[Written by TomTod’s Executive Dreamer, Joel Daniel Harris. Read his bio on our staff page.]

The new year at TomTod has found us in new office space at the Stark County District Library, which for me has meant an additional new year resolution of walking to work whenever possible. A mile and a half makes for a walk just long enough to learn something, so I decided to start listening to podcasts on my trekking commute, starting by catching up on the hit show Serial.

In the first episode, The Alibi, digested while crunching through the snow on the first wintery day of 2015, the host/narrator/journalist, Sarah Koenig, recounts how difficult it is for people to provide trustworthy alibis, due to the gratuitous routine-ness of life. When things aren’t extraordinary they don’t stick out. For example, if I keep walking to work, it won’t be long before I forget what the weather was like on that first day of podcast listening…it will run into the many others to come. Except, perhaps, for one reason: my brain, specifically my curiosity, was being stimulated the entire trip by the compelling storyline of Serial.

According to Curiosity: It Helps Us Learn, But Why (NPR Ed Blog, October 14, 2014), when our curiosity is sparked, not only are we more apt to learn and retain information about our particular topic of interest, we’re also more likely to retain additional, even unrelated information. The study cited in the article connected curiosity-driven trivia to randomized facial recognition and found a significant rise in recall. We, like the teacher in the opening story, experience this sort of curiosity-driven learning all the time with our middle school students. They are fountains of wonder, when properly prompted.

As we launch into a new year of TomTod programming, we look forward to cultivating a contextualized curiosity, one that meets middle school students in the midst of their worlds and transports them to the needs, passions, challenges and beauty of the world around them. But engaging the world with inquisitive minds is for more than middle schoolers…it’s for you, too! What are you going to do to stimulate your curiosity in the coming year and expand your horizons? New books? New commutes? New hobbies? We’d love to hear. In fact, if you leave a comment, either here on this post or on one of our social media channels, we’ll enter you into a drawing to get a free copy of Seth Godin’s newest book “What To Do When It’s Your Turn”, a book all about exploring curiosity and taking action.

And at the very least, this post should help you explain to your boss/teacher/spouse why Trivia Crack is important to be played without ceasing. After all, you’re stimulating your curiosity, and that’ll help you remember whatever it was you were supposed to be learning, right?!

Here’s to a new year full of fantastic conundrums and arched eyebrows!

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  • By Rocio Hoerr 09 Jan 2015

    New home. I will be moving to Chicago as soon as my house sells. A bit scared of the changed, but looking forward to the challenge of meeting new people, living in an exciting city as it is Chicago, and being closer to my daughters and other relatives. When I move I hope to start my own business by being a personal Chef to families who don’t have time to eat healthy and at home.

    • By Dani Gustavich 09 Jan 2015

      Rocio, Good luck with your move! I have two very good friends who live just outside of Chicago, in Elmhurst. The next time I get to visit them, maybe we can all meet for dinner. 🙂

  • By Dani Gustavich 09 Jan 2015

    Hi, Joel! I enjoyed reading this post. I downloaded “Serial” a while back and completely forgot about it until now. My girlfriend, Tricia, recently adopted a dog, which has motivated me to go for long walks. Thankfully, Ozzie is good on a leash. Tricia lives within walking distance of Lake Erie, so I have been taking Ozzie for walks along the lake when it hasn’t been too cold for us. I love how my mind wanders as my eyes continuously scan our surroundings, not only to be aware of possible threats, but to be sure I don’t miss any treasures. We have found quite a few interesting items on the beach, but even more disgustingly disturbing items. I find it such a shame that so many people either don’t care about what they are putting into our sewer systems or just don’t realize the impact they are having on the environment and our well-being. Being so close to Cleveland’s water intake area and seeing all of the really disgusting items (you wouldn’t believe me if I told you) coming out of the water really makes me wonder if it would make a difference if more people were aware of exactly where their drinking water comes from and what has been floating around in it. This isn’t something that I care to take on, but I hope that someone will. In the meantime, I am going to try to remember to listen to “Serial” as we walk, although my mind has just as much of a tendency to wander as my body does.

  • By Anne Martin 12 Jan 2015

    I, too, believe that curiosity can spark the learning process. Walking and listening are two of my favorite things also. I especially enjoy Snap Judgment on Sunday afternoon, and have the Serial podcast downloaded for future listening. An open mind can find a lot to be curious about!

  • By Renee Sheridan 12 Jan 2015

    I will check in from time to time…as a children’s librarian I like that you are up to doing creative things for younger audiences -I am most impressed with your co-worker Abby I watched her change her name last summer.

  • By Anne Martin 13 Jan 2015

    One of my favorite go-to outdoor places is the Cuyahoga Valley Nat’l. Park. The town of Peninsula is fun and always lively with people, especially in the warmer months. But you can always find peaceful and beautiful places to hike and walk any time of the year.

  • By Charlene Myers 13 Jan 2015

    This year I am challenging myself by stepping out of my comfort zone. There are things that I have been curious about but too intimidated to try in the past. I have created a list and my goal is to let my curiosity overcome my fear. This will be a learning experience as well.

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