Innovation is the buzz word in schools today and there are various science and technology programmes available to support this. A good education is about broadening and enriching minds. Students, from a very early age, need to be encouraged towards lateral thinking and understanding that there is not always a right or wrong answer to problems. They need to experiment to find possible solutions to various issues and to be able to use materials on hand, to create or invent something new or different.
The concept of putting innovation into practice will provide an exciting and challenging setting for very young children, who generally have no inhibitions at all about their work. Promoting innovation requires careful planning. The environment must be rich and varied to encourage ideas and support free thinking. Teachers need to step back and look at each area from the students’ point of view. Initially, students need to be supported as they find out how to learn and play together. Teachers need to actively take part in a small group or paired activities, by taking on an insignificant role, while allowing students to take the lead in these situations. If, for example, the teacher is making a model, then by talking about what is happening as it is taking place, helps students learn how to express abstract thoughts into words and how to collaborate as they work. Make sure students are relaxed and confident so they feel safe and secure to experiment and make mistakes without recrimination.
There must be a range of accessible materials and equipment, attractively presented, from which students can choose. All equipment and resources need to be well organised and labelled so students become highly proficient and autonomous at selecting the materials they need to solve problems. Teachers need to provide fun activities that teach some very basic skills. Students need to know how to join components in different ways, how to turn corners or create different heights and depths. They need to know how to snip with scissors, mix colours, use tape dispensers, glue and different mark-making tools. Once they become proficient at using the resources available and can communicate simple ideas, they are set for an exciting course for innovation.
Problems posed need to inspire students’ imagination and allow them to be adventurous. Some suggestions might include: the teddy bear has had no breakfast and is hungry; lets act out our new story, but we have no hats or costumes; giraffe needs a home to live in; the wooden rail track is not long enough to collect passengers waiting near the door; the colour of the display board is boring; the art and craft area is chaotic.
Teachers know their students and should help them discuss ideas and encourage them to take the lead in planning and carrying out solutions. When truly motivated in challenging projects, students show high levels of concentration and learning is accelerated.
- Participate in play, taking on an insignificant role to help students to confidently develop their ideas.
- Organise and label resources and equipment so they are easily accessible and make sure students return them to their rightful place.
- Provide a range of problems that inspire students and support them as they gather the equipment they need to solve the issue.
- Engage in well-focused discussions as students work. Help them express their ideas and the reasons behind them.
- Provide quiet spaces where students can ponder as they develop their ideas.
References Festival of Education (June 2017) A Place to Learn: Developing a Stimulating Learning Environment (2007) – LEARN By: Gianna Ulyatt