Exactly how do you want to improve the creativity and problem solving ability of our students?

I just read this post from Project Lead the Way CEO Vince Bertram entitled, “We have to get serious about creativity and problem solving.”  It is here. So my question is, HOW?  I think we know we need to do it, just not sure about how to do it. I read Dr. Bertram’s posts always because he actually says what I believe almost all the time., and he has a loud voice. So who is listening? I know that I am saying the same things and get a lot of polite nods and I am not sure that people are not chuckling behind my back. I mean those who are science or math teachers that fail to understand the comprehensive depth that education should provide. Those who think when I say the arts stimulate creativity that they think I mean to do an improvisational dance to look like a molecule moving and that is STE[a]M. These people don’t get it. And I am sad for them because I don’t think they can do it. Their minds are not innately creative. Perhaps that is my curse. I do get it. I see the connections and allow the walls to come down.

Memorizing stuff or doing labs in which the outcome is expected or already known is not creative. Using google to reproduce someone else’s lessons or experiments is not creative.  I understand you have to know these facts to be able to use them. A teacher has to take a risk and encourage inquiry and looking for questions and answers, some known, some maybe not known.  What will happen if I do this?  How do things work? Can they work better?  You can solve some problems from facts and knowledge, but many take thinking “outside the box” trial and error and maybe just plain courage. You can learn concepts through creating a problem to solve. Relate that to real world experience. Make something we can use or answer a need.

I have written often about creativity because it seems to me to be so misunderstood. It may be looking at something and seeing a myriad of possibilities or asking enough questions until a new idea comes.  Let me tell you what I think it’s not. Many of us interpret those who are creative as “artistic” or unconventional. As a result we may think those who are creative have avant garde hairstyles ,clothing and an excessive amount of tatoos. I understand how one may view this behavior as creative. To me, it is not. It is the ability to take something that you know or have and make it something else. It is the ability to be able to see beyond the lines or the rules. It is allowing for stimulating conversation and ideas, some of which may be nonsense, but to follow them to their logical end. It is seeing something that for now is not there, and then making it happen.

So much in our American heritage has relied on those who dare to dare and dare to dream. Remember walking on the moon? Yes, this event may have been motivated by a “space race” or political competition, but we did it and that took creativity. That took seeing something that was not yet there.

I have visited Jet Propulsion Laboratory a number of times and been in awe of the work being done. I had the privilege of sharing the landing night of the Mars Rover Curiosity with other family members and employees. These moments in our history remind us of our heritage and the motto in the mission strategic room at JPL – DARE MIGHTY THINGS.

dare might things

So how do we do that? Teach children that they  must work hard, persist, create, collaborate, and take risks.  Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do what you dream. Dare to dream and dream big.


Categories: 21st Century Education, creativity, Curiosity, Curiosity Rover, Imagination, Innovation, Mars Science Laboratory, Space travel, STEAM, STEM educationTags:

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