The main issue in schooling is addressed in this wonderful comic by Lynn Johnston. In my book, The WannaDo Curriculum, I make a distinction between “want to do” and “wanna do.” In the former, what you aim for is what it takes to achieve good grades. The latter involves engaging in an activity that children truly want to do with a passion, such as engaging in their favorite pastimes. My nephew’s  11-year-old son has a complete dinosaur obsession. 

The concept of “wanna do” versus “want to do” aligns with the idea of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to doing something for the inherent satisfaction or enjoyment of the activity itself, while extrinsic motivation involves doing something to obtain external rewards or avoid punishments. When kids are engaged in activities they are truly passionate about, like my nephew’s son with dinosaurs, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated.

Fostering intrinsic motivation can lead to deeper learning and a longer-lasting interest in a subject. Finding ways to connect subjects like math to a child’s interests can help bridge the gap between “wanna do” and “want to do.” For instance, incorporating dinosaur-themed math problems could make math more engaging for my nephew’s son, as he could see how math is relevant to his passion.

Creating a learning environment that encourages exploration, curiosity, and creativity can also help children develop a genuine desire to learn. This can involve letting kids have a degree of autonomy in their learning choices, allowing them to pursue their interests within the broader curriculum.

Ultimately, nurturing a child’s curiosity and aligning their education with their passions can lead to more enjoyable and effective learning experiences.

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