John Medina, a world class molecular biologist writes in his bestselling book ‘Brain Rules’ that if we look back at our evolutionary history we will see that the human brain evolved to (1) solve problems (2) related to survival (3) in an unstable outdoor environment, and (4) to do so in nearly constant motion.
Environmental instability led to the extremely flexible way our brains are wired which is what allowed us to develop the tendency to solve problems through exploration. We are natural explorers. And exploration is how we learn best.
Babies are born with an intense and unrelenting curiosity and desire to explore the world around them. So intense, in fact, that some scientists describe it as a drive, just as hunger, thirst and sex are drives. Discovery brings joy. We never outgrow this desire to learn and our brain retains the ability to learn in this way throughout our lives BUT we can become anesthetized to the joy of discovery. Children learn that education means an A and start to acquire knowledge in order to get something rather than because it is interesting
We cannot stress enough the importance of curiosity and allowing children free time to discover the joy of exploration. Research shows that, in the work place, when companies such as Google and Facebook give their staff the option of spending 20% of their time going where their mind asks them too it leads to increased creativity and production. Children should be given that same freedom to explore with no agenda other than discovery on a daily basis. If they are they will learn the joy of learning.