Regardless of adult support, most young children’s extremely intense interests don’t last forever. An extreme interest can morph into a new but related interest, or the child’s interest may refocus on a completely different topic. Some children may cycle through a range of interests as they grow, perhaps returning to an earlier interest in a year or two. (So, parents, be careful what you throw out!)
Several research groups are studying what happens when extremely interested children grow up. Interviews with scientists and engineers revealed that many, but not all, first developed an interest in their field of study when they were very young. Of course, other extremely interested children grow up to pursue completely different careers, but some maintain an amateur’s love for their childhood passions.
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Crowley, K., Barron, B. J., Knutson, K., & Martin, C. (In press). Interest and the development of pathways to science. In Interest in Mathematics and Science Learning and Related Activity, K. A. Renninger, M. Nieswandt, and S. Hidi (Eds.). Washington DC: AERA.
Jones, G., Taylor, A., & Forrester, J. H. (2011). Developing a scientist: A retrospective look. International Journal of Science Education, 33, 1653-1673.
Maltese, A. V., & Tai, R. H. (2010). Eyeballs in the fridge: Sources of early interest in science. International Journal of Science Education, 32, 669-685.