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Everything Starts with a Question

2011 February 10

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.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    February 10, 2011

    The Ending With : Oh My God !!!!!

    I agree with your blog. The journey of most people are various way and met with its dynamics. Happy, sad, fed up, hardly, enjoyment, angry and cry. Our faces and body language measured us about our experiences living. If fully its, they could say: “Oh My God!”

  2. Hannah Hunt permalink
    February 10, 2011

    I like the point you make. Like you, I believe it’s the adults who are able to retain their child-like sense of curiosity and desire to question that become the inventors and the pioneers of whichever field they choose. However, it seems like this path is heavily discouraged from the moment a child begins to become an adult.

    Teenagers and young adults are hardly taught the very important difference between questioning authority and bad behavior. From experience, a friend once questioned the learning environment of our high school classroom; instead of exploring the options to improve the environment, she was told that she was disrupting the learning process.

    Most jobs also discourage curiosity and the ability to question authority; we are told that when we receive a job, it’s our responsibility to agree with the boss and do every task we are given enthusiastically. For example, standing up for the environment in a government job might mean severe consequences depending on who you work for and that is very hard to do in today’s economy.

    It seems like a very difficult task to ask young people to be the creative inventors of tomorrow if the day-in-day-out life consists of repetitiveness. I’m not advocating laziness or argumentativeness, at all; only that we recognize we’ve created a system where success almost always requires conformity and the loss of curiosity. Because, face it, if everyone was still so curious, would they stay in the job they had?

  3. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 10, 2011

    Hi, Hannah
    That’s one of the reasons I selected a Montessori school for my youngest. Their approach to learning encourages curiosity and does not constrict their learning. I’ve seen positive results.

  4. daphne sy permalink
    February 11, 2011

    I agree with your point. I think much has been said and I have no personal experience to share, but your response is thoughtful, well-written and will contribute valuable insight for the rest of it, I’m sure.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    February 13, 2011

    Maintaining curiosity should be an important thing and something that is encouraged in the schools. But K-12 education is geared much more to conformity. There seem to be few attempts make to teach students to think for themselves until they leave K-12 education and go to the university. Then, they have to practically relearn the thinking process so they can start thinking for themselves and it comes as a shock. Unfortunately, it s still the case that the great majority of people never go beyond a 12th grade education. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 14, 2011


  7. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 14, 2011

    It’s sad how many schools surpress creativity under the name of conformity and discipine.

  8. SAW permalink
    February 20, 2011

    Science in the U.S. has declined since its heyday after WW2. Science was big in the news and many Americans read scientific books and periodicals. The NSF was created and NASA was doing amazing things.

    Now few Americans read scientific periodicals and the number of articles about science in major newspapers and magazines is being reduced. It is difficult to imagine what life in the world would be like if America had not made big investments of time, energy and money into the sciences. Now we are lagging in science and math scores and Americans are disconnected from science. It seems arguable that other countries are far more equiped and could take Americas long held scientific supremecy.

    Science is important to our future and children need to learn it so they can make themeselves better of through innovation and by extention the whole wolrd would be better off.

  9. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 20, 2011

    I agree. Thanks for your comments.

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