October 19, 2018

Mini Musings - Omnipresent Curiosity

by Tim Campbell, Middle School Director

Do you know why many plants in the desert taste salty? Do you know the difference between a petroglyph and a pictograph? What is the only animal capable of digesting black bush? After a week at the Canyonlands Field Institute outside of Moab, UT, our 7th grade students know the answers to these questions, plus countless others.

I had the pleasure of joining our 7th grade students and teachers for a few days on their class trip this past week. I expected to get to know the students better. I expected to have fun. I expected to be moved by the stunning landscape. What I didn’t expect was the boundless and omnipresent curiosity of our McGillis students.

Between confounding riddles, spontaneous singing, nature-inspired epiphanies, and good-natured jokes, our students were asking questions. They asked clarifying questions and philosophical questions. They wondered about minute details, as well as lofty topics. They probed for facts and evidence. They simply wanted to know more.

I’ve seen many Middle School groups fall silent when an adult offers: “Any questions?” This is not the case with our students. Their innate curiosity has clearly been nurtured by a community of families, friends, and teachers. Furthermore, curiosity serves as a trampoline for our students to soar toward creativity and critical thinking. We see it every day in our classrooms, and it was magnified out in the field.

One afternoon as we approached a large and majestic rock known for its centuries old petroglyphs, a CFI instructor suggested: “Places have as much power as you are willing to give to them.” We were then invited to circle and observe the sandstone inscriptions in silence, and sat in tranquil reflection for several solitary minutes. Our students clearly respect the power of the desert and genuinely appreciated that moment; their subsequent questions about the purpose and function of the historical messageboard were nothing but impressive.

To be curious -- to want to know more -- gives power to places of learning and power to our learners. In that sense, McGillis students are gaining power at an incredible rate!