Spreading Curiosity

December 6, 2018

 

Over the past few months I've shared my writing projects with close to a dozen elementary school classes. There's nothing like the natural curiosity of fourth and fifth graders and I cherish their feedback.

 

We often start by exploring the building blocks of a biography. WHO is it about? WHEN did he/she live? WHY are we writing/reading the story of their life? WHAT did he/she accomplish? HOW did he/she accomplish it? We gather their questions, consider the story's title, and make a few guesses. 

 

Then I read my story about an uneducated cloth merchant who made his own magnifiers to judge the cloth. They enjoy the rhythm and perk up as they listen for its fun and unpredicatable rhyme. 

A few parts gross them out, but they love every minute of their discomfort. And without exception, they're fascinated by the mathematics - the size and numbers - of the main attraction, microbes. Yes, Antoni used his amazing magnifiers to discover a civilization that had never been seen before! That's when the questions really start.

 

We speak about science and its pioneers, and about how Antoni was never satisfied. "Would you rather be curious and unsatisfied? Or satisfied that you know enough?" and "What kind of pioneer might YOU be?"

 

During my latest presentation there was a skeptic sitting in the front desk."I'm not curious about anything," he said. I made a note of it and continued onto the next part of the presentation.

 

We later spoke about Antoni's collections from the natural world - a puppy flea, the scale of a fish - and many of the students shared the kinds of things they collected.  The boy who was not curious raised his hand to contribute to the discussion. 

 

"Once I dug a hole in my backyard and found something. I took it out and cleaned it off. I'm not sure what it is, but I still have it. "

 

YES! Of course, he's curious! It's just that he forgot what it felt like.

 

"You sound like an anthropologist." I told him. "You're curious, after all!"

 

Affirming this boy's curiosity and fielding the ponderings of his classmates is enough to convince me to stay on this path.  It might take a few months to hear back from the agents and publishers that I've submitted to, but in the meantime there's so very much I can write about. And I'm learning all the time! 

 

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