Searching for Awe: Why It Matters and Resources to Help

Awe is a feeling of reverence and wonder. We experience awe when we see, hear, taste, or smell something that gives us goose bumps. When you feel a sense of awe, soak it all in. Relishing in this feeling nourishes your mental well-being. Michelle Shiota, a psychologist at Arizona State University, details the mental health benefits of experiencing awe. Acknowledging something wonderful makes your body slow down. This practice calms your body and mind (Doucleff 2021).

This summer, I hope you’ll search for awe-inspiring moments. According to Shiota, we can find awe in many different places. We can experience it in nature, music, or TV shows (Doucleff 2021). Get curious and see how searching for awe makes you feel. Does it change your mental well-being?

I was filled with awe after reading a Knowledge Quest blog post written by Steve Tetreault. In “Recreation as Professional Development,” Tetreault recaps the amazing work school librarians accomplished last year. It’s incredible to remember how school librarians faced and conquered challenges.

As I search for awe, I am filled with wonder and curiosity. I find myself asking questions and searching for answers. If this is how I respond when I experience awe, I bet learners will, too. Below are books and lesson ideas to inspire learners to search for awe. The lessons support the AASL Standards Framework for Learners.

Wonder Walkers

I am always in awe when I read Micha Archer’s books. Her illustrations amaze me. In Wonder Walkers, Archer recreates scenes in nature with inks and collage. A double-page spread with a tree fills me with awe. Thin strips of patterned paper fill the trunk and branches. All of the patterns were created with stamps made by Archer.

The story of Wonder Walkers opens on the verso page. Two children lay on a couch; one reading a book, the other holding a sleeping cat. On the next page, we see their adorable faces. They agree to go on a wonder walk together. The children explore nature and ask questions along the way.

Consider taking learners for a “wonder walk.” Before you go, take a look at how to go on an “Awe Walk.” The Greater Good in Action has directions on how to be present when walking. The good thing is, you don’t have to go outside to enjoy this experience. The Greater Good in Action has ideas on how to take this exercise indoors.

Knowledge Quest blogger Kathy Carroll has more ideas for you. Read her post “Lessons from COVID: Making Time for Nature and Self-Contemplation.” You’ll find live cams and virtual tours that will inspire learners to slow down and wonder.

The Museum of Everything

How can you capture moments that fill you with awe? In The Museum of Everything, a young person finds a sense of peace while collecting inspiring objects. The found treasures get featured in three-dimensional art.

Author/illustrator Lynne Rae Perkins inspires readers to get creative. After reading the story, invite readers to make a diorama of something intriguing. Click here to visit Perkins’s website. Learn about the interesting objects she made for the book.

Taking Time

I hope you’ll find time to read Taking Time by Jo Loring-Fisher. It’s a meditative poem that features children from around the world. Each child slows down to appreciate a small moment.

You’ll want to read this book twice. First, appreciate reading the poem. Then, have fun finding different objects in the illustrations. The back endpaper shows what to look for in the story.

After reading the book, ask readers what they would like to appreciate today. Invite learners to illustrate their thinking.

Click here to see Loring-Fisher read Taking Time.

Have You Seen a Flower?

Have you ever seen a flower so fascinating it made you pause and wonder? I found a mountain laurel in Maine and it’s beauty froze me in my tracks. The white flower with a pink star filled me with awe. It made me wonder about nature’s purpose for the design in the flower.

Picture of a Mountain Laurel

In Have You Seen a Flower, Shawn Harris invites readers to unleash their imagination. They’ll wonder what’s inside a flower. Could a tiny queen live in there? Do stems have veins like humans?

Harris illustrated the story with stencils and colored pencils. Click here to see his process. Invite learners to recreate a beautiful flower with stencils and colored pencils. Ask learners to reflect on how the art process made them feel as they focused on their work.

One Dark Bird

It’s amazing to see starlings fill the sky and swoop around in a magical dance. Their flight pattern is a phenomenon that compels us to wonder. Author Liz Garton Scanlon writes about this phenomenon in her book One Dark Bird.  Learners will love reading the lyrical text and seeing the dance in the sky. Illustrator Frann Preston-Gannon did a beautiful job capturing the ebb and flow of a murmuration.

Ready to feel goose bumps? Click here to watch a murmuration. 

Click here for a lesson idea that connects with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

What fills you with awe? Please share in the comment box below!

Works Cited:

Doucleff, M. 2021. “Cultivating Joy Takes Work: 3 Ways to Turn Happiness into a Habit.” KQED (June 30).


Author: Maureen Schlosser

Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
Skillshare Teacher:

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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1 reply

  1. Maureen –

    What a wonderful reminder for us all – it is incredibly important to seek out those moments of awe.

    And I’m so glad you enjoyed my post – it’s extremely kind of you to say so! Without a doubt, the work done by educators, and particularly school librarians, during the pandemic has been truly awe-inspiring. Not only did they manage to overcome incredible obstacles and keep students engaged and learning, but they did it with such aplomb that it looked easy – no mean feat!

    Thank you also for sharing the titles in your post – I’m looking forward to checking them out!

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