At the end of our year, many of the teachers said they’d like to continue on, so we have been moving forward with more creative adventures. And in this go round, I want to give more of a voice to our cohort members. Keep reading to learn more from a few of the teachers in this Cohort about creative challenges and the importance of student creativity.
From Gina Miller (@GinaBeckMiller), Belle Plaine Community School District
Creative Challenges are basically problem solving and adaptability in action.
When I think of the purpose of creative challenges it is to instill within our students the ability to recognize a problem and develop the ability to brainstorm possible scenarios or strategies to assist their current coping, with problem solving regardless of the size of the problem they are facing. Too many times students immediately run to an adult to have them fix it, give them the answer, do something for them.
My largest goal as an educator is to use purposeful activities/lessons that assist in problem solving practice, critical thinking, tying it to real world applications, empathy training/sensitivity to others, and, in turn, prepare students for their futures. We definitely do not do kids favors by doing things for them, rather than walking them through, what are your options for solving this problem? What have you done before to solve this type of problem, what have you noticed about the way(s) others have solved similar problems, or research to find how this problem has been or could be solved. I encourage students to use engineering design models or scientific process models to tackle any problem.
I also strongly feel that I push students to look at something, to not just see it, but to observe everything about something, how it works, what it was designed to do, the intended design and then encourage them to reverse engineer and / or think of new and original ways that object could be sued, or revamped to fit new needs.
My other biggest passion/and even pet peeve, is tenacity & resiliency development. I have so many students that want something to be perfect immediately, to not have to make revisions, to believe that they should be able to make something come to fruition because they can think about how it should/could be and they cannot make the connections between their brain and their hands or their dreams and their plans. (hey that rhymes!)
From Bridget Speer (@sewfun82) Benton Community School District
Quote: There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. ~Jiddu Krishnamurti
As a teacher, mom, and aunt, one of the things I am very passionate about is reaching all learners. I was a typical good student. I did my homework, didn’t get into too much trouble in class, read a lot. However, the things I remember most are the times when we got our hands “dirty” in projects. One time, our class made popcorn balls and sold them to raise money to buy trees for the playground. Another time, I remember creating types of Native American homes as we learned about different tribes. One of my favorites was creating a model of the Mississippi in our 8th grade science room complete with a pump to circulate the water! I can’t believe that anyone let us (or our teacher) haul that much sand, dirt and rocks into the classroom.
As I think about my work with students in our STEAM Lab, my goals are
- Build community
- Connect student learning with the curriculum
- Sharing out with community stakeholders
Often people see makerspace as an arts & crafts session or unorganized mess. However, I believe that with creative challenges, we can expose students to powerful connections to learning. I have seen students demonstrate understanding of angles and polygons while coding robots. Other students developed empathy by researching and creating realistic habitats for a skunk that was at the center of their class read aloud. Makerspace doesn’t have to be extra.
From Melissa Kane (@Abookworm813), Anamosa Community School District
Thinking about thinking seems like a redundant statement but as I started thinking about the importance of a Makerspace that really is the key. So often we only see the product that is finished when our time is done; not the struggle it took to get the fabric to stand up to cover the wagon or the thirteen changes made to the code to make the wheel spin.
We need to take the time to talk through the process and explain the learning that happened. We need to use words like clarity, precision, empathy, and persisting as we discuss how we made it to the end product. This needs to just be part of the process and reflection as we work to and finish the product. I think of digital tools like Seesaw and Flipgrid that could allow students to create video clips about their learning and then edited together to share or review the journey of learning.
I also like the idea of sharing this learning out to others. I think it would be great to try and share the process with an engineer or professional in the field of what is created to get some feedback on the connection to real life could be a powerful tool for students as well. Tagging on Instagram and Twitter could be a way for students to get this interaction outside of the school walls.
If we allow these things to happen as we are using the Makerspace the importance may be seen by others outside the space as well. What are some ways you use to help your students think about their thinking in the Makerspace?
A big thanks to Gina, Bridget, and Melissa for sharing!