Everything Starts with a Question

By Lina Younes

I’ve always been fascinated by how children learn. In their early years, they are practically like sponges absorbing everything, constantly incorporating information and experiences from their environment. Their innate curiosity moves them to explore the world around them. They don’t have preconceived notions that impede learning. Nothing is too difficult. Technological advances are not a challenge to them. Observe how they figure out their toys and play with electronic gadgets. Adults need manuals. They just figure things out. Here I’m speaking from my experience with cell phones. I confess, sometimes I’m technologically challenged, to put it mildly. I approach some mobile technology with trepidation, while my children, even my 9 year old, use cell phones and mobile apps like they were second nature. I’m sure they’ll have a good laugh when they read this blog entry.

As children grow, they get to the stage of asking frequent questions. “But, why, Mommy?” While the frequent questions might test the patience of parents, they can serve as golden opportunities for us to teach children about the environment and love for science.

When you come to think of it, whether we are talking about environmental protection, the sciences, engineering,or inventions in general, everything starts with a simple question. What causes problem x, y, or z? How can I solve the problem? How do things work? How can I make things better?

I’m puzzled how children seem to “outgrow” that innate curiosity. Let’s foster that sense of wonder and love of learning. It will benefit us all and generations to come. Imagine: what would have happened if Sir Isaac Newton was not curious about apples falling down? Would he have been intrigued by the laws of physics? If he didn’t ask questions, would he have become a famous mathematician and scientist? Perhaps, but as I mentioned, it all starts with a question….

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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