This is the entry point for engaging in the learning process. It may be a provocative question, an unusual experience, an anomaly in the data, or just something that catches your eye and grabs your attention. Like an ant walking across a mossy rock, an otter ambling over a log, or a crescent shape chewed in a leaf.
‘Exploring’ means to engage all our faculties to take in the whole scene, from as many perspectives and lenses as possible. This may be entirely open-ended or guided, but the focus is on developing and applying the skills of noticing, observing, looking for detail and discerning patterns. Like any good investigator, we avoid jumping to conclusions or giving easy answers, instead taking time to experience fully. We have noticed too often educators start with a question, but neglect the power of exploration and observation which must precede it.
Before long, the exploration gives way to gasps, exclamations, and a flood of questions based on the experience. This is time to ask questions and to appreciate the beauty, mystery, and complexity of the world around us. From here, the sense of wonder could lead to scientific investigation, creative output, personal insight, or a richer more nuanced worldview. This stage is driven by excitement, discovery, and glimpses of the mysteries of the natural world. When learners ask good questions, we consider it to be an excellent indicator of thinking and active learning.
Depending on your path, this stage may lead to:
- experimental design,
- data collection & analysis,
- sketching a draft,
- outlining a story,
- generally following your inspiration
Learning to learn means constructing new concepts and understandings based on experience and new information. Here we may consult resources, experts, and decide what information or tools might help us on our journey of discovery. We feel this should involve struggle as we grapple with the experience in light of our prior knowledge. What do we make of this experience?
Experiences alone may be memorable, but deliberately engaging in the process of reflection can amplify their meaning in our lives. We reflect on our struggle, discern meaning, draw conclusions, and decide what personal implications emanate from the experience. This is another often-neglected step in the learning process, but we feel it is paramount for learners of any age. Whether the process was scientific discovery or artistic endeavor, (or a combination of the two), has our worldview changed; and, if so, do we behave differently as a result to realign our actions to our new understanding?
When you really engage in this process, and struggle to attain a new understanding of the world, the natural inclination is to want to share it. This may be research results, a magazine article, a work of art, or simply a quick conversation with friends and family. We feel called to also share the sheer joy of discovery learning itself, seeking to spread our deeply held conviction that our world is full of mystery and wonder, and learning more about it is both rewarding and FUN.