Chasing Wonder

Letting Curiosity Lead in the Logic Stage

When my kids were younger, they showed ridiculous excitement toward all things Christmas. They watched out the window to see what would happen to the Christmas lights when snow covered the bushes. They stared in awe, unblinking, at the dripping wax of the candlelight service. They bubbled with delight when they came down Christmas morning to find presents had “magically” appeared under the tree overnight.

But their response to the wonder of the season has changed as they have grown older. Now, don’t get me wrong, they are still excited about presents on Christmas morning (no matter how subdued their response may appear), but their awe and wonder of this most wonder-full time of year seems to have waned.

As a parent of teenagers, and as a logic- and rhetoric-stage teacher, I wrestle with the question: How do I keep my kids and my students engaged in and curious about the world around them? As a classical Christian school, our educational model encourages learning by chasing wonder, so this question is a crucial one.  While a sense of wonder seems to constantly bubble just under the surface of a first-grade classroom, how do we keep letting wonder lead as children grow up and the way they interact with the world seems to change?

We focus on the One who is infinitely wonderful.

God and His creation provide a limitless source of wonder. There will never be an end to that which is awesome about God – who He is, how He loves us, and how He created this world with such intricate detail and design. We help students stay curious by inviting them to consider the countless mysteries of God. For instance, Dr. Jackie Lent presents a Weekly Wednesday Wonder to her 7th – 12th grade science classes. She spends time each week introducing them to something awe-inspiring in God’s creation. 

We are not only invited to wonder about God’s natural world, though. Students become part of His “Great Conversation,” discussing the universal themes of all humanity that play out in literature and history, as well as in the Bible, but that also show up in the lunchroom, at the dinner table, and in current events around the world.  If history is reduced to the memorization of dates and events, it can feel like pointless information. But the saying, “history repeats itself,” is not about the events that have taken place; it speaks to the universal themes of being human that continually reoccur. Using history as an opportunity to learn about events through a wonder-led discussion about humanity’s inability to govern rightly absent God can indeed shape our students’ understanding of, and interaction with, the world in which they live.

We embrace the “inefficiency” of wonder-led adventures.

Letting wonder lead is not by its nature efficient. One cannot make another wonder. In the same way a parent cannot make a toddler have an appetite, a teacher cannot demand curiosity on his or her timetable. But, in both cases, we can set a beautiful table and offer an inviting opportunity to eat, and to wonder. As parents and educators invested in the soul-development of our children, we must be patient in the process. It may not look like we think it should, because often as it leads, wonder wanders. This is as it should be! Wandering often reveals new pathways and connections that would otherwise have been missed. 

We encourage the wonderers to actively participate in the journey.

It is possible to be a passive recipient of one’s education. In some models, students learn that their teacher will tell them what they need to know, and at some later point in time, the students will be asked to tell that information back to their teacher. Retain what was given, and give it back. Wonder, rather, leads to rigor. Encouraging students to wonder about ideas and concepts and then asking them to wrestle with, connect and apply those ideas and concepts to new information (aka the foundational skill of life-long learning) requires a student’s participation in a much more meaningful way.

What does that look like, for instance, in our 7th grade logic classroom? Sometimes it looks like, subconsciously, “I wonder what will happen if I say this? What happens if I push this boundary in our discussion?” Sometimes it looks like “I wonder if I can use the argument skills I’m learning to convince Mrs. Knobloch to take us outside for class today?” In 9th grade formal logic, it might be a statement coupled with a groan, “Mrs. Knobloch, this is just like what we’re doing in geometry!” Chasing wonder as students grow up may look like the recognition that subjects are not silos and connections exist across all they are learning. It may not be the elated discovery of a new piece of knowledge to share, but a hesitant step to try a new skill he or she is just starting to figure out (which maybe even sometimes accompanies an eye roll).

Wonder looks different as our children grow older, but it remains an essential tool in learning. Albert Einstein remarked, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.” As parents and educators, we have the privilege of guiding our children and our students — at any age — as they chase the wonder of God’s mysteries a little bit every day.

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