“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life.” —Gordon Parks
Central to the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning is a belief that education works best when it’s energetic. Rather than being stale and rote, it’s filled with excitement. That excitement, which we call zest, is a core element of social-emotional learning.
Individuals who approach life with zest tend to have the following characteristics:
- They refuse to do things halfway or halfheartedly.
- They are energetic.
- They approach life as an adventure.
In the context of classroom learning, zest coupled with curiosity can help drive kids’ motivation to learn and press on even when things get difficult. Zest is enthusiasm in the face of challenges. It can help learners overcome challenges to find amazing rewards.
So what does developing zest look like in the learning process? Facilitators can leverage kids’ innate ability to learn by creating and maintaining environments that encourage their zest and curiosity and support their feelings of autonomy. We believe in framing mistakes as opportunities for learning and discussion, and we celebrate questions to drive learning. We also believe in kids taking ownership of the direction their learning takes.
Incorporating zest into learning means funneling energy into dynamic, project-based learning that brings concepts to life. Whether it’s conducting scientific experiments, engaging in historical research and reenactments, or enjoying play-based learning, our learners engage in vibrant methods of exploring, creating, and understanding.
For a facilitator — and families, too — it’s important to bear in mind that some children are not as naturally “zestful” as others. With these learners especially, keep in mind that enthusiasm isn’t taught as much as it is modeled and encouraged. Enthusiasm is infectious. If kids see your zest for learning, they can be inspired too. The goal is to help kids move along the spectrum of enthusiasm toward a more zestful attitude.
When the seeds of enthusiasm are planted early and take root in the soil of learners’ minds, they are empowered to approach challenges as opportunities to grow and succeed.