Why Great Questions are Important!

With the current COVID situation, I moved a couple of my regular Extension programs online.  Yep, it didn’t take a lot of time to think about how the new environment would make teaching the course different, and dare I say, better…but regardless, today was another highlight day!

I just got off of my I Wonder Zoom session…and I have been smiles since.  The 2nd graders that sign up for this workshop are full of questions…and indeed that’s what the workshop is all about, why those 2nd grade questions can sometimes lead to great scientific research questions.  Yes, we discuss that an insect has six legs, and whether butterflies could fly in space if you put them on the international space station in a room filled with oxygen (ANSWER: No, because butterflies actually need gravity to fly). We discuss how crickets make sounds and we even do an experiment to see if we can make cricket sounds by rubbing our legs together.  It’s pretty much a raucous discussion of questions they may have, and if they don’t start throwing some out, I do for them…and we discuss them.

Anyway, at the end of the lesson I ask the kids if they have any additional questions that they would like to ask of the group.  And typically the same four or five questions get asked…but today there was a new one.  It started down the typical path, one kid asked me if I had a favorite insect, then another asked me if I had a favorite animal….but the kicker question was “What is your favorite meat eater?” This gave me pause…you see at first I thought he asked what my favorite meteor was…and well, while I’ve studied a couple meteors, I really wasn’t prepared with a favorite.  I glanced at my husband across the room who said “meat eater”.  But then I was confused because Zoom connections with multiple 2nd graders means greater difficulty in overcoming listening challenges, I asked the kid to repeat and got it that he was asking for my favorite meat eater.  My gut instinct was several different dinosaurs….settling in on velociraptor, I decided that answering it with a dinosaur could possibly open up a bunch of questions that I was definitely not prepared for…like different dinosaurs that I may not know if they were meat or plant eaters.  So, I chickened out and said “Humans”.  Which thankfully and probably more truthfully is my favorite meat eater!  🙂

I love my job because we can connect with real people.  These are real questions that 2nd graders have, no, probably not the most important questions right now…but real questions that kids have and that adults aren’t taking the time to answer.  And that is really sad.  Every answer you give a kid produces three or four more related questions, or clarifying questions.  And, isn’t that awesome?  Somewhere along the line we teach people to not ask questions as sometimes we perceive them as sarcastic or leading in some way….but kids know how to ask good questions….ones that sometimes give adults a great deal of pause to answer. And one of the deepest questions people ask is “why?” Please encourage questions in your work….it’s the only way to assess whether clientele really understand the content…good clarifying questions!  And don’t chicken out when the really good questions come up….those are the treasures, the real means to determine whether our clientele understand what we are discussing.

Does knowing what my favorite meat eater make any difference in my knowing whether my clientele understood the content…no.  But, if I had had the courage to take on the question with my in the moment dinosaur thought process, I would have come to new and interesting content that would have stretched both the kids in the workshop and my own learning as well.  Here’s hoping that next time I don’t chicken out!!!!

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1 Response to Why Great Questions are Important!

  1. karlyblack says:


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