For those in parenting and education there are few things more exciting than discovery. We love to be around when light bulbs go off over our children’s heads. In fact, we love to be around when light bulbs go off over anyone’s heads. We get excited about learning and growth, and excitement over learning and growth tends to perpetuate more learning and growth. People of all ages like to know that their individual journeys have value. The initial personal excitement over discovery is wonderful, but to my point, it’s amplified by opportunities to share, especially when that sharing turns out support and encouragement.
One reason people excitedly say things like, “Hey, check this out,” or, “you’ll never believe what I just saw,” or even, “did you know that…” is because sharing our discoveries is fun! Also, it helps us retain the connected learning in meaningful, accessible, and functional ways. Individual and collective enthusiasm for discovery is something that I would confidently refer to as “good stuff” (an endorsement, if you will).
So what? So, as parents and educators we have the ability to create and perpetuate cultures in our homes and school communities that foster the enthusiastic sharing and celebration of discovery. We can design and implement systems and structures that promote it, encourage it, and that effectively expose its ease and *fun-ness. And good news, we can do it in three simple steps.
1. Model the enthusiastic sharing and celebration of discovery.
I’m a strong advocate of authentic, unabashed, and even excessive modeling as a wonderful first (and ongoing) step in any focused initiative aimed at culture-development. My boys and I have been deeply digging “Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly” as a staple of our bedtime literature lately (an awesome book about the realization of self worth by Alan Madison (author) & Kevin Hawks (illustrator) – click the link above for more). There’s a brief illustrated caterpillar glossary at the front and a brief illustrated butterfly glossary at the end. We can no longer leave the house as anything but butterfly hunters. All I had to do was make the connection one time. Frankly, these imagination-hounds probably would have done it without any help at all (but I would still push modeling as good practice…a fall back to the powerful creative drive and pure imagination of children).
We have a butterfly bush in front of our house (it’s more of a plant, but extremely convenient for butterfly hunters). One day I saw what looked to me like a Tiger Swallowtail (as identified by the Velma Gratch glossary). I beckoned and hushed the boys with the focus and severity of Jane Goodall patiently prowling through Gombe Stream National Park in search of chimpanzees. I whispered, “Shhhh,” and pointed with wide, discovery-struck eyes (and my pointer finger). I whispered again, “I think it’s a Tiger Swallowtail.” My three-year-old screeched, “Momma! It’s a Tiger Swallowtail!”
The would-be Tiger Swallowtail leaped from her perch on the bush (plant) and flew away. What can I say…the kid is a formidable screecher. Regardless, no outdoor moment goes by in our little family without an excitement for discovery. And it’s not just butterflies. We love finding, observing, naming and occasionally attempting to handle worms, ants, roly-polies, bumblebees, and all other forms and fashions of thrilling little-kid wildlife. I model it, my wife models it, the kids love it, we all celebrate it, they function in a paradigm where books can stimulate learning and discovery, and we’ve seen that awareness transfer across a spectrum of subjects. As suggested above, I think it’s good stuff.
2. Discuss the enthusiastic sharing and celebration of discovery.
When we overtly recognize and articulate the things that we’re doing, and the reasons behind those things, we stand to generate a mutual and widespread understanding of those things; risky, but arguably worthwhile for parents and educators. Besides, making our intentions and our actions clear through discussion invites feedback, and when we’re really lucky, it invites critical input for adaptation and development. What happens when you approach a student, a teacher, or a parent, and sincerely ask, “Have you discovered anything exciting lately?”
Sometimes, they have, and you’ve given them license to share it by asking. Sometimes, nothing comes to mind, and you’ve given them cause to think about it. Only very rarely to they respond with, “How dare you ask me that!” In fact, in all my years I’ve never heard of that happening…and I’m old. Try it and find out. You might find that it drives meaningful conversations. Furthermore, you might find that the more interest you overtly express in enthusiastic discovery, the more rooted it will become in the culture of your home or school community. I have.
3. Embed the enthusiastic sharing and celebration of discovery into systems and structures.
On the subject of roots, if your interested in fostering a culture of enthusiastic sharing and celebration of discovery, create systems and structures that encourage it. What about “Discovery Friday,” where everyone actively seeks new learning to communicate with one another about every Friday? How about holding a brief town hall assembly, or making brief rounds to every classroom, soliciting news regarding each week’s discoveries? Why not consider a “Discovery Gallery” at the front of the building or on the refrigerator at home? Kids could articulate their discoveries through photography, writing in multiple genres, drawing, or various other forms and display them for the world to see! And if the world can’t see them from your breezeway or your kitchen, why not put a rotating “Discovery Slideshow” on your website, blog, Facebook page, etc.? Or, you could shoot out a “Discovery Tweet Of The Day” if you’d like?
You’re a parent, you’re an educator, and I’m supremely confident that you can think of some fun and creative ways to structure and systematize the enthusiastic sharing and celebration of discovery in your home and school community. My suggestion here is that the sooner you get on it, the soon it will impact positive progress for you and for those you serve.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.
*Fun-ness might not be a legitimate word, but I liked writing it…it was fun.