When I was in Canberra two weeks ago for the Anglican Schools Conference, a number of speakers addressed the theme of “awe and wonder” and the ways in which seeking experiences that evoke these responses in us can be positive for our mental health and for building our understanding of the world and each other. I spoke to the staff about the many ways in which we, as teachers, can inspire awe and wonder in our students, by presenting them with provocations, experiences and lessons which prompt girls to say “wow!” (awe) or to ask “why?” (wonder) and we agreed that there were many examples each week within classrooms where learning was happening in just this way. Returning to Canberra this week with the Year 6 students, I was reminded that when we take the girls into new environments, we often increase the opportunities for them to experience awe and wonder. It was, for example, gratifying to watch the girls engage with the exhibits at Questacon in order to follow their natural curiosity about space, chemistry, physics and weather. In fact, one group chorused “wow!” as they watched the simulation of lightning crack through the air and create a spectacular light show. Later, at the High Court, I was proud of the many questions that the girls could generate when speaking to Old Grammarian, Beatrice Paull (2011) about the nature of cases, the selection of judges and Beatrice’s own experiences. As a child, I was fortunate to have parents who fostered my curiosity about and appreciation of the world: I was encouraged to see the beauty in things, to explore new places and experiences, to learn from observation and inquiry and to look out the window, under the leaf and across the mountain range. I am delighted that we can work alongside the parents and caregivers of our students to expose them to moments of awe and wonder – I know that it will continue to impact their wellbeing in a positive way and assist them as they develop into lifelong learners. Additionally, an appreciation of the world and its people and a curiosity about these things, predisposes our young people to feel a sense of connection to and responsibility for our planet – qualities that they will need as they take over custodianship of it. I look forward to more awe and wonder experiences as the year progresses.
Ms Elisabeth Rhodes