P21 and Developing Natural Curiosity

The article that I chose to read for this blog post was written by Dayna Laur and Jill Ackers and titled, "Developing Natural Curiosity". You can click on this link to view the article. This article discussed the importance of embedding 21st century skills into authentic learning experiences that educators design as well as what these types of experiences should include in order to pique the natural curiosity of young students. This article's purpose connects directly to the 4C's concept we are discussing in our course as quoted by the authors, "at early ages, children’s curiosity and intrinsic motivation make them highly receptive to experiences that build creative, collaborative, critical thinking, and communication skills.” The article discusses how this link between intrinsic motivation and a learner's natural curiosity, when paired with good design strategies can, "propel the development of the problem-solvers we are all striving to foster in our communities" (Ackers & Laur, "Developing Natural Curiosity").

The article then goes on to describe the five stages of finding a solution as mentioned in the book, Developing Natural Curiosity through Project-Based Learning: Five Strategies for the PreK-3 Classroom. The five stage include the learner discovering an authentic challenge and its purpose, gathering information and creating prototypes, understanding various perspectives and point of views, realizing that our actions sometimes have consequences, and formulating considerations and conclusions. These five stages require students to think critically, collaborate with others, communicate in order to develop and synthesize ideas, and use creativity to develop unique prototypes that will eventually lead to several different solutions.

This five stage process reminded me a lot about the "design thinking" concept. I learned about design thinking in a workshop at the ICE conference this past winter. During this workshop, I participated in several activities that modeled the design thinking process. The process that we went through is almost identical to the process described in the article above. As workshop participants, we were placed in learning pairs and given a problem. We then had to discuss the problem with our partner and collaboratively brainstorm possible solutions to the problem. We were instructed to write down every thought that popped into our heads no matter how far-fetched it may seem. We discussed our ideas that we brainstormed and chose one to create a prototype from. We then tested the prototype and searched for things to tweak or modify. By the end of the process, we had our final prototype that we presented to the "class" as our solution to the initial problem. Obviously, our prototypes and solutions were not refined as much as we would like in a learning situation due to the time constraints of the workshop. However, the process that we went through was very similar to the process described above.

Pictures taken by Danielle Goebbert at ICE conference

I definitely enjoy this project-based learning structure and see how it can engage students in their natural curiosity in authentic learning experiences. However, I do have some concerns with implementing it in the classroom. First of all, is the concern of time. I know that this process requires, at times, an extensive amount of time to implement. We do not even have time to fit in the subjects of science and social into our daily schedule, so if I were to try to incorporate a project-based lesson into my curriculum, I have no clue where or when it would fit into the day without me getting behind in other district-mandated standards. My only other concern is that this type of learning seems like it might require training for younger students. I wonder if there is a method behind preparing students for these types of learning experiences so that they don't feel frustrated and give up. It is important for students to understand that learning is a process that doesn't always occur instantaneously, but in a world where answers to any question that you have can be answered from any device in a matter of seconds, this mindset has to be taught and developed.


  1. I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed the ICE workshop! I can appreciate the reality of the time constraint. I wonder if the entire school approached PBL if it could be taught in stages so that each grade adds to the process from the grade before that. This also allows for more eventual teacher buy-in for those that may not be open to the idea. Working collaboratively to solve problems is a skill that isn't going to go away in the future so PBL seems like a solid way to approach this.

  2. Replies
    1. Doug,
      Thank you for the kind words and your detailed and insightful reflections in regards to my post!

  3. Thanks for the link to this article. I was thinking about reading this article, I find some of my students don't seem to have a lot of natural curiosity, so I want to learn how to develop that more, but I got sidetracked and went on to something else. I will have to look at this article more carefully, but something really jumped out at me:
    "Our learners often live in a world all their own. It is up to us to invert the learning process to expand their world beyond their own thoughts and ideas. This means we shift our teaching approach from an “I do, we do, you do” to a “you do, we do” and if needed, “I do” environment."
    I have been using the "I do, we do, you do" approach but now realize it's not always necessary...And I like how the article states that our students live in a world of their own making. I agree with that. But it's up to us as teachers to move them beyond their own worlds and connect to others. I say this to my students, I tell them there's a big wide world out there and that it's necessary to reach out. Sometimes I meet with resistance, but I think that's 'cause they are teenagers and would resist anything I suggest! I just have to keep pushing. Thanks also for mentioning "design thinking," which is a term I've heard a lot and must investigate further. The ICE conference is not to be missed, right? I have never had a bad experience there, always come away with new ideas.

    1. I *do* love to hear people enjoy the ICE conference :) Next year in our new venue it will be even better.

  4. Danielle, thanks for sharing about your connect to the ICE conference. It is one thing when we have to read something for a class, but to then have a connection that you found outside of required learning is great. I do enjoy project based learning when I can fit it into my schedule of musts. I agree with you that time is a great concern for all. Do you think that this could be something you do at the end of each semester as a recap project in some ways for a subject? Is there a content area that you feel this project learning adapts to best? How do you think that you could adapt this to a younger age range that may not require as much pre-training?

    1. I think it would be reasonable trying to fit at least one experience in at the end of each semester and something I hope to try next school year. I feel like design thinking and project-based learning works best with science/social studies concepts, which unfortunately we do not have in our curriculum anymore at the moment. We have an ELA curriculum in which students read stories that have connections to science/social studies concepts that can possible be stretched into a project-based learning activity from time to time. Now that I have a years experience with this curriculum, I have a better idea of when topics are introduced and how I can relate this to more engaging acttivities for my students.


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