“If the sun were the size of a grapefruit, how big would the planets in our solar system be? And how far away would they be from the sun?”
This question stared me in the face, boldly sketched with Crayola marker on a sheet of tri-folded cardboard. Juxtaposed around this question, a collection of photos, drawings and descriptions served as artifacts of one student’s exploration of the topic.
It’s science fair season in our schools, and earlier this week I found myself with the opportunity to visit one of our elementary school’s displays of the products of their students’ learning.
What struck me most were the questions themselves. The questions that kids (particularly elementary-aged kids) have about their world never cease to amaze me! Some examples:
- Do worms speed up the process of composition?
- Is a dog’s mouth or a person’s mouth cleaner?
- What is the best way to purify water?
- What materials glow in a black light, and why?
- Can a toilet paper roll hold your weight?
- Do dogs have a “paw preference”? If so, are more dogs “right-pawed” or “left-pawed”?
- What brand of soap expands the most when you put it in the microwave? And why?
(Note: I couldn’t help but giggle at the “soap expanding in the microwave” one – it’s so awesomely ‘on the nose’ – and I noticed that I wondered more deeply about each of the questions that added, “And why?”)
As tends to be the case, these questions led me to more questions. While I wandered the hallways, appreciating the thought behind each student’s approach to learning about their world, I wondered three things:
- To what extent is each of these questions testable?
- If I were curious enough to seek an answer to one of these questions, how would I test it?
- Once I landed on an answer to this question, what would be my next one?
Thankfully, if I ever sought answers to any of these questions, I had some great starting points (and likely collaborators) in the explorations of these students. I hope that their personal journey of exploration led to an opportunity for them to ask a next question. Without fostering this continued inquiry about our universe, we’ll be stuck with only knowing that which we know now.
As more schools display these kinds of products, I plan to periodically tweet some of these questions using the hashtag #howwouldyoutestit. If you run across similar questions that strike you as particularly interesting, consider sharing them with the world under that hashtag. Also, if you find yourself considering how you might test one of the questions given the opportunity, feel free to share that, too!
Here’s to hoping that each of us has the opportunity to become reacquainted with the childhood curiosity that still lives somewhere inside us. Leave it to 10-year olds to keep you wondering!