One of my favorite lines from Google’s video, Rubik’s Cube: A question, waiting to be answered (If you haven’t seen it, take a minute and watch it), is “…when the right person finds the right question, it can set them on a journey to change the world.” The images of kids conducting experiments, building robots, playing in the mud and even blowing things up always make me smile at the thought of what is possible when learners are inspired and have the support to explore their ideas, questions, and passions.
I thought of this video as I was sitting in the audience of the TedXkids@ElCajon listening to elementary students share what they are doing to make an impact in their communities. I was struck by the power of their ideas. These students were not only inspired to explore their strengths, interests, and values, they were encouraged to do something about it and given a platform to share their ideas. Some of the talks included twin brothers who shared stories about bullying and why they created a club to help others who are feeling alone. A 5th grader shared the impact of littering and how she is working to save the environment. She is leading by example and encouraging other to help and commit to picking up 5 pieces of trash (that’s not yours) a day.
One of my favorite talks was by two boys who shared how often they got in trouble until their assistant principal listened to their idea to build a garden. “Once I told her my idea, she did it. Not like in a few months like in 2 days!” They described how they take care of the garden and what they are growing. They are even learning how to cook and eat healthier foods as result. Thanks to the garden and someone who believed in their ideas, they now go to her office for good stuff, not bad. They shared how it felt to have someone look past the bad to get to the good and reminded all of us that, “Sometimes all you just need a garden to get you on track”.
Who is asking the questions?
Students of all ages, with diverse passions and experiences, got up and shared their ideas. It’s pretty impressive to think about all that goes into giving a talk and what an accomplishment it is. They had to not only have a great idea but they also had to organize their thoughts, put together compelling visuals, and learn to communicate effectively.
The skills that students demonstrated align with many of the skills that we aspire to develop in students to help them to be successful throughout life. Beyond the skills, and possibly even more important, is that the students see their ideas matter. By putting ideas out in the world they begin to see the power of asking better questions, generating new ideas and trust they can actually make a difference.
Imagine if we focused on deliberately crafting better questions to elicit and expand on the ideas of the learners rather than planning how to transfer information. By bringing learners’ experiences and questions to the classrooms, we can solve problems that are meaningful and ignite passions. Frankly, we could all learn so much by creating the space for amazing ideas and insights of our students. When the learners are asking the questions, they are more invested in figuring out the answers and, “…when the right person finds the right question, it can set them on a journey to change the world.” Let’s create the conditions that empower learners to find the right questions, rather than simply providing the answers.