Inspiring Curious Learners with a Lesson on Hummingbirds

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Now that I’ve been teaching for about a  decade, I’ve begun to look back at my own life and appreciate those really good  lessons that stuck with me.  One such lesson came my freshman year in college when my  professor held class in a library so we could learn how to research.  He began his lecture with words that I’ll never forget: “I hope you  take pause each time you enter a library and appreciate that it’s full of  thousands of books you’ve never read.  My job is to try to inspire you to be curious enough to open a few of them.”  Maybe not every student felt shook to  the core by these words, but I felt intellectually insignificant at that moment  and I can honestly say that I appreciate libraries much more after those simple  words.

As a teacher I want my students to be proud of  what they know and their successes, but I also want them to feel curious as when my  professor inspired me.  I’ve found that, as a teacher, if I’m curious and show  that excitement and interest to my students, then that helps inspire them.  I also feel  that it’s good for them to know that I don’t have all answers and that I’m  learning as well.  I see myself as I life-long learner and I try to inspire that in my students.

As a life-long learner I appreciate those times  that I’m curious about something and have very little frame of reference to draw  from for answers.  This past year I took time to have my students go outside  with a pencil and a notebook for 20 minutes, simply to wonder and record questions that came to them.  They came up with amazing questions such as  “What is  wind?”, “Do other people think about what I’m thinking?” and “Where is that  squirrel going?”  I appreciated that this exercise spawned so much curiosity in my  students that I’ve been trying to wonder a little more myself.

Recently I’ve found myself wondering a lot about  hummingbirds.  I live in a forested area outside Missoula, and in summers past  there have been about five or six zipping around my house.  This year, however,  I’ve only been seeing two of the little guys.  I always liked the hummingbirds,  but now I’m finding I’m wondering a lot about them, for instance “Where do the hummingbirds go in the winter?” “Where do hummingbirds nest?” and “What do hummingbirds need to survive, what preys on hummingbirds, and how can I help them?”

It felt good to feel inspired like I was as a six year old.  I now know a lot about hummingbirds, and  I’ve started to plant a hummingbird garden to help support them.  I’ve also  taken to making lots of photographs of hummingbirds enjoying my feeders outside,  and I love having them zip around my head while I’m outside reading in the  morning.  I’m excited that I will share what I’ve learned with my  students this fall.

I would encourage you to support your child  in wondering.  The question, however, is only the first piece.  Even if you know  the answer or have knowledge about what your child is curious about, show that child  how to find information while helping to research the subject together.  If you research with  your child, not only will he or she learn how to look up information, but more questions will present themselves to continue mutual exploration.  To simply give  your child an answer will deflate his or her curiosity. Imagine them as hummingbirds feeding on the nectar of knowledge.

Hummingbirds are all around Missoula right now  and if you’re curious about the little guys, you might want to get a feeder and  fill it with a 1 to 4 ratio of sugar to water and visit for insightful information.   Good luck wondering!

Inspiring Curious Learners with a Lesson on Hummingbirds. Photo by Brandon Kendall

Inspiring Curious Learners with a Lesson on Hummingbirds. Photo by Brandon Kendall. Hummingbirds in Missoula, MT


Inspiring Curious Learners with a Lesson on Hummingbirds. Photo by Brandon Kendall. Hummingbirds in Missoula, Montana


Inspiring Curious Learners with a Lesson on Hummingbirds. 2 hummingbirds and feeder. Photo by Brandon Kendall.




Learn it BioAnnie Graham and Brandon Kendall are convinced that education can be fun, exciting, and meaningful. Brandon has been a teacher in Missoula for the better part of a decade. Annie is a proud parent of six children and a home school teacher. Check out their blog for fun (and educational) adventures around Missoula. Visit their Learning With Meaning website for ideas on dynamic and project based learning at home and in the classroom.