Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spelunking

I went to Mammoth Cave yesterday. It was my first time there, and if it wasn't for my father-in-law visiting, I probably would have never gone. I'm glad I went, and I thought the tour really gave me value for my money. I was impressed with the guide's ability to work the crowd and keep everybody entertained. I'm impressed when anyone with a "scientific mind" is also able to relate to people. My tour was three hours but he made the time go by fast.

What I liked is that although he was certainly knowledgable about the geographical and geological aspects of the cave, he also spent a great deal talking about the social history of the cave and the cultural aspects of the way the cave has been used or exploited over the years.

I was also impressed with the way the guide was able to relate to an audience that had both adults and children. The kids were full of questions, many of which were really good questions that adults wouldn't even think of asking. I was also impressed that many of them were directly about things the guide had stated, even things that he had stated long before, showing that the kids were really paying attention (who says kids don't have attention spans anymore?)

I couldn't help but apply the children's inquisitiveness to the inquisitiveness of older students. I think somewhere along in our educational system, somewhere along the desire to teach concrete lesson plans with specific "objectives," we send the message to students that they shouldn't let their imagination wander in discussions, that questions must relate directly to the topic at hand. I've noticed as a teacher that often students are loath to ask questions in a large group setting that they are more comfortable asking in smaller groups or in one-to-one interaction. I've even noticed in my graduate classes that in discussions students are happy to share opinions and argue points, but rarely ask thought-provoking questions. Which is kind of strange because the first schools set up by the Greek philosophers (Plato and Aristotle) were based on the premise that learning takes place as a result of asking questions.

And as I found out in part yesterday, I don't think ithe task confronting educators is a matter of teaching students how to ask questions, but rather encouraging them to keep the curiosity of their childhood.

4 Comments:

Blogger Heidi said...

except, you know, if your childhood sucked hard core

5:28 PM  
Blogger tippy1 said...

I think that educators should also attempt to ask question in class (and even on tests) that, yes, want opinion but always request for "why do you think this way? your backing?". Curiosity is vital along with critical thinking and analyses.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

but, like i said, it only counts if your childhood was spent frolicking in the meadows.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heidi, you make me laugh.
-shithead. or am i bullshit?

9:11 PM  

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