Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up" (Pablo Picaso)


I'll always remember this quote as it was taped to a shelf in the darkroom of my Dad's photographic studio. (Forgive Picaso for using the gendered pronoun "he") I read it for year and years as a child, and only later did I come to realize its true significance. I owe my curiosity and penchant for too many hobbies and questions to my father, who promoted that kind of creativity and inquisitiveness in me as a child. I joke now about having too many hobbies, but is that at all surprising for someone with a curious interest about the world? 

Interestingly, I expressed that creative curiosity through the study of science and the natural world, and through my hobbies, rather than through artistic expression like my father the photographer (who is also keenly interested in nature). This brief reflection reminds me of the importance of fostering this kind of creative curiosity is children of all ages. One avenue into that is the venerable (and often much-maligned) "hobby."

When I say I have too many hobbies it's true: amateur radio, cycling, computers, gps, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, camping, reading, weather watching/data, maps, geology, and others I'm sure I've neglected. These hobbies/pursuits/whatever you want to call them are expressions of my curious nature (or some say [intellectual] attention deficit disorder). So why do I pursue all of these things? They're fun and make me think.

We amateur radio operators often lament the lack of younger people in our hobby. Go to any gathering of hams and the mean age is likely to be well past 60. As a teacher, I formed an amateur radio club in my high school to get kids involved in this pursuit of intellectual curiosity and problem-solving. Some of the kids got into it, and others joined just because their friends did or they thought I wanted them to be there. But looking back on that experience makes me realize that my motivation to form that club wasn't really about amateur radio- it was about getting kids to engage in a hobby that make them smile, laugh, and think.

I'm sure there is no prescription or set of rules for fostering intellectual curiosity in children, but I think a good starting point is to model that curiosity yourself. One good way to do that is to engage in a hobby you enjoy and to promote that hobby in your community.

5 comments:

  1. I think we're a lot alike, Bud. My poor wife doesn't understand why I have so many hobbies! Fly fishing, photography, ham radio, cycling... You name it.

    Your post makes me feel vindicated! Here I thought I had a short attention span!

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  2. I have always used this quote but I never knew its source. Thanks!

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  4. I know the feeling. I have tons of hobbies, mostly sports. I agree teachers need to use what hobbies children have to their advantage.

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