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Students' Questions That I Don’t Answer

One of my favourite parts of being a teacher is the interesting and sometimes even surprising questions my students ask me: “Are viruses alive?” “When plants self-pollinate, is it sexual or asexual reproduction?” “Where did matter come from?”

Due to their enormous curiosity, children may ask some questions that adults find difficult to answer.

Morbid questions

“How long does it take for a body to decompose in a desert?”

Naturally, a child’s curiosity extends to the topic of death. If we say, “That’s morbid; don’t think about that,” we teach children to feel ashamed of their curiosity, or that they should think twice before asking us questions. It’s important to welcome and answer such questions as we would any other. (I have the same philosophy when it comes to questions about sex.)

Questions to which we don't know the answer

“How do refrigerators work?”

Inevitably, kids will ask questions to which we don’t know the answers. Please do not be tempted to guess or make something up! Misinformation sticks, and it can be difficult for people to discard the misconceptions they receive in childhood later in life. Do not be embarrassad to say that you do not know something; it is good for children to learn that adults have limitations. If you have the time, search for child-friendly, credible resources to answer these questions together. The child will learn research skills—and as a bonus, you will learn something new, too!

Questions to which no one knows the answer

"How big is the universe?"

Unanswered questions are my favourite ones. If there are competing hypotheses, I may go over these with the student. However, the real value of these questions is that they can promote a sense of wonder about the numerous unsolved mysteries that exist in our world.

So which questions do I not answer?

I have one student with an extraordinarily active and curious mind, and he likes to express what's on it. This leads to some fascinating questions and discussions in class, but it can also take us off topic.

I have a curriculum to follow, and if I let myself get carried along with his whirlwind of thoughts, we can find ourselves talking about black holes in a class that’s supposed to be about genetics. In these cases, I've got to reign it in and tell him that we've got to get back to the class material. If I didn't do this, we'd never get through the lessons! However, if we finish early, then I give him the freedom to ask me anything.

We might not always have the time to answer children's questions when they ask them, but we can set aside a regular "Ask Me Anything" time to inspire a lifelong love of learning.


Courses

Fallacy Detectors Part 1

Develop the skills to tackle logical fallacies through a series of 10 science-fiction videos with activities. Recommended for ages 8-12.

US$15

Symbolic Logic for Teens Part 1

Learn how to make sense of complicated arguments with 14 video lessons and activities. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

US$15

Worksheets

Symbolic Logic Worksheets icon

Symbolic Logic Worksheets

Worksheets covering the basics of symbolic logic for children ages 12 and up.

US$5

Elementary School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Elementary School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 2-5 about superstitions, different perspectives, facts and opinions, the false dilemma fallacy, and probability.

US$10

Middle School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Middle School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 5-8 about false memories, confirmation bias, Occam's razor, the strawman fallacy, and pareidolia.

US$10

High School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

High School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 8-12 about critical thinking, the appeal to nature fallacy, correlation versus causation, the placebo effect, and weasel words.

US$10

Statistical Shenanigans Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Statistical Shenanigans Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 9 and up the statistical principles they need to analyze data rationally.

US$10