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When I Grow Up: Strategies for Nurturing Curiosity in Elementary Students


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Elementary school students are naturally curious about the world around them. Educators have an opportunity to help students see how their personal likes and interests can develop into best-fit education paths and careers. In this webinar, you’ll learn strategies for helping students to foster and realize their aspirations through self-discovery, career exploration and college awareness in developmentally appropriate ways. Participants will also learn how Naviance for Elementary School kindles students’ curiosity.

Published in: Education
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When I Grow Up: Strategies for Nurturing Curiosity in Elementary Students

  1. 1. When I Grow Up: Strategies for Nurturing Curiosity in Elementary Students Kristy Cunningham Image Anne Fitten Glenn on Flickr.
  2. 2. Kristy Cunningham OurPresenterToday Kristy Cunningham is a user experience designer and former English Language Arts teacher who specializes in learning experiences. Originally from central Ohio, curiosity, play and imagination were essential in reinventing the space around her as a child. Kristy has her Masters degree from Michigan State University in Serious Game Design and works with Hobsons’ Global User Experience Team to design solutions that connect learning and life. She is particularly fond of magical stories for children, teenagers, and adults who never grew up.
  3. 3. I’m looking forward to our chat about curiosity, elementary school, and how you can cultivate curiosity to increase engagement and get students started exploring postsecondary possibilities. You’ll walk away with practical suggestions for how keep your students in the Zone of Curiosity. Welcome
  4. 4. KidsAspire! “When I grow up I want to study dinosaur bones!” “I would like to act in movies!” Rising Kindergartner Future Paleontologist Rising First Grader Future Actor “I want to be a doctor like my parents.” Rising Third Grader Future Doctor “I’m going to make auto drive, get rich, and buy an NFL team!” Rising Fifth Grader Future Entrepreneur 2 041
  5. 5. Why We’re Here The School Cliff: Students’ Engagement Drops Over Time % Engaged Elementary School Middle School High School 76 61 44 TheElementaryEngagement Peak
  6. 6. Why We’re Here TheAspirations Gap Percentage of middle school students who aspire to go to college Percentage of middle school students who actually enroll Percentage of first-time, full-time students that complete a 2-year degree 44% Percentage of first-time, full-time students that complete a 4-year degree 93% 31%59% Source: Educational Policy Improvement Center Source: NCES
  7. 7. Research shows that curiosity is just as important to academic achievement as intelligence. Curiosity isKey
  8. 8. Engaged students. Image by Laurie Sullivan on Flickr.
  9. 9. Kristy Cunningham UX Designer at Hobsons Clients and End Users User Experience Designers Engineers and QA Analysts Product Managers Learning & Life
  10. 10. Me at home.
  11. 11. My neighbors. Image by Oregon State University on Flickr.
  12. 12. Like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, I was always looking for the next book to read. Image by Disney from Beauty and the Beast.
  13. 13. Books were a great way for me to try out future hats for myself with no risks. Image by Stephanie Overton on Flickr.
  14. 14. In high school I got access to the world wide web and this was life changing. Image by VanWest College on Flickr.
  15. 15. I’ll define curiosity and what it means for elementary students. I’ll provide an overview of research that unpacks why curiosity is important. I’ll tie that back to specific life-long benefits for curious people. What is curiosity? Why is it important? What are the benefits? Down the Rabbit Hole Image by Duncan Harris on Flickr.
  16. 16. n. The desire to learn or know more about something or someone. Think of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland, Jack Skellington in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, or the Doctor of Doctor Who fame. What is curiosity?
  17. 17. Maw and Maw (1964) Down the Rabbit Hole CuriosityinElementarySchool Children "...curiosity is demonstrated by an elementary school child when he: (1) reacts positively to new, strange, incongruous, or mysterious elements in his environment by moving toward them, by exploring, or by manipulating them, (2) exhibits a need or a desire to know more about himself and/or his environment, (3) scans his surroundings seeking new experiences, and (4) persists in examining and exploring stimuli in order to know more about them."
  18. 18. Marilyn Price Mitchell, Ph. D. places curiosity at the heart of life-long learning. Image by Lisa L. Wiedmeier on Flickr.
  19. 19. TheImpact ofCuriosity Learning and curiosity (Gruber et al, 2014) Curiosity and intelligence (von Stumm et al, 2011) Curiosity and other traits (Arnone & Small, 1995) Curiosity and work satisfaction (Gallup) Curiosity and motivation (Day, 1982) Many studies confirm the benefits of a curious mind. Down the Rabbit Hole Image Courtney Carmody rsity on Flickr.
  20. 20. Down the Rabbit Hole Change the story with curiosity % Engaged Elementary School Middle School High School 76 61 44 Stopthedrop! Image Mads Boker on Flickr.
  21. 21. I’ll define curiosity and what it means for elementary students. I’ll provide an overview of research that unpacks why curiosity is important. I’ll tie that back to specific life-long benefits for curious people. Space for Curiosity 6 Core Themes How to Use Them Growing Up in Wonderland Image by Siavash Ghadiri Zahrani on Flickr.
  22. 22. Growing Up in Wonderland Curiosity Students with just enough choices and stimulation become alert and a ready to be curious (Day, 1982). Relaxation If students don’t have enough stimulation in their environment, they will be too relaxed to explore. Getting it “Just right” Making the right environment for each student is where adult intervention comes into play. Anxiety Students who have too much going on (tasks, choices, etc.) may have too much anxiety to be comfortable exploring. TheZoneof Curiosity Zone of Curiosity Exploring Excited Interested Zone of Relaxation Bored Unmotivated Disinterested Zone of Anxiety Avoiding Defensive Disinterested Very Efficient Inefficient
  23. 23. Curiosity is fragile. Image by Christian Schnettelker on Flickr.
  24. 24. Growing Up in Wonderland Maslow’sHierarchyof Needs Safety Students cannot feel as though they are in emotional or physical danger if they are going to explore. Self-Actualization Curiosity is most likely part of self-actualization. This means students need a lot of support to stay curious. Basic Needs Hydration, sleep, and nutrition all have key roles to play in supporting a curious mind. Competence and Care Students must feel that they are capable and have the respect of others, to feel safe exploring. Safety Love and Belonging Esteem Self-Actualization Physiological
  25. 25. Growing Up in Wonderland Seeing CuriosityinAction withourPilot Before launching Naviance for Elementary, Hobsons did a 3 month pilot in 7 districts across the United States, making sure content and design was aligned to the needs of different teachers, counselors, students, and district challenges. 1st and 5th Grade Classrooms We had created test activities for our oldest and youngest elementary students to see how each approach would vary. Students with Free/Reduced Lunch Our pilot schools had high numbers of students (80%+) facing challenges associated with poverty. First Generation Families Our pilot schools also had high numbers of students whose parents and guardians did not have the opportunity to go to college. 7 Unique Districts Pilot districts from Maryland, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Colorado participated in our pilot. There was a mixture of urban, suburban and rural schools.
  26. 26. CommonThemesNurtureCuriosity
  27. 27. Student interests, self awareness, and self discovery are at the heart of the elementary experience. By giving students choices, defined by their interests, students excel. In addition, autonomy is a psychologically proven intrinsic motivator. When exposing students to new ideas, schools and institutions can help tie back to individual identities and interests to connect learning to life. StartwithStudentInterests 1
  28. 28. Goosebumps books Image by Nathan on Flickr.
  29. 29. 3rd graders exploring books. Image by K.W. Barrett on Flickr.
  30. 30. Students are very interested in exploring what makes them unique. Image by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Flickr.
  31. 31. No one is asking, ‘What’s up with you?’ Don’t let high school college conversations be the first time adults ask students about their interests. Student interests are a key way to connect learning to life at any age! Growing Up in Wonderland
  32. 32. Screenshot Individual Interests in Naviance for Elementary School Students love to figure out what makes them tick. Because of that, many of our lessons show students how other people have used their interests to pursue a post secondary pathway that works for them. Self-Discovery
  33. 33. CarpetConversations • Ask students about their favorite activities outside of school. • Provide students opportunities to tell you about topics they would like to learn more about. • Allow students to have a Q and A session with you – or another adult. • Create a safe space, then let students talk about their values and why it matters to them. Use Circle Time to Casually Invite Curiosity Growing Up in Wonderland Image by the U.S. Department of Education on Flickr.
  34. 34. Assessments • Have students participate in a Clifton based strengths assessment, like Gallup’s StrengthsExplorer®. • Help students learn their personality type through a personality inventory. • Conduct an interest inventory. Help students learn more about themselves Growing Up in Wonderland Image by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on Flickr.
  35. 35. ReportsandResearch • Assign a project where students explore a career cluster of interest then write a report, make a video, or create a presentation to share with the class. • Let students pick out books related to career interests or college interests at the library. • Create a curated list of web based tools students can use to learn more about colleges and careers of interest. Help Students Dig Deeper Growing Up in Wonderland Image by Woodleywonderworks on Flickr.
  36. 36. Show students you care about what makes them curious! Image by the U.S. Department of Education on Flickr.
  37. 37. Students desire to express themselves from an early age. By providing in-classroom and on- screen opportunities for expression, students become more engaged. Student expression ranges from drawing to discussion to writing and more. Foster more expression because the stronger students become at asking questions about their world and explaining their strengths, interests, values, and beliefs, the better self-advocates they become. Encourage Expression 2
  38. 38. Kids of all ages want to express themselves. Image by Steven Depolo on Flickr.
  39. 39. Expression through Writing • Have students keep a journal as they explore colleges and careers. Ask them to add an entry every week. • Have students write letters to professionals (or to you) telling about their interests. • Create a “smart phone” worksheet where kids can write physical texts to self and put them on your bulletin boards. • Give students emoji stickers they can use to show how they feel in their reflections. Students looked for journaling opportunities Growing Up in Wonderland
  40. 40. Expression takes many forms. Image by Western Arctic National Parkland on Flickr.
  41. 41. Students like to make things. Image by Steven Depolo on Flickr.
  42. 42. “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!” Ms. Frizzle’s motto in the 90s TV series based on The Magic School Bus books by Joanna Cole is a great way to set a tone ripe for curiosity. Discovery is messy! Expression is messy! Life is messy! Help students embrace it. Growing Up in Wonderland
  43. 43. Empathize Use the knowledge you’ve gained about real people to define the challenge you want to solve. What do they need? Create as many ideas as possible for how to solve the challenge. Think outside the box and don’t discard any ideas. Define Ideate Prototype Test Growing Up in Wonderland DesignThinkingandExpression Talk to real people about challenges they face. Learn about how they feel, what’s working and not working, and what they think could help. Vote on the best of your ideas. Then prototype them. You want to build just enough of each idea so that you can test with the people you want to help. Invite real people to try out the prototype/s. Collect feedback. Once you know what worked and didn’t work, start over! Eventually you’ll have a great solution.
  44. 44. Design thinking helps students test solutions to real world problems using empathy and inquiry. Image by Jaya Ramchandani on Flickr.
  45. 45. Students of all ages find stories memorable. As they grow up, narrative becomes an important part of learning and expression. Historically, stories have been leveraged to pass on the collective wisdom of entire generations. Tell stories to hook students, help them picture themselves in new roles, and become heroes on the path to a calling they are still discovering. Tell Stories 3
  46. 46. TheHerowitha Thousand Faces “The first popular work to combine the spiritual and psychological insights of modern psychoanalysis with the archetypes of world mythology, the book creates a roadmap for navigating the frustrating path of contemporary life. Examining heroic myths in the light of modern psychology, it considers not only the patterns and stages of mythology but also its relevance to our lives today--and to the life of any person seeking a fully realized existence.” From Good Reads … Growing Up in Wonderland
  47. 47. Growing Up in Wonderland TheHero’sJourney The Hero’s Journey or Monomyth is a story structure repeated across human history via myths, novels, movies, and more. o The Ordinary World o The Call to Adventure o The Refusal of the Call o The Meeting with the Mentor o Crossing the Threshold o Tests/Allies/Enemies o The Approach to the Ordeal o The Ordeal o The Reward o The Road Back o Atonement with the Father/Mother o The Return to the Ordinary World The Stages of the Hero’s Journey The Ordinary World A return to the Ordinary world, changed by the reward The Journey Home and Final Battle A life changing ordeal where a reward is achieved A Trail of Challenges with many Meetings The Call To Adventure
  48. 48. Growing Up in Wonderland TheHero’sJourneyinAction o The Ordinary World: The pleasant land of the Shire. o The Call to Adventure: Gandalf arrives and invites him to help the Dwarves reclaim their homeland. o The Refusal of the Call: Bilbo wants none of it. o The Meeting with the Mentor: Gandalf convinces him. o Crossing the Threshold: He chooses to go to Rivendell. o Tests/Allies/Enemies: They face tests, such as goblins, orcs and the Gollum. o The Approach to the Ordeal: Bilbo sneaks into Smaug’s cave. o The Ordeal: Bilbo must face Smaug. o The Reward: Bilbo learns the secret to defeating Smaug. o The Road Back: Bilbo shares his secret with the villagers of Laketown which saves them from Smaug’s wrath. o Atonement with the Father/Mother: Bilbo reconciles the dwarves. o The Return to the Ordinary World: Bilbo returns home, changed by his time with dwarves, elves, and wizards. The Hero’s Journey via the Hobbit The Ordinary World A return to the Ordinary world, changed by the reward The Journey Home and Final Battle A life changing ordeal where a reward is achieved A Trail of Challenges with many Meetings The Call To Adventure
  49. 49. Growing Up in Wonderland TheHero’sJourneyinthe5StepLessonPlan The five step lesson plan shares some elements of the hero’s journey already. o Warm Up o Direct Instruction o Guided Practice o Independent Practice o Closing The Five Step Lesson Plan The Ordinary World A return to the Ordinary world, changed by the reward The Journey Home and Final Battle A life changing ordeal where a reward is achieved A Trail of Challenges with many Meetings The Call To Adventure
  50. 50. Part of a Naviance for Elementary School 5 step lesson plan
  51. 51. A teacher reading to her students. Image by Read Across America on Flickr.
  52. 52. BookSuggestions in OurLessonPlans Growing Up in Wonderland Image by North Charleston on Flickr.
  53. 53. Discovering CareersandPathwayswithStories Naviance for Elementary School includes many human characters. Many of these characters have stories students can uncover such as what career path they are on, what college the went to, and why they made certain postsecondary choices. We encourage teachers to add richness by telling their own stories to students too! Storytelling
  54. 54. Screenshot Expression in Naviance for Elementary School Stories remain one of the age-old ways to help humans make mean. We use stories in our interactive activities to help make ideas sticky. Stories
  55. 55. Even the youngest of students understand that they are on a pathway to becoming an adult – that they are human. They expect college and career content to connect to people. They seek opportunities to interact with other humans as they make sense of the world and their place within it. Nurture relationships by linking content to humans and providing moments for students to connect with peers, educators, their families, and communities so that students know that they are not in this alone. Build Relationships 4
  56. 56. Adult relationships are very important to students. Image by Sonny Abesamis on Flickr.
  57. 57. BuildRelationshipsonIndividualInterests
  58. 58. Family matters to students. Image by Ryan Polei on Flickr.
  59. 59. AdultsSupport Curiosity • Conduct student-led conferences and let students share their aspirations with you and family members. • Help students create a portfolio they can showcase to adults. • Have conversations with families about how they can help their child/ren achieve their aspirations. • Help family members with tips from today’s session they can use to grow curiosity with their children. • Involve parents and community members in school activities that require exploration – like career days and field trips! Help Support Relationships Growing Up in Wonderland Image by Woodleywonderworks on Flickr.
  60. 60. Students quickly look for relationships with their peers. Image by Shenandoah National Park on Flickr.
  61. 61. An affinity space is a virtual or physical space where informal learning takes place. Popularized by James Paul Gee, affinity spaces are environments where groups of people are drawn together by shared interests or engagement in a topic or activity. Growing Up in Wonderland
  62. 62. Build Friendships with Affinity Spaces • Offer students clubs or after school activities based on different interests. • Create student groups or projects around individual interests. • Let students self organize into groups around topics of interest. • Create a private online class forum that you moderate where students can discuss topics of interest, like careers. You can even get families involved! How to create affinity spaces Growing Up in Wonderland Image by Denali National Park on Flickr.
  63. 63. Growing Up in Wonderland PracticesareTranslatable Between Affinity Spaces Computer Games It starts with a shared interest in gaming Graphics Programmer Benjamin finds he likes writing code and algorithms that help virtual objects look textured or well lit. He joins a professional organization around graphics programming. Computer Science Benjamin makes the connection between writing and computer games in college. He takes a class in Computer Science and then decides to take a lot more. Writing Benjamin really liked making up stories about characters in Minecraft with some friends. In middle school he joins Power of the Pen. 2nd Grade Then a more specific community Career Benjamin loves computer games. He joins a group of other kids that like to play Minecraft. Writing stories becomes writing code College This translates to writing 6th Grade
  64. 64. “You are not in this alone.” Help create an environment that fosters relationships that build social supports for students as they pursue their interests and the possibilities that connect to them. Remember, students are only curious when they feel it is safe to explore, and just like in the game The Legend of Zelda “It is dangerous to go alone.” Growing Up in Wonderland
  65. 65. Students seek feedback in order to understand where they are at on a given pathway. Positive and negative feedback is essential to allow students to discover a future that fits them. Provide feedback that is informative and encouraging, so that students can learn from mistakes and celebrate successes with you. This helps them develop a feeling of competence and self- confidence as they try out possibilties. ProvideFeedback 5
  66. 66. Positive Feedback Growing Up in Wonderland Thanks for being so thoughtful. Your folder is really well organized today. Your essay was very persuasive. Nice job demonstrating college and career readiness behavior. Way to go! That’s 3 perfect spelling tests in a row!
  67. 67. Negative Feedback Growing Up in Wonderland How about writing your name at the top of the paper instead. Remember, crisscross applesauce. Shouting is not a choice. Now is not the time for drawing. Why don’t you try that one again?
  68. 68. ThePowerof“Don’t” Once students see your disapproval they become more concerned with pleasing you than exploring. Kids want to make teachers, parents, and other adults happy! Be careful with how you frame rules and negative feedback. Exploration isn’t a paint by numbers approach. You want to make sure your reinforcement of rules still allows room for discovery. Choose a New Phrase Growing Up in Wonderland Image by Roland Lakis on Flickr.
  69. 69. No matter how out of this world, help students explore their postsecondary interests. Ask questions that help students discover related domains. K-5 students have a lot of hats to try on before they graduate! Image by Glen Beltz on Flickr.
  70. 70. Feedback inNaviance forElementarySchool There is no failure in Naviance for Elementary School. When a student makes a mistake, our host character, C.C. says, “Oops! Try again,” to encourage students. If a student fails to find a correct response after 3 tries, the system will highlight a correct match (character, object, building, etc) so they can move on. Growing Up in Wonderland
  71. 71. Empathize Define Ideate Prototype Test Growing Up in Wonderland DesignThinkingBanksonFailuretoSolve Problems Testing doesn’t always go the way you think. That’s why it is important to reflect and go back to empathizing. Use the knowledge you’ve gained about real people to define the challenge you want to solve. What do they need? Create as many ideas as possible for how to solve the challenge. Think outside the box and don’t discard any ideas. Talk to real people about challenges they face. Learn about how they feel, what’s working and not working, and what they think could help. Vote on the best of your ideas. Then prototype them. You want to build just enough of each idea so that you can test with the people you want to help.
  72. 72. Encourage. Our words and actions have the power to give students the courage to explore. Growing Up in Wonderland
  73. 73. Students are very conscious of their status as humans. Design the learning experience, from lesson plans to interactions, to be developmentally appropriate for students without being perceived as “babyish”. Acknowledge that your elementary students come from diverse communities that are part of a global majority and respect students’ roots in how you talk about students, their families, and their world. GiveRespect 6
  74. 74. Kids need a balance of challenge and fun to feel respected – don’t let fun becoming “babyish.” Image by Jenny Cu on Flickr.
  75. 75. Activities forK-2 The K-2 experience includes bright colors, recognizable characters, and voiceovers to appeal to an early reading audience. Growing Up in Wonderland
  76. 76. Activities forGrades3-5 The 3-5 experience uses color pops on a neutral background to appear more mature. There is no host characters and students learn through reading instead of a voiceover. Teachers can use techniques like choral reading and pairing to help readers with low confidence. Growing Up in Wonderland
  77. 77. Respect for families is critical when supporting a child’s exploration of what’s possible for them. Image by Jose Ibarra on Flickr.
  78. 78. “A lot of parents aren’t high school graduates but the program is equitable. It never puts down their community.” Our pilot counselors want messaging that respects the devotion students have to their families and communities. They want to partner with families to help students dream big and empower students to make their communities even better. Growing Up in Wonderland
  79. 79. MeetingwithParents, Families, and Guardians • Create community events like dinners and college fairs to bring parents and families into the school in a casual environment. • Hold office hours at non-traditional times. • Hold virtual office hours for parents and families who need to connect on the go. • Send home surveys and newsletters to families to involve them, even if their schedule keeps them from being at the school. Building Respect Starts with Home Growing Up in Wonderland Image by Laurie Sullivan on Flickr.
  80. 80. Culturally Responsive Teaching • Communicate high standards – tell students you provide tough feedback because you know they can achieve. • Create opportunities for students to learn within the context of their own culture. • Reshape your curriculum to better reflect your student audience. For example, find examples of great scientists who share a background with your students. • Frame families and communities in a positive light. • Remember, your experience brings a lot to the table, but it is not the same experience your student audience may be bringing to the classroom. Build the Community Culture of Your Students Into Your Class Culture Growing Up in Wonderland Image by Jayel Aheram on Flickr.
  81. 81. Culturally responsive techniques are as diverse as your students. Explore what is out there that might work for your unique students. Image by Utahwildflowers on Flickr.
  82. 82. We’ll review today’s discussion. You’ll be offered a chance to ask questions. Inquisitively go forth and explore with your students! Summary Q and A Closing Curiouser and Curiouser Image by Sam Sherratt on Flickr.
  83. 83. CommonThemesNurtureCuriosity
  84. 84. I’d love to hear any questions you might have about the content we’ve discussed today. Questions
  85. 85. “Theimportantthingisto notstopquestioning. Curiosityhasits ownreasonforexistence.One cannothelpbutbe inawe whenhe contemplatesthe mysteriesofeternity,of life,of themarvellous structureofreality.Itis enoughif onetriesmerelyto comprehenda little ofthismysteryeveryday.” Curiouser and Curiouser - Albert Einstein