In a country where innovation is now a high frequency word, you know that creative ability must be valued. Teachers, of course, have always been ‘creative coordinators’ and know all about this. In planning our lessons and preparing our classrooms, we are constantly thinking about exciting and different ways in which children can be engaged. This creativity quotient is priceless. Our students joyfully embrace it and, let us not forget, that it is through their own cycle of creative thinking that they begin to grow as effective thinkers and managers of their own learning. Young children possess an innate capacity to be curious; to wonder, muse, question and reflect.
Which activities in the classroom actually trigger creative thinking? What can you do in your classroom to show that you respect and value children as creative thinkers? Below are a few suggestions that I hope will help.
Project based learning
Students love to do things that have meaning and make a difference. Encourage them to work on long- term projects that will help them to contribute meaningfully to the world around them. Look no further than Abu Dhabi’s zero carbon Masdar City where the renewable energy programme has attracted worldwide attention. Once you have made that all important field trip, you can transform your classroom into #MasdarCity. In material and metaphorical terms this is an amazing project, big enough to fill a few classes!
An entire cross curricular theme could be built around this with the children using a ‘See- Wonder-Think’ approach which helps stimulate curiosity and sets the stage for enquiry:
Step 1: Have the children look at something – the driverless car, the award winning wind tunnel – Siemens building, and ask them if they can identify small or big details. Guide them in looking at examples such as cultural influence, height of the building above sea level or the striking aluminium panels.
Step 2: Now is the time to think out loud and to reflect on the more specific features: ‘What tools or techniques have been used?’ ‘How do they calculate energy savings?’ ‘Why does something look the way it does?’ ‘What would another Middle Eastern styled eco city look like?’ Encourage ‘out of the bubble thinking’ as your students formulate their own questions.
Step 3: This is the exciting part, as students will now be searching for answers and explanations. They will be looking for further visual evidence or information to help them answer their own questions and create thoughtful interpretations.
The ‘See-Wonder-Think’ routine works well in a group discussion but in some cases you may want to ask students to use a graphic organiser to record their responses individually: https://www. edutopia.org/pdfs/stw/edutopia- stw-bates-artsintegration-template- organizers.pdf
These observations and findings can be woven into the grand central display.
Snowballing – artful thinking routine
It’s very important to remind children that a single topic can be viewed from many different angles. When it comes to a complex, creative hub like Masdar, the environmentalist, the city planner and the tourist will each have their own perspective.
A snowballing activity, rather like a think-pair-share approach, is about adding depth to ideas, stimulating debate and collaborative thinking. Start with paired students role-playing the perspective of say a tourist and then pair students up so that a group of 4 is created. Encourage your students to generate relevant questions about accessibility, convenience, recycling and energy conservation. Follow up with a quick snowballing session from the viewpoint of the environmentalist. Wrap up the session asking them what new ideas they have about the topic that they didn’t have before. You will be impressed with the rigour of their work and the super levels of engagement.
By Lubna Sarwar
Lubna is a primary educator, author and learning designer. As advisory teacher for the Able & Talented program at Jebel Ali Primary School, she designed and developed a cross-cultural resource for the ‘Thinking Classroom’. Lubna believes that we can create more relevant and imaginative resources for the UAE’s unique educational environment.