I Wonder ... "Should We?" ... I Investigate

I Wonder ... "Should We?" ... I Investigate

This tool helps learners extend their wonderings into complex decisions or investigations.


4 - 12+


Experiential Learning

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An important attitude in the explorer mindset is to be curious or to wonder about the world. Explorers do not stop at their wonders though. They allow their wonders to be shaped into questions that they want to investigate to build knowledge or questions that might not have a clear answer, but are worthy of exploring from multiple viewpoints or critically thinking about. This tool helps learners extend their wonderings into complex decisions or investigations. Educators who give their learners space to explore their wonderings connect to the Wonder Strategy of creating an enriched environment by offering a variety of tools, resources, technology, and interactions both within the learning environment and outside for learners to provide opportunities for further exploration and discovery.

How to Use This Tool


Prior to engaging with this tool, learners should have had an opportunity to express wonders about an event or phenomenon or experience they have had. This list of wonders should be accessible and visible to them to start with in Step 1.

When to Use This Tool

This tool can be used whenever students express wonders about an event or phenomenon in the world. This may be after being introduced to an anchoring phenomenon, after reading new information, watching a film, listening to a speaker, experiencing something new, having a class discussion, or finishing a wondering walk.

  • Time: Filling out the tool might take 30-45 minutes, but the exploration could take more time.
  • Audience: Upper elementary school and up
  • Ease of use: Medium difficulty


  1. List Wonders. In the first column of the tool, have learners list the wonders that they are most interested in.

  2. Examine Wonders. There are different ways to wonder about the world. Here are some different types:

    • Wondering at: captures our puzzlement or awe: “That is so cool!”

    • Wondering about:
    expresses curiosity to know more about phenomena, processes, or relationships. How does it work? What would happen if?

    • Wondering whether:
    involves a decision about possible actions: What to do, what could be done, or what one shouldn’t do given a particular situation. Why is this important? What should we do? Who does this impact?

    • Wondering with:
    is speculative activity that recognizes the agency of the more-than-human world, positioning them as active partners in thought and conversation as investigations unfold. Wondering with positions humans as a part of the natural world: I wonder why the moss decided to grow on this side of the tree. I wonder what stories this tree might share from living in this space.

  3. Annotate wonders. For this tool, learners will develop wondering about and wondering whether questions so they should identify which wonders fit into these categories. (Circle wondering about questions and underling wondering whether questions).

  4. Reword ‘Wondering Whether’ wonders into “Should We…” questions. Have learners move to the second column of the table and create “Should We…” questions out of their Wondering Whether wonders. “Should We” questions encourage decision-making and motivate action as they explore relationships between humans and the natural world. As there are no right or wrong answers to a “Should We” question, they will involve research and taking on different perspectives to explore multiple possibilities and the consequences of decisions on families, communities, and the natural world in different ways.

  5. Reword ‘Wondering About’ wonders into Investigation questions. Have learners move to the final column of the table and create Investigation questions. Investigation questions can be:
    descriptive (describing the behavior of an organism or the relationship between two or more living/non-living beings. How do hummingbirds drink water?)

    comparative (compare and contrast a phenomenon across time and place. Where can I find the most hummingbirds?)

    correlative (explain patterns between different organisms and/or their environment. What happens to hummingbirds when it rains?

  6. Select a “Should We …” question and an Investigation question. Have learners select a question from each column that they are most interested in exploring further.

  7. Share questions with other learners, either in small groups or as a whole group. Under the graphic organizer table, have learners identify what they would need to learn more about for their “Should We” question and what resources they would need to explore their Investigation question.

  8. Optional. Make space for Exploration! After learners have a plan for researching their “Should We” question or collecting data for their Investigation question, encourage them to work together to find some answers or make a decision.

Modifications, Variations, and Extensions

  1. In Step 6 above, you can collect several “Should We” questions and Investigation questions and discuss as a whole group what you would like to explore. Or, if you have the resources and time, you can allow learners to explore what they are interested in exploring.

  2. This tool can be modified to focus on “Should We” questions OR Investigation questions. The decision may be based on what you are having learners wonder about in the initial column.


Conijn, J., Rietdijk, W., Broekhof, E., Andre, L., & Schinkel, A. (2021). A theoretical framework and questionnaire for wonder-full education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 54(3), 423-444.

Learning in Places Collaborative (2021). [Learning Frameworks Overview].

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Elizabeth Wolzak, Director, Learning Innovation, Edu Lab, National Geographic
Heather J. Johnson, Associate Professor of Practice of Science Education, Vanderbilt University
Stephanie Hamilton, Education Consultant, Global Inclusive Learning Design Reviewer
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Graphic Design
Patrick Cavanagh, National Geographic Society
Rights Clearance
Jean Cantu, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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