In the late ’70’s, our award-winning Lab School at Learning About Learning Educational Foundation was praised by external evaluators for being “metacognitive.” This means we had a big focus on “thinking about thinking,” especially about the unique characteristics of one’s own creative thinking. Diversity was celebrated and we were also interested in how other people and a variety of disciplines thought as well. This is the first in a series of blogs explaining what we were thinking and talking about with our students.
All creative endeavors begin with an idea. For us, an idea was a starting place and we defined it broadly. All of the following could be an idea:
- A concept to construct. We want our students to explore and define many important ideas in their own words/terms. Everything from very concrete concepts, such as “house” or “water” to more abstract concepts like “friendship” or “division” can be a starting place.
- A problem to solve. Everything from a broken porch step to a case of bullying to “2 + 2” could be an idea. Problems can be hypothetical or real but most all of them could start the process of innovation.
- A personally-meaningful subject to learn. Whatever is important to a child, be it knowing all there is to know about dinosaurs or helping others or starting a business or becoming an excellent skateboarder could be the beginning of a creative journey.
- Something new. A falling leaf, brand new shoes, a visit or vacation, a new pet, and so on can be springboards to great thinking and learning.
Besides talking about ideas, here are some of our favorite activities for finding ideas:
- Observation and collection. Beginning with the Sensory Alphabet, we take photos, record, draw, write about, and find samples and examples of lines, colors, textures, shapes, movement, sounds, rhythms/patterns, light and space. We focus on using all our senses to look for ideas—including the feedback we get from our own muscles (propioception). We use magnifiers, frames, and other tools to help us look, listen, feel and otherwise experience the world.
- Questions. We wonder about our world and ourselves. We ask “why” questions: Why is grass green? Why do people cry? Why do we need to learn math? We ask “how” questions: How can we build a treehouse? How can we persuade others? How does an egg become a butterfly? We ask “what if?” questions to spur our imaginations and look into the future. What if everyone was the same color? What is dogs could talk? What if I were President? We ask all kinds of questions to get our creative juices flowing.
- Feelings. We begin by discovering our own likes and dislikes in food, music, and so on. We remember different kinds of experiences that have impacted us one way or another. We think about what makes us happiest? saddest? angriest? most afraid? Many of these will spark creativity.
- Play. We fool around with different kinds of materials and media. What can we do with clay? with a digital camera? with a piece of recycled paper? Both together and alone, we engage in imaginative play and create our own roles and scenarios. We use “random selection” to put two odd things together and see what happens. For example, we might generate a bank of words that all start with “s,” and then pick two at random and let them inspire a story, a drawing, a skit or other form. (‘Silly scarecrow,” “spaghetti singing,” “strong snowman,” etc.)
Help your children talk about ideas and how to find or generate them. Then routinely engage in searching for ideas.