Hello, we are Mary and Cali Ragland. We are currently in 12th grade at Perkiomen Valley High school.
“It is a glorious fever, this desire to know”. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s words were scrawled across the whiteboard in red marker, a free writing prompt for the second day of Creative Expressions in 7th grade. Creative Expressions was a class centered on design thinking, what it means to be a genius, and making connections. We questioned the world, why things were the way they were, and how we could make things better. Essentially, it was a class about making the most of life.
When asked to freewrite about this quote, we knew we had felt the same glorious fever tugging at the edges of our brain, the same fever Edward Bulwer-Lytton had felt; it was the feeling of having an idea late at night and frantically writing about it in a journal before going to bed. Asking a science teacher questions about the Big Bang. Discussing colorful symbols in The Great Gatsby. Discovering tiny connections between math problems which turned worksheets of seemingly unrelated numbers into full circles of meaning. Learning about Cuba’s complex history. Listening to the stories rocks tell about the Earth.
We recognized this glorious fever. This English poet was on to something…
Through free writing, we were later introduced to another quote, this one by W.B. Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”.
Again, we connected with a poet. But this time, we knew Yeats was speaking the absolute truth. We had experienced Yeats’ words first hand.
For the first time, we recognized the difference in school when we felt as though we were being filled like a pail, and the times when we learned and felt our souls on fire. This made us curious: why were there times in school when we felt like we were sandcastle molds and times where we felt like there were fireworks going off inside of us?
We became enraptured with this idea of education being the lighting of a fire rather than the filling of a pail. It seemed so elemental, so true, that it appeared almost illogical to view education in any other way. Yet, the more we reflected on this idea, the more it seemed to contrast with much of the way the education system was organized.
A fire burned in us to learn more about education, why it is the way it is, and how it could be made better. In the following years, we remained curious, took note of when school made us feel engaged and empowered, or in contrast, unengaged and under confident.
When scheduling our classes last year for our senior year, we had an extra open place on our schedule for another class. Having taken all of the humanities courses offered, and unsure of what to take, we thought it might be interesting to explore our school’s “independent study” option. Our 7th grade Creative Expressions teacher had now begun teaching gifted English at the high school. Now was the perfect opportunity to explore our passions. As a result, we proposed an independent study with our Creative Expressions teacher in which we are now approaching American public education as a design challenge.
After reading Thomas Armstrong’s Awakening Genius in the Classroom and conducting interviews with students and teachers, we have determined curiosity to be a crucial quality of learning as well as a quality that is often lacking in classrooms.
As designers, we are launching our project with the question “How might we design a product that best meets the 21st century learner’s needs by valuing curiosity?”
This blog is an outline of our project as we engage in the design process to try to cultivate and encourage curiosity in the classroom.