head of School’s Message

The Value and Joy of Inquiry

Research has found that children between the ages of three and five years old ask on average seventy-six questions per hour. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who has spent even a day with a child. As Michael M. Chouinard notes in a University of California monograph:

When children encounter a gap in their knowledge, some ambiguity they do not know how to resolve, or some inconsistency they have detected, asking a question allows them to get information when they need it and when they are particularly receptive to it. The ability to ask questions to gather needed information constitutes an efficient mechanism for cognitive development. Questioning is a powerful tool that allows children to gather information in order to learn about the world and solve problems in it.

Wondering, formulating questions, understanding, and then synthesizing the new learning with our existing knowledge in ways we find interesting and satisfying (before wondering and questioning some more), this is how we all learn. Children are the individuals in all societies who possess the least amount of power. They also wonder the most and verbalize their questions the most because they exercise almost no control over what they learn and when and how they learn it. For children, questioning is power, a healthy and useful way to increase understanding and develop a sense of control over their own lives.

At North Park Elementary School (NPES), our faculty inspire curiosity, teach children to think creatively and critically, explore the beautiful diversity of human identity and seek justice and equity. We encourage self-expression from the earliest ages, coaching and empowering children to express their wonderings, thoughts, and feelings to enrich the experience of their class. NPES sees the enormous potential for intellectual and personal growth in questioning, and in valuing and being responsive to student interests, adapting curriculum whenever possible to reward organic curiosity. We do not seek to provide answers that block wondering but instead explore ideas that engender new and deeper wonderings from which all children present can benefit.

Deep and creative questioning is an essential component of the student experience at NPES, and like meaningful self-expression, a hallmark of our graduates. This is why our 2021-22 school-wide theme, Inquiry, is such an exciting one.

We invite you to join us in nurturing your own wonderings about the world, to be more curious, to question, to understand deeper, and to share your wonderings with others. Consider it a form of self-care, of renewal and restoration. It is good for all of us as adults to be reminded how rewarding and joyful inquiry can be. On behalf of our exceptional administrative team and our school’s dedicated and talented faculty and staff, I wish you and your children a healthy and interesting school year, rich in questioning, meaning, skill-building, and affirming connection with others. It is our great privilege to work with your children, and to partner with you in supporting all NPES students in reaching their full potential.

John Novick, Jr.
Head of School

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