This semester I will teach a freshman inquiry course, designed by me, called Chemistry of Beer.
In my 20th year of teaching, I will finally teach a course in which I will learn along with my students. Although I know a lot of chemistry, I don’t know much about beer. It will be the instrument of our curiosity, the focus of our questions. What a wonderful way to learn.
Toddlers learn at a remarkable rate.
Talking, walking, playing, baking, eating.
Colors, numbers, songs, ABCs.
Dinosaurs, trains, stories, movies.
They learn by being curious. If we continued to learn at this rate, it wouldn’t take 12 years to prepare for college.
We send our children to school where they learn, among other things, how to sit still, be quiet, wait their turn. How to react to a mean child. How to make friends. Finally to add and read, but not faster than the group. If a child learns slower than the group, they feel bad about learning. If they are uninterested in the topic the group discusses, they become bored. They don’t sit still. They don’t be quiet. They don’t wait their turn.
And the spiral escalates into a dislike for school, and by association, a loss of curiosity and desire to learn.
Even for students who learn rapidly, and those who are comfortable being quiet and sitting still, learning morphs into a quest for good grades, instead of an inherent desire to know everything.
I am thrilled to teach at a college where critical thinking and a thirst for knowledge are appreciated and emphasized. In this inquiry course, we will all learn together. At the beginning of this journey, my anticipation feels like waiting for Santa. I hope my students feel the same.