Is it worth the money?

By: Ebba Lange Andersen, student at Aarhus University, DPU – The Danish Institute of Pedagogy and Education.    

 

For a couple of years, I work in the school system's primary and secondary grades. It was a wonderful job which was enriched every day by children's fun comments, their smiles and (sometimes annoying) questions.

It made me pay particular attention to stimulating and cultivating their curiosity, and in many cases my pedagogical work has also evolved as a series of questions. By having questions you can acquire knowledge and insight, but questions can also act as guidance and support for the person responding.

 

That look

Children have often looked at me with that look I think most people know. It is a look that what makes you want to retract your words, because their facial expressions tell you exactly what they think about the question: that it does not matter or is ridiculous.

However, with nothing more than a smile, it often dawned on them as soon as they answered, that my stupid questions gave them the ability to find their own answers to their lack of understanding of, or clarity on how to tackle a task. And that having a questioning nature in itself can create insight.

 

When necessity drives the work

Several generations of instrumental approaches to knowledge and relationships have left their mark. It is not breaking news that necessity is reflected in our behaviour and choices, but unfortunately it also happens that it can dominate and have major impacts on society and relationships. Many people do not believe that curiosity can stand alone – they ask what do I need it for, what is it worth and what is it useful for?

Before we start working with anything, the purpose must be clear. We see it in the use of terms such as' competency', 'aids' and 'tools' as a substitute for knowledge and wisdom. Terms that emphasise that we must be able to use it for something, and that this is 'something' that already should be defined beforehand. But the perspective limits our ability of perception.

 

It narrows and limits

Questions such as 'why should I learn this - what would I use it for?', 'what will I get out of it?' or 'is a visit to Naturkraft worth the money?' exemplify this particular trend of necessity.

The problem is that that type of preoccupation also narrows and limits - in other words, the potential of perception is reduced. Knowledge and insight is gained by thinking, researching and experiencing and therefore requires a curious mind.

It is not just about building up a repository of facts, but instead it requires that the individual is able to ask questions and wonder.

How do we spread these questions rather than just serving up answers? Naturkraft is an example of this.

 

Questioning is a way to express curiosity

Can you ask a stupid question? Yes. I do it myself. For example, I may start a conversation with: 'May I ask something?'. The question is stupid because I make it possible for the other person to shut down my curiosity before I unleashed it.

What would I do if the respondent said 'no'? It's just a matter of jumping in and questioning. Fortunately I have never experienced this, and I think this answer would likely have resulted in a facial expression much like my former students.

The greatest discoveries made by humans would not have taken place if it had not been for the endless curiosity about the unknown. The knowledge behind radiotelegraphy, gravity, electromagnetism or penicillin was conditional on the pursuit of the unknown and was only discovered because someone could not help but ask questions and pursue their curiosity.

In other words, there was no predefined outcome, because if there had been, these discoveries would never have been made.

 

Make room for curiosity

Therefore, it is crucial that we give curiosity the best conditions and prerequisites. These can be found at Naturkraft – a place of wonder.

Here, the senses are stimulated to the very highest degree, and questions are given free rein:

'How can I feel gravity on my own body?'

'How does gravity matter to my experiences?'

'Is the law of gravitation a prerequisite for other conditions in nature?"

'In what everyday situations does gravity play a role?'

 

The playground of the great discoveries

There is no list of insights and knowledge that you should have acquired after a visit to Naturkraft. Naturkraft is an example of an arena where it is possible to experience interactions between wonder, experimentation and realisations, as well as a place where relationships and insights can take place.

Here, curiosity swirls around in light of an individual's own questions and the relationships related to the world we are part of.

"What forces are there in nature?"

'What is a force?'

'How can we, as humans, feel forces?'

'How do we exploit the forces of nature?'

'Should we use them?'

'Can we protect the forces of nature?'

'What forces are strongest - human or natural?'

'Do humans have any power without nature?'

There's plenty to wonder about.

 

Take responsibility by responding

When you need to rest up a bit, go and visit the café. But even there, you cannot avoid wondering - or can you?

Do you always order the first item on the menu? Much like in the advertisement of the fictional disorder Optimus Prime (a fictional disorder of always opting for the first choice)? No, right? The vast majority look at the menu and wonder: What do I want? Should I have meat? How hungry am I? Do I have a sweet tooth?

We relate with the help of questions in order to find the answer and order the dish that meets the answers to our questions. This means that we take responsibility via responses.

 

Wondering moments

Naturkraft already has given me many wondering moment opportunities and I appreciate all of them. The other day I went for a walk outside. Not for any special reason. I wasn't looking for any specific object or relating to a specific phenomenon, I just wanted to go out to be outside. Just to enjoy fresh air, wind, sounds and views.

I gave myself a break; time to take time off and enjoy. While I was on my walk, I took pictures of things, and only when I looked at the pictures did I wonder because I chose to relate to the objects on a screen. I had taken a picture of two snails. One small one and one big one. Very close to each other and on a damp piece of straw. Maybe my wondering will only be of interest to you if your profession is pedagogy, like mine.

I wondered whether the relationship of parenthood for snails is similar to that of humans. Is there a close relationship between the older, more experienced snail and the new arrival? Whether this relationship relates to external circumstances. I also wondered whether my picture could teach us anything about pedagogy at all?

 

Let the desire drive work

So when people ask me if a visit to Naturkraft is worth the money, my answer is clear: Only you can make it worth your money!

Only you can give yourself the break and the time it takes to follow your curiosity. It is your curiosity and only you have a relationship with it. If you want to manage it and assess whether it was worth it or do you want to facilitate it and make it worth it? I would advise you to choose the last one, and YES, then a visit to Naturkraft is definitely worth the money.

Let human drive be curiosity rather than necessity – that should be the natural force of humans.

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