A random tweet takes me to Smarthistory, a treasure trove of podcasts and screen-casts of conversations around works of art. I find myself drawn into an exploration of the site and totally lose track of time.
I share the site with Clive, a friend who happens to be online at the time, and he chooses to search for Pissarro, his favourite artist. He asks if I knew that Pissarro painted one of his daughters just before she died and never finished the painting. Intrigued by the story, I go off in search of more information…
Along the way, I uncover this interesting piece on how the Impressionists got their name. I love Impressionist paintings and was lucky enough to visit Musee d’Orsay in Paris a few years ago, but I have never studied art history and confess my knowledge is somewhat limited. So I’m enjoying this personal inquiry and it keeps me up late.
In the morning I find some tweets from Clive with links to more information. His curiosity has been sparked too and he plans to return to the Ashmolean Museum where he first saw Pissarro’s work to see what else he can uncover. Apparently during the 1950s and 1960s, this museum became a centre for the study of Impressionism, thanks to the donation of the Pissarro family collection, comprising paintings, prints, drawings, books, and letters by members of the Pissarro family.
I share my latest discovery with Clive, a video of a talk on Pissarro’s life and works. I watch it slowly, when I have the time, and learn about Pissarro’s influence on the more famous Impressionists. The speaker says of the artist…”What a real talent it is to find in a teacher someone who can learn from his students.” Indeed.
At some point I realise I have forgotten about the daughter entirely. I’ll wait to see what Clive comes back with. I’m an inquirer. Clive’s an inquirer. It seems Pissarro was an inquirer. How do we ignite the curiosity of our students so that they will be inquirers too?
Some reflections to take back to school…
- Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, making connections.
- Some of the best inquiries happen by accident.
- An inviting provocation sparks curiosity and a desire to learn.
- Connecting to prior knowledge and experience makes you want to know more.
- Knowing nothing about a subject can do the same!
- An intriguing question triggers a need to explore further.
- True inquiry isn’t a class project. It sucks you in and swallows you up.
- Pursuing an inquiry takes time and patience.
- Great inquiries aren’t planned ahead. Every question leads to further questions.
- It’s much more fun to learn with a friend, or…
- Learning is social and enhanced by collaboration and interaction.
- Collaborating across the globe adds another dimension to learning.
- Ways of learning have changed. Teachers need to change too.
Oh wait. I knew all of that already. A couple of them are even learning principles of my school! I often express these very points to teachers, when we’re planning units of inquiry. So, it’s interesting and validating to analyse my own learning (and Pissaro’s!) in terms of my stated beliefs.