One of my favorite things to do on Saturday and Sunday mornings as a kid was to open up the newspaper, flip to the sports section and check out the previous night’s box scores. I would analyze the data, look at the league leaders in statistical categories, examine the standings and try to figure out exactly how many games behind certain teams were or how the point system worked in hockey. It didn’t matter the sport, I couldn’t get enough statistics. Late at night I would turn on my bedside lamp and read baseball statistics books. I’d look up who had the most doubles that year or compile a list of the pitchers who gave up the most walks. Why did I do this? What was so fascinating about data? At first glance, I have no idea why I did this. I loved sports but why was I so drawn to the numbers and the seemingly endless data that was laid before me? Did other kids think like this? In the early 90s, I participated in my first fantasy football league with my dad. Every week the coordinator of the league would figure out the scores based on the box scores in Monday’s and Tuesday’s newspaper, send them out through the mail and then we would call in our lineup to his answering machine every week. Of course, I’d have figured out every point possible by the end of the day Monday but I couldn’t wait until Thursday or Friday when the hand-written results page would arrive in our mailbox.
I was obsessed.
I still am.
But, why? Why as a young child did I have a fascination with statistical analysis and what was it about this topic that so intrigued me? What If I had been given the chance as a young child to explore deeper into the realm of statistical analysis, what would I have found?
I wanted to explore this answer but without a DeLorean I knew this would be impossible. Instead, I began to explore the concept of what’s called ‘Genius Hour’ in my classroom. Once a week, we set aside time for 2nd grade students to explore a topic/passion of their choice. The topics have ranged from how dolphins are able to breathe while sleeping to how CDs are made how to design a model to describe it. The results have been fascinating. Students have shaped their questions into real inquiries and been given the space to figure it out. The only way this works though is if the choice lies in the hands of the learner. If I had been told to analyze baseball statistics and that I had to figure out what the difference was between the number of games Team A won compared to Team B, I would have been disinterested. The power of inquiry lies in choice.
Teaching and learning are constantly changing. Fifteen years ago, “Google It” wasn’t a phrase and 8 year olds didn’t have answers to most questions readily available to them. As educators, parents and/or community members, we need to help children develop questions that are no longer ‘Google-able’ and let them explore the possibilities that are out there. When a child has been taught how to develop these types of questions, imagine how they will think about statistical analysis, metaphysics, biology, anthropology or religion.
How do we get a child to make the right choices, to think for themselves, to develop high quality relationships and not feel like we’re indoctrinating them?
We model it for them. We ask them to question everything and how to draw conclusions from those questions. We show them that the answer isn’t always accessible within a few keystrokes. In short: We teach them.
– Justn Elder
Justin Elder is a managing editor at nonpropria.com. His loves include iPads, Disney World and of course his two daughters and wonderful wife. If you can’t catch him at home binge watching on Netflix or an NBA game, he’s most likely playing with the girls in the backyard.