At the Passover Seder, things are structured in such a way to incite inquiry in the minds of the children who are present. The sequence of the meal is different than that of any other meal. Foods are dipped into salt water, which is never done. There are times during the meal when everyone leans a certain way while drinking or eating. All of these things are done partially to stimulate the question of why we are doing things differently. In Missouri, the idea of inquiry leading to better learning is part of a new initiative.
The Information and Communications Technology Literacy is a new set of standards released by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:
This document is critical to education because if forces teachers to examine instructional practices. The information literacy standards can and should be embedded in all subject instruction. The document starts with a main goal; Follow an inquiry process to construct new understandings, draw conclusions, and create new knowledge. The word inquiry is huge. This suggests that students are allowed to think of their own questions not be given a specific topic.
When I was in school, I remember certain topics about which I was more interested than others. As I was more interested, I made my own inquiries about the topics and even would go to the school library to find books upon books on the subject. I would pore over the books and in the end, I would learn a lot more about the subjects where I had been stimulated to create inquiry than in those where I was not so interested.
I was in a science class and had just recently purchased a couple of chameleons. When it came time to do reports, the teacher said that we could do the report on a scientific matter of our own choosing. I asked if I could do a full report on the chameleons since I had just recently gotten them and the teacher said that I could. I wrote about those chameleons like nobody’s business. I took out book after book from the library, looked in pet store books, and carefully studied my chameleons. In the end I knocked out a solid B+ on my report — mostly flawed for semantic reasons — but still full of passion.
We need to encourage our students to find and explore their passions — and not to just mindlessly repeat every single last thing we want them to memorize, like dates in history and the capital cities of every state. Well, unless those are the things about which they are passionate, of course.