by Paddy Donnelly
Children are sponges.
From the moment they’re born, they learn through experiencing the world around them with all of their senses. If we were to quantify the amount of new information and skill that young children learn on a daily basis, the number would be staggering.
Why do they learn so much, so quickly?
They are driven by their own, internal, uninhibited sense of curiosity. Then as if inevitable, as children grow older their curiosity fires begin to dim. What if we kindled their sense of curiosity from toddlerhood on? Imagine what learning would look like if it was fueled by toddler-esque curiosity forever.
In a growing number of elementary schools, educators work hard to keep student curiosity not only alive, but as the driving force behind cross-curricular learning. This is accomplished in so many ways; through inquiry, open-ended questioning, choice and apprenticeship in content areas, and through reading.
Paddy Donnelly’s debut picture book, The Vanishing Lake, is not only captivating for students of all ages, it encapsulates the thrust of how following our curiosity leads to powerful learning.
Set in Ireland, The Vanishing Lake centers around a young girl named Meara and her grandfather. Honoring Meara’s curiosity, her grandfather brings her on an adventure to explore the mysterious vanishing Lake Loughareema, as it seems to disappear and then reappear. Though Meara learns about the myths that local people tell to explain the lake’s disappearance from her grandfather, students enjoy reading Donnelly’s afterward which includes factual information about the science behind lakes that “vanish.”
While many of our youngest students were mesmerized by The Vanishing Lake, click the link below to find out how 5th grade literacy partners voice what they felt was most important about this story. They were inspired by the immersive illustrations and the layers of nuance within the story itself.