Some time ago, I stumbled across the twitter hashtag #WomenYouShouldHaveHeardOf. Despite its unruly length, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. History is such a vast subject, and new characters are always emerging from unexpected places. I found myself checking in each day to learn about remarkable women and extraordinary accomplishments I never knew about. The great people of the twitterverse continued to offer up many insights which were fascinating to learn.
The funny thing about the desire to learn is that it can be addictive. Before discovering #WomenYouShouldHaveHeardOf, I was content with my knowledge of women in history. I knew of the tried and true women that have occupied an obligatory page or two in World History textbooks. I might even consider myself a little more knowledgeable than most thanks to a college course of Women in Medieval Literature (and people say Liberal Arts have no real-world application!)
But then I learned about Hypatia of Alexandria, head of the Platonist school at Alexandria. I discovered Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar, and Manal al-Sharif, the successful Internet Security Consultant who led a “Right to Drive” campaign in Saudi Arabia by defiantly getting behind the wheel in 2011.
There is Always More
Once you know how much you don’t know, your thirst for knowledge becomes unquenchable. The internet has conditioned us so that information is always accessible and at our fingertips. We are no longer satisfied by a cursory understanding of anything. So, whatever you choose to teach your students, don’t just cover the basics, and move on. Neither of you will be inspired. Instead, give them the foundational understanding and then let them lead the search from there.
What Will They Discover?
Here are just a few strategies to help your students explore:
- Create venues for students to connect with the larger world. If possible, get them up out of their desks and exploring the world around them.
- Take advantage of heritage holidays. For example, September 15th – October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. Use this to introduce Hispanic Heroes or literature they’ve never heard of.
- Start the day with a fun fact, then encourage students to explore them in greater detail. Did you know Napoleon was once defeated by rabbits? What is the probability that two classmates have the same birthday?
- Have them invest in their own communities. Teach students about environmental sustainability, then have them examine what plants and animals are unique to their state.
Satisfying today’s student can seem impossible. You can’t compete with Google or videogames, but what you can do is engage their innate sense of discovery. Let the desire to learn take things from there.