Students often have a natural curiosity to discover new things, which can benefit us as educators! Now, when they want to discover the best way to make their peer blow a gasket, that doesn't necessarily benefit us; however, their natural curiosity really can be a vehicle to teach the curriculum. One way we can do this in our classrooms is to allow the students to research!
Research can look different in the classroom. The students may be researching a topic under a common theme, or they may be researching topics that are simply of interest to them. For example, in our classroom we had students researching topics such as poisonous snakes, poverty in Mongolia, cancer, Ireland, and malaria all at the same time. (It is amazing what important topics students may choose to research, especially when adults plant some seeds to spark their interest!) We've also had different groups of students researching The French and Indian War, The Mayflower Compact, The Boston Tea Party, and Early Colonization at the same time during our study of American History. While we guided them with the topics, we gave them some background information on these topics and let them generate the questions they wanted to research.
The number of reading and writing skills that are naturally embedded within research are too numerous to list. Often times, there are social studies, science, and math skills embedded within the research as well! Some teachers use research to explore specific social studies and science topics. For example, if the curriculum requires students to learn about the different landforms, a teacher may briefly share the various landforms with the class (just an overview) and then let the students (or groups) select specific landforms to research and then share with the class. The kids become the experts of their topic!