Back to School: Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity

Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity

As we head back into our classrooms, there are lots of things that we must consider. How do we set up a classroom learning environment to best support students? What are some ways that we can build relationships and get to know one another? How do we create a welcoming classroom space that sparks creativity and curiosity for learning?

It comes down to thinking about and reflecting on what we learned about our practice and methods used during the past school year. What are some activities that made an impact not just on student learning but on building essential SEL skills? Which methods or even tools helped students to feel more connected with their classmates and the content? Cultivating a learning environment where students have choices, feel comfortable and confident, is so important to amplify student learning. A comfortable and supportive space is essential. 

As we enter a new school year, it is always the perfect time to try a few new ideas and see how the students respond, what the impact is on learning, and then decide where to go from there. At the start of the year, we need to spend time getting to know one another, share our love of teaching with our students so we spark their curiosity, and get them excited for the year of learning ahead! Have students create a Buncee to share a little bit about who they are!

Five ideas to spark curiosity

At the start of a new school year, there are a lot of ways to get students creating, to become curious, and in the process, to build relationships with their peers and you. Whether you use the books available through Capstone as a way to spark curiosity and have students use PebbleGo Create to share their learning or dive right into using Buncee, the possibilities are endless!

The best thing about using Buncee and PebbleGo Create is that students can design something authentic, meaningful and personalized to them. With so many options for adding objects, backgrounds, animations, audio and video into their creations, students will be more engaged in learning, excited to find new ways to share what they have learned and become curious about what their classmates create too. In my classroom, providing students with different choices for creating with the language not only helps them to build their language skills, fosters creativity, and also helps with the development of technology skills and promotes digital citizenship as they post online and share their work with others.

We know that teaching the content is important, but finding ways to boost engagement, and foster the development of essential social-emotional learning (SEL) skills are also important. Here are some ideas for the start of the new school year for teachers. Some will enable students to learn about each other, become more curious about the content, and have a space to create something that meets their interests and needs. 

       1. Welcome to class! We know that consistent communication is important. There are a variety of tools we can use, but why not choose just one! Use Buncee to create a Class Newsletter to share with students and families. Whether at the start of the year as a class overview or a weekly message to share class information, add links to resources, include a video or use audio to talk about upcoming events or what has happened during the week. Teachers can create these for students and families, or have students create a recap of what they have learned during the week or during a specific unit of study and share that with classmates and families!

       2. Lesson Introductions: When starting to cover a new topic, or even at the start of the new school year, finding a way to hook students into a lesson might present a challenge. Why not use Buncee to create something that will spark student curiosity about what they are going to learn. Using the different objects in the media library, teachers can create a Buncee that will draw students attention in, and maybe even challenge them to solve a puzzle or to come up with ideas about what they will be learning. Maybe even use the audio or add a video and give students a prompt to then create something on their own in response or just as a way to get the conversations going.

        3. Goal Setting: Starting the year with activities that focus on SEL and being consistent is important.  In my classroom, I ask students to share with me what they think they will learn during the year, what are some of the goals that they have for themselves in terms of preparing for the class and how they will structure their own study habits for example. It can even be a vision board for the year! Teachers can use this to start conversations with students to help them to develop self-awareness and self-management skills. Before sharing all of the content to be covered, give students the chance to share their thoughts, their wonders and be curious about what to expect! 

         4. Portfolios:  Buncee can be a space for students to build a narrative of their work. Students can create a multimedia representation of their learning which includes images, documents, and they can even record audio or video to talk about their learning. At the start of the school year, provide students with a template to use as a space to gather their thoughts, add some reflections, include some examples of their work, that they can review and reflect on throughout the year.

          5. Favorite book, movie, show: After the summer break, students have likely read a book, seen a movie or watched some different tv shows. Maybe they attended concerts or spent time listening to a lot of music. Whatever it is that they did, ask students to create something to share it with classmates. They can design a book trailer, an advertisement for the book or show, create a “Can you guess?” presentation that reflects the book and invites classmates to figure out what it is. There are a lot of options and this can be a fun way to get to know one another and also spark some curiosity in different areas like music, art and other media.  

Another idea is to have students select a book from the Capstone Library, choose a theme and give students a choice in books to read and then create a recap of what they learned. Regardless of which you choose, students will enjoy creating and sharing and definitely become curious about other interests and different perspectives.

One recommendation I often make for educators is to think of a specific topic you cover and the ways that you have been doing this each year and instead, try to amplify it by using an innovative method or new digital tool. By creating a variety of activities where students can interact with one another, while engaging in some purposeful learning and having fun in the process will be highly beneficial. 

Capstone Publishing and PebbleGo Create offer students so many ways to share what they are learning, experiencing, what they are excited about. It sparks curiosity and creativity in learning and also help to build confidence in learning, all of which help with SEL. When we offer more choices, we provide more hands-on, meaningful and student-driven learning. With new ideas, we can boost student engagement and creativity, help to spark curiosity for learning and student needs will be better met. By bringing in new technologies and opportunities, we better prepare students with the skills that they will need moving forward and they truly enjoy the learning process.


Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021. She is the author of seven books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU”, “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us” and her newest book “Things I Wish […] Knew” is now available at

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at

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