Adairville School fosters Cardinal Curiosity

Posted on December 15, 2020 3:44 PM


Every teacher longs for his students to appreciate the learning process and value how present mastery fits into the overall arc of their education. However, in their youth, most students only see assignments as an inconvenience, a burden, or a  “to do list” that must be completed by a certain deadline. Embracing a challenging task and knowing the struggle will produce good results is a rare and mature perspective of “schoolwork.”

Unfortunately, this problem has grown exponentially as school has invaded the home at a greater level than ever before seen in the modern era. Virtual learning has blurred the lines between a child’s workplace (school) and her playspace (home). As a result, teachers across the county, across the Commonwealth, and across the world are struggling to get students to complete their assignments, greater still, getting them to enjoy the process.

Administrators and teachers at Adairville School have made a concerted effort to fight this battle for the minds of our youth with some very interesting weapons: curiosity, personal relevance, and delight.


Principal Lori Bouldin and Assistant Principal Jonathan Stovall host a virtual morning assembly each school day where they highlight and teach a variety of successful life habits compiled from Summit Learning, The Essential 55, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective Kids. One of the top habits they identified to help Adairville students become lifelong learners was curiosity--the fuel that motivates exploration and discovery.

Teachers are encouraged to cultivate curiosity in their virtual classrooms by introducing lessons using suspense or thrill or perhaps even humor. Project-based learning models, as demonstrated by third grade teachers Cindy Beason and Brianna Costello, allow students to explore community problems and propose solutions.

“Objectives are clear, but outcomes are not,” says Beason.

“The kids research the possibilities, and then they decide where we go from there.” Costello added, “Little kids are really curious about how to solve adult problems...we just gave them the opportunity.”

Adairville teachers have embraced the idea that recent studies show--curiosity and effort have as much effect on success as intelligence does--and they communicate that daily to students.


With much less face-to-face interaction between students and teachers, the pressure is there to make up for lost time and cover as much content as possible. However, leadership at Adairville School has stressed the importance of quality over quantity.

“Quality lessons are the ones that interest students,” says Assistant Principal Jonathan Stovall. “Our teachers work very hard to make their lessons personally relevant to their students’ lives--that’s when the magic happens.” 

Veteran science teacher Jan Stevenson-Laurent presented her students with a very relevant problem: how do farmers expand their fields to produce more food for a growing population yet justify cutting down trees that are so important to the carbon cycle? “Whenever I link my content to students’ survival and well-being, student engagement really increases,” Stevenson-Laurent explains.


“Adairville has always been a place where learning is fun,” says Principal Bouldin, “We just have to be much more creative to make that happen virtually.”

The Artisan teaching skill of “delight,” which is defined as “the ability to create learning experiences that are extra-memorable,” is shared and celebrated each week at the staff’s Friday Huddle. “Delight has an element of surprise; it’s something positive and unexpected that boosts student engagement. Teachers and kids love it!”

Kindergarten teachers Jennifer Baker and Kris Potter have new guest puppets each week that coincide with letter recognition; middle school math teacher Deborah Davenport tells “math jokes” at the end of her Zoom meetings; Beason puts a sticker on her face each time a student answers correctly; Stevenson-Laurent lets her basset hound make guest appearances on camera; 4th grade teachers Carol Ann Dossett and Lorie Deberry use Bitmoji Classroom to post assignments.

“We want students to take delight in school regardless of their setting so they will become lifelong learners,” says Special Education teacher Kim Skipworth.

Mr. Stovall added, “It's amazing the lengths our teachers are going to engage, connect, and instruct our students.”

Teachers, staff, and administrators at Adairville School intentionally model curiosity by being lifelong learners themselves, since they consider themselves co-investigators with students as they navigate this new and ever-changing world and learn to do school differently.


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