by Michele Minehart, Community Educator

When it comes to brain development, researchers and teachers are both finding that one of the best ways for learning to happen is through the process of inquiry. 

First, the brain enjoys curiosity, which creates a natural positive feedback loop to learning. With curiosity leading the way, the hippocampus lights up, paving the way toward a pleasure-reward circuit, attaching a hit of “feel good” dopamine. 
That positive sensation leads to a greater desire to return to the function of learning again, as the brain has a habit of repeating what the body enjoys. 
Second, curiosity – perhaps beginning with a thoughtful question – to catch a child’s interest opens the mind to receive more information, even that which isn’t directly related to a lesson or topic of conversation. When inquiry begins from a safe space of curiosity, rather than a stress-driven state that emphasizes a success/failure dichotomy, the brain associates positive emotion in the memory, helping the information to be more easily recalled. 
So the next time your 4-year-old leads you down a long-strung series of questions about the sky, aerodynamics, and birds, you can recognize that the learning that she is absorbing through questions and conversation are leading her to a place of greater understanding, not to test your trivia abilities on the topic of aviation. 

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