Conversation Prompts to Use with Children:
4. Enrich Conversations by Using Colorful Language:
Spark Curiosity with these Activities:
- Discovery Table: Gather items from around your house from outside (leaves, toys, flowers, plants, food) and put them on the table. Use the See, Think, Wonder template, and the Conversation Prompts to drive the learning! Learners can orally share their thinking, sketch, and/or jot down their ideas in a wonder journal!
Example of the Discovery Table Conversation
2. Observation Window: Look outside of any window (house, car, store) and observe what you see. Look outside of the window at different times of the day, and as the seasons change and notice how the sights have either stayed the same or transformed into something else. Use the See, Think, Wonder template, and the Conversation Prompts to drive the learning discussion! Learners can orally share their thinking, sketch, and/or jot down their ideas in a wonder journal!
Example of the Observation Window Conversation:
3. Supermarket Sights: Make the supermarket a learning experience for your child. As you navigate around the market, use the See, Think, Wonder template and conversation prompts to drive the conversation about the different types of foods you see. This is also a good opportunity to embed math language and concepts into the conversation. Strengthen your child’s number sense by weighing the foods, counting and adding the cost of the items, etc…).
Example of Supermarket Sights Conversation:
Using literature as an entry point for making connections to learning, building vocabulary, and forging deeper conversations is always encouraged! Books offer learners a chance to process and discuss various topics through different lenses. Literature opens doors to new ideas that children may want to explore further through self-directed inquiry. Here are some book suggestions to support and enhance these authentic learning experiences!
Leveraging Learning Opportunities
As we continue to emerge from our virtual bubbles and take time to honor and leverage learners’ curiosities within their own surroundings, you may notice that the process can lead to the development of deeper understandings and efficacy. When children are supported and provided with opportunities to integrate past and present experiences that are meaningful to them, they are empowered with the ability to design their own learning paths. No matter what learning environment we are in (traditional, remote, summer), it is important to use this time to take advantage of learners’ interests, questions, and wonders. Wonder IS contagious when you are looking at it from the eyes of a child and learning with them side by side. If you want to feel that excitement and awe about the world, think back to the times you were waiting for those perfectly round bubbles to pop and just look around you… because wonder is all around us!