Beautiful Questions

QuestionsI don’t normally expect to find inspiration in the seat back pocket on an airplane, but last week while flying to Boston for the National Science Teachers Association’s national conference, I found just that.An article in Southwest/Airtran’s Spirit magazine about asking beautiful questions (“Chasing Beautiful Questions” by Warren Berger) started me thinking about just that: asking questions. The basic idea of the article as that questions – the right questions – lead to innovation and change. It’s not about finding answers but about asking the right questions.

Isn’t this what science is all about? Asking questions, and the journey those questions then take us. In the article, Berger outlines three beautiful questions:

  1. Why?
  2. What if?
  3. How?

Not only do these questions lead us to scientific discovery but engineering change as well. As I plan to incorporate more engineering into my classroom with science, I wonder how I can incorporate the idea of these beautiful questions. Teaching students how to ask good questions is a goal of mine. Now, I realize it’s also about asking the beautiful questions that lead to a life of passion. Berger also has a book about beautiful questions: A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas that is now on my reading list.

The idea of beautiful questions also started me thinking (and questioning) more about education in general. While at the NSTA conference, I spoke with many teachers. There was a common theme. We’re all in difficult places. The  focus has been shifted from learning to scoring well on tests. There is so much talk about data and numbers; I often feel we have forgotten that we teach children. Many (most) teachers feel powerless to affect change, yet there are so many of us! Surely all of us together could change the face of education. Why not? What if we did band together? What would that look like? How could we do it?

I encourage you to check out the article on beautiful questions and to start asking your own beautiful questions.