Most people are familiar with the expression involving curiosity and a cat, but it’s what kills curiosity that has Karen Redman concerned. The culprit: adulthood. This dilemma explains why she focuses her energy on helping students counteract such a fate.
As an adjunct faculty member in Education and Early Childhood Education, Redman encourages her students to identify and reverse the trigger in human nature that casts aside a natural sense of wonder as individuals mature. Not only are her students at risk, but so are future generations of young learners that her students aspire to teach.
“I often ask adult students what they wonder about and I get blank stares,” Redman said. “We have lost our ability to ask questions and wonder about the world, so I try to re-ignite this interest in my adult students because if they don’t have it, they won’t be able to foster it in children.”
Redman draws from her teaching philosophy to address the challenge, which represents a sharp contrast from the days where students where viewed as sponges of knowledge that required little more than teachers to ‘pour’ information in them.
“For significant learning to take place, the teacher should act more like a facilitator rather than a dispenser of knowledge. That means my role is to present material and also experiences that help guide and support the learning process,” she said.
One such lesson provides her students with a literal bird’s-eye view of curiosity in action. In her Cognitive Curriculum class, future educators are given an introduction on teaching math and science to children. Redman shares bird nests with small groups, and the students are expected to examine them using magnifying glasses.
“I want students to become good observers and ask questions: I wonder what kind of bird built this nest? How can birds weave these materials together with no hands? I wonder if both the mother and father built this nest or just one of them?” Redman said. “They can’t begin to lead students in this way unless they have experienced it themselves.”
As students leave the figurative nest of Redman’s classroom, she said her greatest sense of accomplishment arrives when adult learners are prepared to cultivate curiosity and creativity with others.