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The Importance of Questions at Bixby

by Sarah Brown

Nina approached me at the beginning of January with a folder full of our past newsletters from 1999-2001 called the Bixby Snapshot. I will be sharing short excerpts of the reinvented Bixby Snapshot. 

Pat Baker, Harlan (Bart) Bartram, Claire Seger, and Nikole Emerson wrote in the fall of 2000 about the importance of open-ended questions in every student’s educational journey. The article describes how valuable open-ended questions can be. Kids ask questions to learn more about the world around them. Open-ended questions help students observe their environment and ask their own questions.

The Bixby Snapshot highlights retired teacher Mark Kalen’s class as an example of open-ended questions in action in the classroom. Mark challenged the kids by having them reflect on his questions to help grow their curiosity. Former Preschool teacher Alison Thielke explained that “using questions to add to a child’s play and discovery is important. Questions spark new ideas for the child to learn and grow from.” 

All of the examples in the Bixby Snapshot got me thinking about Bixby today. How do we encourage our students to remain curious, creative, and open to their environments? By asking questions, of course! But how does this play into our current students’ educational journeys? There is much more to each Bixby’s student’s journey than the content they learn in class.

Research shows that students who utilize the skill of asking questions about their surroundings improve their cognitive development. They are more likely to use critical thinking practices and have stronger language development from questioning their environment.

The other day a student came to the front office with an important question for me, “Who was going to sub for their elective that afternoon?” After answering that question, I could see the anxiety on that student’s face disappear quickly, and they returned to their class happy as a clam. What struck me the most within that interaction was the fact that their teacher had let them leave their class for such a simple, but essential question for them to find the answer to. 

My co-worker remarked after the interaction, “Don’t you just love that Bixby will always let our students ask questions.” She was correct. No matter the question or how important it may be to their class time, Bixby is always open to hearing what students say. This student was clearly anxious about the uncertainty of their teacher not being in class. Instead of asking them to sit in class thinking about who may be in charge of their next course, they could advocate for themselves and get the answer. 

Bixby students often leave me in awe because of how self-sufficient they are. They are never afraid to ask for what they need and question the world around them. To me, this shows incredible maturity and curiosity. It goes to show that Bixby students create the environment they want to exist in. Asking questions, continuing to observe, and always displaying a spark of curiosity. 


Bixby Snapshot (fall 2000-2001) Claire Seger, Pat Baker, Nikole Emerson, Harlan Bartram “The Importance of Questions.”