The Story of Handel and the Curious Boys…
is a perfect example of how unanswered questions fuel the desire to learn. After exploring the life and times of Bach and Handel and empathizing with the difficulty of life in the 1700’s, a group of boys asked a fantastic question, “How did Bach and Handel play a pipe organ without electricity?”
When I told them, “I don’t know! Do some research and find out how the organ can make sound without electricity” I had no clue how that question would propel the learning to an amazing level for third and fourth grades.
“Our role is not to give information. Our role is to cultivate curiosity. No matter what, refrain from giving information that students can find out for themselves.” – Erik Shonstrom
“Counterintuitively, our role as teachers is not to provide answers. Our role is to give time, nurture our students inherent curiosity. Saying you don’t know fuels the fire to find out.” The Curious Creative Blog – Tom Barrett
Don’t Just Tell Them!
It would have been easy to just tell the students about the calcant and the bellows of the organ. I could have easily wrapped up the unit of study right there; but cultivating curiosity means unanswered questions might drive the direction of the learning in new ways. It means the children own the learning, as Alan November says.
“Helping students figure out how to ask good questions prepares them for their future, not for our past.” – David Thornbury
To Cover or Uncover… That is the Question.
So much has changed even in the last 3 years. When we talk about change in the classroom, we think technology can be used to help us COVER the information. Real learning happens when we help our students UNCOVER information, not simply cover it for them.
In the story of Handel and the Curious Boys, technology was used to uncover information in a way that was not previously possible. In their research, the boys discovered the inner workings of a pipe organ and became fascinated by the stops and how each changed the sound of the organ in some way. They watched several videos to learn about the bellows of an organ.
Handel, the Curious Boys and a Bellow
Because those videos created even more questions, we called in Mr. Mancky, the naturalist in residence at our school who knows everything about anything. Mr. Mancky actually brought in a bellow he made for making fire hot enough to forge iron. With Mr. Mancky’s expert help, the children were able to learn the way our lungs work, the way air travels in wind instruments, the way air flows to continuously play the didgeridoo, and the way bellows work to produce a continual flow of air in the pipes of an organ. As Mr. Mancky demonstrated the bellow, the children were completely engaged in the process of discovery.
It seems that information covered is so heavy. It goes to the bottom of our brain and just stays there. Alone. Abandoned. Bored. On the other hand, information uncovered or discovered flows in and out and up and down making connections everywhere. Questions generated are like friendly, floating bubbles that bounce off each other or combine to make even larger questions.
Our study of Handel started in the Mystery tent, but curiosity led the learning in ways never planned. Along the way, students listened and moved to “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” “The Water Music,” and “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.” Who knew that music 330 years old could sound so awesome?
No study of Handel would be complete without “The Hallelujah Chorus.” For that, we went back in the Mystery tent and turned the Lights. Completely. Off.