Through the Eyes of an Educator: Empowering Wonder

by Stacey Ebert / Oct 01, 2018 /
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It’s October. For many, October means pumpkin spiced everything, apple cider always, and endless fall festivals. It brings about leaf-peeping season, Boston’s Head of the Charles crew race, and the simplest and grandest of costume parties. Having moved to San Diego, my October means the same as my August and September - just the way I like it, but it means that those who wish for the wonder of a crisp fall day need to seek it out to make it happen. Regardless of whether your October is the beginning of sweater season, a continuation of flip-flops and surf days, or if it means the impending arrival of ski season - school is back in session, most of the days are work ones, and some semblance of a shift is in full swing.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Empowering Wonder

There’s no longer the anticipation of a new school year or that of a pending school holiday - this is the time of year to create your own wonder, pursue your own renewal, and build on those dreams that have been streaming through our heads all year long. This is the time of Homecoming dances and harvests, travel planning, and teachable moments and simple wanderings that lead to sensational moments. This is a time of year to empower the wonder that comes with summer time joy and winter holiday breaks.

This is a time of year to cultivate that curiosity, establish positive habits, and plan the next adventure.

How do we empower our youth to create their own wonder, dream bigger than their means, and get involved in their own path to the future?

How do we bring the book learning forward to make sense in the present while still captivating that essence of wonder?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Empowering Wonder

Travel. Sure, it would be a dream come true if every teacher, student, and family had the ability to travel all the time and if all mitigating obstacles were removed from their paths - whether we like it or not, this is not a reality. However, travel is available to all - it may take a bit of creative thinking, but that creativity is significant in empowering wonder and embracing possibilities. Travel is more than airplane seats and TSA lines. Travel is more than packing lists on Instagram, visa fees, and anti-malarial pills. There’s learning in every step, joy infused in every child’s travel dream, and value in embracing the larger global world (even if it’s from the comfort of your own classroom). Travel helps us all uncover truths we never before knew, decipher differences among people, and teach all of us that we are far more similar than we are different. Travel empowers wonder and every student deserves that in their arsenal of educational and life tools. How do we make it happen?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Empowering Wonder

Today’s educational spectrum is a gamut of data. Testing is center stage, curriculum development strays from the goal of student centered, and arts and electives are often on the chopping block. Secondary students deserve the opportunity to engender that same sense of wonder that happens when we place a bucket of sidewalk chalk in the hands of a toddler in front of a perfectly tarred driveway or the when young children take a few empty boxes and design a fort construction beyond their wildest dreams (these may be our next city planners in the making). Educational skills from those situations yield discovery, design, problem solving, creativity, observation, cooperation, collaboration, and conflict resolution - and those only begin to scrape the surface. Imagine the possibilities if cultivating and empowering that sense of wonder was further towards the forefront of our educational curriculum. Imagine if wide-eyed students walked into our classrooms knowing that each day discovery, creativity, and endless opportunity lay before them. How do we give our older students that same opportunity to create their own sense of wonder and bring that sense of wild, uninterrupted discovery back to the table?

Whether home schooling, world-schooling, unschooling, or taking part in a traditional curriculum, there are possibilities to empower wonder. And yes, it’s truly possible upon hearing this idea we will be looked at with the same incredulity as PT Barnum in The Greatest Showman. But that drive, that tenacity, that unstoppable courageous curiosity created the circus, a place to dare to dream and a space to embrace and empower all of our beautiful differences and talents. Think of the possibility if kids embraced science, math, history, and more with the same wide-eyed wonder and ‘I want to do that’ look as when we see tight-ropers in their amazing overhead feats or watch a contortionist’s strength, stability, and poise atop the tiniest platform. How would school be seen in the eyes of learners if that sense of wonder and magic were part of the everyday educational promise?

There are heaps of tangible ways to bring discovery, curiosity, and wonder back to the land of ‘school’. Those in the alternative learning space may have greater flexibility than that of the traditional bricks and mortar, but weaving wonder into education is not only possible, but also imperative. Active learners, conscious dreamers, budding scientists, eager historians, creative thinkers, sentient philosophers, thoughtful diplomats, inventors, coders artists, chefs, problem solvers, visionaries, activists, humanitarians, and those following so many other pursuits benefit from that sense of wonder.

Let’s bring it back to the educational table and watch our students continue to soar beyond even their own wildest dreams.

5 Actionable steps to empower wonder

5 Actionable steps to empower wonder

1. EMBRACE TRAVEL

• Foster diverse cultural experiences
• Try new foods out and at home
• Learn languages
• Cultivate kindness to strangers
• Take a new mode of transport

2. CHANNEL CREATIVITY 

• Provide artistic opportunities in assorted modalities
• Climb, jump, run, twirl, fly, hang, surf - turn the world upside down
• Develop the desire to view beauty in all natural spaces
• Draw, sketch, doodle, photograph, sing, design, code, develop, make, dance, dream
• Awaken your inner artist

3. REMOVE OBSTACLES

• Talk to people from different places
• Place your learners in situations that set their soul on fire
• Search and find a tribe of like-minded humans - it makes all the difference
• Summon courage and leap
• Throw those shoulders back, take a deep breath and go forth into the unknown

4. SEEK OUT PLAY SPACES

• Go bouldering, find a circus class, play on silks, get out your hula hoop, tap dance, jump rope, bounce on a trampoline, build a fort out of whatever you can find, walk a tight rope, wander on your hands, search out an acro-yoga group
• Find a geocache
• Turn a park into your own creation
• Run in the wild
• Discover adventure around your own neighborhood

5. ENCOURAGE CURIOSITY

• Dream bigger than your means
• Ask questions of people whose views are different than your own
• Invite conversation of those big unanswerable questions
• Discuss the world around you
• Uncover that inner explorer

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.

 

 

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