Einstein’s theory of relativity tells us that large objects bend space and time around themselves to generate gravity. From my seven-year-old students I developed my own theory: children warp your perception of the world the most, pulling you into their orbit. I began tutoring to share my cosmic love for science. However, I quickly discovered my students didn’t need me to inspire their curiosity; rather, their interest in minute details spurred my own interest in the nuanced workings of daily life.
Each week I hear questions I’ve never considered nor can explain. My students have given me different eyes to see the world. Our curiosity is sparked by our unspoken agreement that we can’t ever assume where the answer will take us. And we often sit with wide-eyed wonder when we get there. Knowing that spiders flirt by gift-wrapping food in silk makes them altogether less scary. How lovely it is to find awe in the simple things – like an arachnid through a magnifying lens or the smallest gestures of generosity.
Often my students’ questions are beyond what I can answer, yet I’ve learned the beauty of questioning is exploring what could be, rather than what is. The journey to the answer is just as marvelous as the answer itself. In my own summer research, I found that seemingly contrasting pieces of data make sense when I approach mysteries like my students do. Piecing each bit together and delighting in small discoveries are what satisfy my curiosity (though only momentarily).
Those kids ground me to give my ambitions slightly less gravity. When I’m with them, I see how knowledge empowers us to understand the complex world we live in. We’ve discovered a force stronger than gravity, our power to ask and answer the questions inspired by our collective curiosity.