Why and how…author Dr John Langrehr explores the importance of curiosity
The Sector > Provider > General News > Why and how…author Dr John Langrehr explores the importance of curiosity

Why and how…author Dr John Langrehr explores the importance of curiosity

by Freya Lucas

May 16, 2023

Author Dr John Langrehr is a researcher with a keen interest in developing and evaluating creative and critical thinking with children. In the piece below he explores the importance of asking quality questions and engaging children to develop their curiosity. 


“In my opinion,” he begins, “young children don’t ask as many why and how questions as they did in the past.”


This, he continues, may be a sign that they are becoming less curious. 


“Maybe they are,” he continues, “or maybe it’s because they are asking their questions to Siri, Google, Wikipedia, or ChatGPT? Or maybe they are just too busy being entertained by images on the screens they use?”


The problem cannot solely rest in the hands of technology, he continues, pondering that perhaps educators need to ask more effective questions to engage children’s creative spirits.


“How many ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions are being asked throughout the course of the day?” he ponders. “I suspect relatively few. Why is this so? Maybe it is because ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions have too many possible answers?”


Dr Langrhr suggests that educators may be embarrassed if they don’t know a range of possible answers for a question asked. Despite the tensions and challenges which can arise from being in a place of not knowing, he suggests that pushing through and encouraging the use of ‘how’ and ‘why’ in learning environments can yield many positives. 


“There are some positives that can result from the regular use of ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions,” he continues. 


“The answers to these questions can reveal some unplanned, unexpected extra information about the topic under discussion.These can generate some unexpected interest and enjoyment in the topic being discussed.”


“If we could look inside the brain of a child asking, or being asked, a ‘why’ or ‘how’ question,” Dr Langrehr says, “we would see so much activity in the front of their brains. Thinking is going on. New information is being self- generated. The brain’s frontal lobes of children generally get little stimulation in most classroom discussions.”


The frontal lobe, he explained, is the part of the brain where students create new ideas, reasons, choices, solutions, and decisions. 


To help children to strengthen their curiosity, he continues, asking ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions on a regular basis is one tactic, along with helping students to design their own questions about a topic. 


Younger children may need the help of some model questions, he continues, making some suggestions, which appear below, on the topic of ‘elephants’ for children in a preschool classroom. 


  1. HOW could you get off the back of an elephant if it won’t sit down? You don’t have a ladder.
  2. HOW many different things could you use an elephant for if you had one as a pet?
  3. WHY does an elephant need a trunk? A hippopotamus doesn’t have one?
  4. WHY do elephants have blunt teeth and not sharp teeth like a shark?
  5. In HOW many ways is an elephant like a chair? 
  6. WHY do elephants have such big ears?
  7. WHY are elephants such good swimmers?


“Young children enjoy sharing their ideas and reasons,” Dr Langrehr says. “They are not anxious about answering as there is no one correct answer for each question. 


A good acronym for early childhood educators to use, to help them craft these questions about the properties and characteristics of something being observed is SCUMPS: 


S is for size: Why does it have this size? 

C is for colour: Why does it have this colour? 

U is for use: Why does it have this use? 

M is for material: Why is it made from this material? 

P is for parts: Why does it have these parts? 

S is for shape: Why is it this shape? 


Dr Langrehr has written a book Ask the Animals which provides many ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions about 16 well known animals. Educators can use each animal as a classroom activity, or the book can be used by parents and families. 


Learn more about the book on the website of publisher Amba Press

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