TED Conversations

Theresa Willingham

Creative Partner, Eureka Factory


This conversation is closed.

Celebrating and Inspiring Curiosity as a Key Component in Learning

I'm speaking here not of "education", but of learning - the process by which we obtain not just an education, but life and career skills.

We are all born curious. It’s curiosity that compels children of all ages to touch, taste, smell, and explore the world around them. Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of habit, sometimes for no good reason at all, we often discourage that innate curiosity in children,just as they begin to master the skills they need to get a handle on their world.

Anyone who has seen the affected boredom of middleschoolers and highschoolers in contrast with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of elementary aged children can see the effects of thwarted curiosity, of a culture in which it simply isn't cool to be curious.

But without curiosity, there's little impetus to discover or explore. Without curiosity, apathy and disinterest creep in and the commensurate affects of an unexamined life can be culturally far-reaching - affecting political involvement, scientific, literary, artistic, economic and social achievement and development.

I believe we need to celebrate and encourage the Curiosity Driven Life at the adult level so that it trickles down to our youth. It's time for more of us to question what we hear and read and see, and to wonder and ponder out loud, and to engage in learning side-by-side with our children, modeling the curiosity we want to inspire in them.

We need a generation of people who have grown up asking questions and who are experienced in finding answers and creating solutions; people who aren’t afraid to get hurt, fall or fail, people for whom the greatest, most dangerous and most exciting innate human trait we have - curiosity – is a celebrated way of life!

What do you think?


Closing Statement from Theresa Willingham

I enjoyed watching this conversation develop. It was interesting to see how people have experienced discouragement of curiosity in learning environments, although I'd have liked to have seen more idea generation regarding ways to inspire creater curiosity. Generally, though, everyone seemed to concur that that they felt it was vital to foster curiosity and that it is integral to learning. One of the more positive suggestions was rewarding youth for thinking outside the box. I think that's a great idea, and would encourage more out of the box thinking by others, making curiosity and innovative thinking "cool."

There was also general agreement that one of the principle considerations in fostering curiosity and creativity is whether people feel safe and secure. If food and shelter are hard to come by, it's hard to be curious about much beyond where your next meal comes from. Creating "safe zones" , of any size, can go a long way toward providing a nurturing environment to foster curiosity and commensurate learning. We'll be continuing the conversation at TED ED (http://education.ted.com/content.php) if you want to join in!

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Feb 21 2011: Curiosity implies interest and alas one of the most unfortunate parts of the education system is that there is little for kids to be interested in. Hand a kid mathematical equations and they won't care because it has no meaning in life to them. I think the main way to encourage curiosity is to create reasons to get curious. And in that the best way to create curiosity and interest is to make it relatable. Whether that is through connecting to video game or movie characters, or things that happen in children's lives on a regular basis.

    I know that curiosity is integral to my life and it helps me find my way all the time. But many kids have a life that is decided for them, between being in school, and chores, homework and other responsibilities. The key to develop interest and curiosity is to make the subject relatable. For example. If the kid loves the movie Toy Story, then relate the characters and events to the lessons, perhaps give the kids the problem, that Buzz needs to get back to Andy's room from Cid's house. He has a piece of paper, can he get from one window to the other? What would he have to do to accomplish this? The desire to see the character succeed is enough to drive curiosity, and while your at it it's encouraging empathy at the same time.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.