HOW CURIOSITY FOUND A HOME IN THE ART STUDIO
“Inquiry is the personal path of questioning, investigating, and reasoning that takes us from
not knowing to knowing.”
– from Thinking Through Project-Based Learning.
Good questions are at the heart of the inquiry experience. When investigations are guided by questions
that students care about answering, engagement increases. The same goes for teacher learning. Teachers
who are willing to ask hard questions about their own practice model what it means to be a continuous,
Take the case of Karen Fish, visual art teacher at ASB high school. Earlier this year, the veteran educator
found herself wondering about strategies that might deepen student engagement. She was motivated in
part by the emphasis on student ownership in the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for
Students. She also was curious how she might make better use of the time at the end of units, when some
students finish assignments sooner than others. It’s not always the same students who are left “in the
gap,” as she puts it. “Some are more comfortable with drawing. Others just take off when it’s a sculptural
project. They work at different speeds on different assignments, and it’s unpredictable.”
Fish has tried filling the gap by encouraging students to pursue individual interests. “They would start off
so excited, but then I could see the motivation going away as soon as we moved on to a new unit [that
the teacher assigned]. They had no time to continue working on something they cared about. I wasn’t
honoring their interests by giving them what they really needed, which was time,” she says.
Fish was intrigued, too, by the Curiosity Project, an immersion in student-directed in the elementary
school at ASB. The idea was pioneered by Scot Hoffman, now on ASB’s R&D team, when he was an
elementary teacher. Curiosity Projects involves students exploring topics they are curious about as they
participate in an extended homework project. (Read more about the Curiosity Project in this Google Doc:
and in this Edutopia post.