“Look at the snow, Mom. It’s awesome! It’s amazing!” Nodding my head but gazing across our yard in another direction, I responded, “I know, Patch. There’s tons of it. It’s white and it’s everywhere. Neat.”
“No, Mom; get down here and really look at it.” As I turned my attention to him, I saw Patch lying with his face near the snow, staring at the sparkling, feathery flakes. “Each one glistens,” he said as he pondered the white blanket beneath him. “They actually look different. Some edges are soft and others are round. Flakes are big and small.”
“Yup, that’s snow, Patch.”
“No, Mom, you have to look at it from here. Get down here next to me.”
I obliged and lay prostrate in the snow next to my inquisitive 7-year-old. As we marveled at the tiny specks of wintery, translucent ice and guessed the weight and depth of the frozen mound of snow, I saw with fresh eyes-the eyes of a child-the wonder of newly fallen snow. Patch invited me to wonder. As I patiently followed his detailed exploration of what I perceived as mundane and trivial, I began to find the unfamiliar in the familiar.
Patch’s one act of wonder prompted me to wonder: When does wondering start? Why is it important? Why don’t I wonder any longer? How do we keep wondering alive in our ministries to children? Wonder Begins When We’re Young If you spend any time with young children, you’ll inevitably be asked some perplexing, surprising questions.
“Why do birds fly?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why can’t people fly?”
A natural step in the development of young children is this exciting, and at times exhausting, “why” phase. During this time, children begin their journey of questions, starting with the simple “Why is that?” “Why not?” and “Why do I have to?” They quickly advance to more complex and deeper inquiries, such as “Why aren’t there any more dinosaurs?” “Why do I have to go to bed?” or “Why do we have eyelashes?” Some researchers report that on average, preschoolers ask about 223 “why” questions per day. When children ask such questions, they’re beginning to wonder. When kids wonder, they find new in the familiar and extraordinary in the ordinary. A unique trait about wonder is the focused attention to the object of wonder itself and the time-consuming desire to know more about it.
Unfortunately, due to busy schedules, overcrowded classes, and curriculums that are rigid and lackluster, wonder and questioning seem to decrease as age increases. By the time kids reach age 12 or middle school, they cease questioning and wondering. Creativity begins to decline at this age as well. Rachel Carson, author of The Sense of Wonder, writes, ” A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.” Carson also concludes that “if a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
How can we foster this type of learning if we, in our heavily scheduled lives, have forgotten how to fi nd wonder in our world ourselves? To get to this wonder-full place, we take the wonderer’s oath. We acknowledge that the way we’ve always done it no longer works. We abandon our preconceptions and embrace the strange and uncomfortable new ideas we’ve never tried before. We admit that we don’t have all the answers and are still learning along with our kids. Finally, we let go of our desire to control the learning environment by obsessively following the lesson plan-often a lengthy list of predictable, familiar things to do or say.