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Why does something happen? Why do you feel that way? Why does it work this way? Why is this right? Why is this wrong? Why should I care? Why?

One of the most powerful questions we can ask is "why?" In today's classroom, all teachers should strive to promote curiosity as it leads to engagement, critical thinking, and creation. It is a beautiful thing; however, how do we make curiosity a fixture in our classrooms when our students are not always striving to learn more? This is the tough question that teachers tackle as they design lessons and activities. In addition to curiosity, teachers are challenged to create a learning environment that allows for problem-solving, which I would argue is a key component of curiosity. During my visits to the Technology and Engineering Education department this week, my observations encouraged me to reflect on curiosity and how we tailor our classes to foster a learning environment for questioning, creating, and problem-solving. This type of dynamic learning environment takes our students' experiences to the next level, and I would argue it is extremely beneficial in getting them ready for what comes next after high school.

When our students ask great questions, it means that we are inspiring them to think critically and be curious about the topic at hand. The more questions they ask, the more they are thinking, learning, and applying their understanding. When I visited Mr. Anthony Tegtmeyer's Engineering Design and Development classes, the students were presenting their proposals for an engineering project they are working on all year. This proposal asked them to find a problem, research solutions, present current patents, and consider what they can create to tackle the problem. While student groups presented to the rest of the class, the other students listened and completed a rubric that would later be distributed to the group presenting. Mr. Tegtmeyer asked for student questions at the end of each presentation, and the questions asked were absolutely fantastic and demonstrated that students were engaged and craving more information. What prompted these questions, you ask? Student choice, a variety of topics, and the fact that these presentations presented real-world problems that we all experience. In addition, the students all completed the same steps in order to create the proposal. Since we all think differently, students were able to use their own experiences in order to drive questions and vary the speakers' thinking. Students will eventually present their projects and creations to a panel of real engineers, so as Mr. Tegtmeyer explained to the class, their proposals jump-start the process and provide authentic practice for a real professional experience. 

In classes like Woods, teachers need to provide individualized instruction to students as they tackle different projects and learn how to use machinery. Mr. Mark Rose has to coach his students through the building process and constantly vary his instruction in order to help his students create a final product. There are so many working pieces when it comes to creation, and as teachers, we need to lay the appropriate foundation for our students and then give them control over how they progress. Scaffolding the class in this way encourages curiosity on so many levels, as students learn what is needed but also must strive to learn more as they gain independence. I learned from a student in Mr. Rose's class that in order to start creating, students must learn the basics and complete two projects with a specified layout and materials. I witnessed students working diligently to complete these projects, and they were engaged, focused, and precise with all parts of the process. This particular student's eyes lit up as she explained her next project - a center console for her brother's car - and she had choice and control over its design and creation. Her excitement to get started was contagious, and it was awesome to see her take ownership of the project.

Problem Solving 
Students need to struggle. Whether they eventually succeed or fail due to this struggle, they need to learn how to endure and problem solve when faced with adversity. As teachers, we can help coach them through different struggles and teach them how to assess situations and tackle them head-on. In Mr. Brian Lein's Auto classes, his students are working to operate a lift that will eventually aid them in fixing cars. They struggled to figure out how to work this lift, and it was interesting to watch the students in this situation and how they relied on Mr. Lein to model effective problem-solving in order to find a solution. Students read the manual, asked questions, and experimented with different parts in order to get this lift to work. During the process, Mr. Lein was right there with them - troubleshooting the problem. When they realized something wasn't working, they attempted another idea in order to remedy the situation. During this process, students asked great questions because their struggle with the task at hand piqued their curiosity. In any class, we need to provide our students with situations and activities that require them to do some problem-solving. In doing this, we will hopefully ignite their minds and take their learning to the next level.

One of my favorite moments this week was a conversation I had with a student in Mr. Peter Ross's Drafting and Design Class. Students were working to draft their designs with specific specifications. When I asked a question that I thought might be a stupid question, he just smiled and explained to me that their goal when drafting is that anyone should be able to look at their work and gain an understanding of the design. Here comes the good part....this student explained to me that there are no stupid questions or ideas, which he learned from his teachers in the Technology and Engineering Department. According to this student, asking questions and proposing new ideas forces us to look at every possible solution and think differently about it. At times, the student explained, the possibilities we don't initially consider will ultimately lead us to success.

That, my friends, is the power of curiosity.  How will you promote curiosity in your classroom? #whatsup