Yesterday, GOOD Education posted a thought-provoking article that quotes Sir Ken Robinson, one of our favorite thinkers in education these days. In short, Sir Ken discussed that certain educators hope that he will recommend a “creativity hour” that would provide the creative and critical thinking students need during lunch or at the end of the school day once per week. Sir Ken disagrees wholeheartedly with this notion, asserting that instead, creative and critical thinking needs to be infused in all aspects of a child’s educational day. We couldn’t agree more!
The fact is that once a teacher understands how to integrate creative thinking opportunities in the classroom, any and every activity can include interesting, interactive, problem solving opportunities that students find relevant and exciting, opportunities that further engage them in the learning process. ”But, alas,” you may say, “We are bound by state standards and tests and district curriculum.” We say, take those state standards, that curriculum, and the concepts that will be tested, and design your classroom around learning experiences with which students can connect. They need to be able to sink their brains into what they are learning; otherwise education becomes memorization, which is easily lost.
Integrating creativity in education helps students solidify their knowledge, makes them realize that they do indeed enjoy learning, and actually improves test scores since students actually connect with concepts rather than just memorizing them on a basic level. Here’s an example. A couple of years ago in a Math Games and Problem Solving class at Ignite, students were playing a version of battleship as part of a lesson on probability, graphing, and strategy. The game board was graph paper with an x and y axis, and students had to plot their ships’ coordinates.
A few weeks later, one of the students arrived at class glowing. ”We took our state test, and I was the only one in my class that knew how to answer the problems on coordinates because we had played battleship at Ignite!” she exclaimed. This was a happy but secondary result to the work with battleship that day. Our goals had been broader than preparing students for a test; we were asking them to learn how to think with a high-interest approach, and this produced an important ripple effect.
As Sir Ken said in the article, tests have become “the culture of education, the purpose of it, rather than a support for it.” Solid educational strategies that facilitate learning and thinking on a deep level, that expose students to a wide variety of subject matter, should be the basis of education. Students who experience this rigorous yet inspiring type of learning tend to perform higher on tests because they know how to solve problems and think things through, not because they have memorized content.