Keeping Kids’ Spark for Learning

Learning Landscape Thursday, 09 Sept 2021

Children are naturally inquisitive, eager to participate and learn. They see possibilities uninhibited by adult limitations and ask incredible questions. Children love to explore, test, experiment and play. However, as they grow older, this natural spark, creativity and curiosity somehow dims, and children start to see learning as work instead of play. The trouble is that schools often stifle students' natural curiosity and passion for learning by turning tasks into work. By filling students’ heads with knowledge, schools often forget the joy and fun of learning.

The most significant impact a school can make is finding a way to keep kids learning in a way that comes naturally for them: fun, full of inquiry, engaging and playful.

In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink describes this phenomenon as The Sawyer Effect, where a task can either be turned into play or work depending on someone's motivation. Motivation is what moves us; it is the reason we accomplish anything. The key is harnessing students' natural motivation to learn. At Living Faith, we do this by targeting student engagement, curiosity and creativity in a number of ways.

Across the school, our teachers foster curiosity by encouraging students to ask questions. ‘Un-Googlable’ questions are celebrated because it means students need to go deeper and explore further to find an answer. Teachers can often better understand what connections a student is making from a question rather than an answer.

Subjects such as Art and Design and Performing Arts allow students to practice creativity and pursue their interests using different parts of the brain. Art and Design, in particular, integrates both visual arts, science and design and technology to allow students to immerse themself in the arts while drawing science into the realm of creative thinking.

Project-Based Learning (PBL) provides opportunities for student inquiry and direction within the unit. It allows students' natural curiosity to help shape their learning. PBL also provides for students to make real-world connections and see the value of what they are learning. One of the significant ways we aim to increase engagement in our PBL units is through immersive and experiential entry events. These events happen at the beginning of a project and aim at getting students to ask questions, play, learn and pique their curiosity. From these events, students form the inquiry questions that shape the project.

This year we have been focused on providing more opportunities for learning through play. Play is already utilised widely within the junior school as this is the way children's brains are wired to learn. Play is an excellent catalyst for learning because it comes naturally, is enjoyable and stimulates necessary chemicals which help with focus, attention and, most importantly, joy.

‘Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function…’ - The American Academy of Paediatrics

By recognising The Sawyer Effect, we hope to motivate our students by creating a learning environment that is engaging, fun, challenging, playful and open-ended. Our role as educators is to learn how children learn and target our teaching to harness the natural curiosity and creativity of the students in our care. By doing this, we aim to encourage them to continue to be curious and creative learners well into adulthood.

- Bianca Ravi, Director of Learning