Open Educational Resource
Open Educational Resource



See, Think, Wonder

See, Think, Wonder

Use this tool to help surface a learners' preconceptions and concerns.

The PDF resources in the carousel below include (from left to right): See, Think, Wonder Worksheet; See, Think, Wonder: Five Senses Worksheet. Scroll below the resources for guidance on using these resources in your education work.


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Professional Learning, Experiential Learning

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Why Use This Tool

This tool activates learners’ curiosity and prior knowledge at the beginning of an educational engagement. It can help surface preconceptions and concerns and excite learners for what’s next.

When to Use This Tool

  • Stage(s) of Learning: Engage - Use this activity to start a learning engagement.
  • Time: 5 - 20 minutes - Time varies depending on discussion and sharing.
  • Audience: All Ages - Any audience can engage with this activity. Audiences that cannot collect their thoughts in writing may wish to share verbally at each stage.
  • Ease of Use: Simple - This activity requires you to choose a single, compelling image to introduce your engagement. You can also choose to distribute worksheets and facilitate a brief discussion.

How to Use This Tool

Preparation: Choose a single, compelling image related to your topic. Images that feel like part of a larger story and include characters – such as people, animals, or natural elements like weather or fire – work best.  Short, simple video or audio clips – such as field recordings – could also work and provide auditory stimulus. Prepare copies of the worksheet for distribution, if you are using the worksheet.


  1. Distribute the worksheet to learners and tell them to complete it silently with their own ideas before sharing.
  2. Review the categories on the worksheet, including guiding questions. There are also additional guiding questions and tips below.
  3. Display your image and remind learners to complete their worksheets independently and silently. Give learners 1-3 minutes for each stage of the sheet. Be sure to set aside time for the “SEE” stage so that learners look closely at details and consider all elements before they move into analysis. Encourage learners to be comfortable with uncertainty and share “educated guesses.”
    1. Learner tips for the SEE stage: Consider everything you see or think you see. Is there evidence of the time of day, weather, or place. Look at the image using different perspectives: Spatial, Cultural, Political, Economic, Historical, Geological, Ecological.
    2. Learner tips for the THINK stage: Use evidence from the “see” list to make predictions about what is happening, and what might happen next. If there are people or animals in the image, make educated guesses about what they are doing, why, and how they might feel.
    3. Learner tips for the WONDER stage: Use questions that connect what you see here to other things you already know, including other key ideas or concepts you are learning about or key experiences in your own life. Think about how the image makes you feel or want to do.
  4. Share: Ask learners to share some of their entries into each category. In larger groups, suggest that learners share with each other in groups of 2-4 first, then share commonalities. In smaller groups, consider calling on varied learners for contributions.
  5. Reflect: Take a moment to reflect on commonalities and trends from the sharing. Are there certain things people noticed most? Were there any novice understandings or misconceptions that surfaced and may need to be considered? What questions were most common? You will want to revisit these at the end of your engagement.
  6. Transition: Use the common interests and ideas from the learners to move into the next stage of your engagement. Be sure to revisit questions from the “WONDER” stage later.

Modifications, Variations, and Extensions:

  • To complete this activity without using worksheets, ask prompt learners verbally to think about their answers, then share at each step verbally. You may want to collect the common answers to revisit.
  • Adding audio, such as field recordings, will provide stimulus for learners who may not be able to see the visual stimulus well.
  • This activity can also serve as a way to help learners look more closely at images during a presentation. It can be applied to data visualizations and maps as well.
  • To encourage empathy in your learners, use the more complex and immersive “Five Senses” variation of the See-Think-Wonder activity. Ask learners to imagine that they are in the picture and to note what they see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in addition to what they think and wonder. Direct the learners to respond as an observer looking at the scene from the camera’s point of view or as one of the “characters” in the image.
    • TIP: This variation encourages imagination and empathy, but also can invite biased and insensitive assumptions or commentary about locations or people in an image. If you choose to use this, be mindful of choosing an image and framing the sharing to avoid encouraging bias.

The National Geographic Society is making this content available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA license. The License excludes the National Geographic Logo (meaning the words National Geographic + the Yellow Border Logo) and any images that are included as part of each content piece. For clarity the Logo and images may not be removed, altered, or changed in any way.

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.

Dan Byerly, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Patrick Cavanagh, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Specialist, Content Production
Jean Cantu, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

May 29, 2024

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