Encouraging Young Inventors

Recently, in our Kindergarten Maker Space …

Me: “Hey, may I take a picture of what you’re working on?”

Student: “Sure. It’s a bug playground.”

Me: “A bug playground?”

Student: “Yeah, because otherwise they just get stepped on.”

Me: “Wow, they do get stepped on, don’t they? What a great idea. I bet the bugs will like it!”

How awesome is that?

A 6-year-old,  using all sorts of creative thinking (human/bug design thinking, possibility thinking, positive thinking, lateral thinking, divergent thinking, convergent thinking) to problem-find and problem-solve. I love it!

It’s what happens when students are given recycled materials, duct tape, and, most importantly, the opportunity, space and encouragement, to think, risk and build.

The Crayon Initiative

Have you ever heard of The Crayon Initiative?  Me neither! Until today.

The Crayon Initiative recycles “unwanted crayons into unlimited possibilities for children.”

How cool is that?

I’m sure there are lots of people/organizations who are doing creative repurposing with crayons, but for now, I’m liking and blogging about this one! 🙂 (No disrespect to any of the others.)

crayons

I like the process they talk about as they tell their story …

  • twirling a crayon – deep in thought
  • wondering out loud
  • asking questions
  • discovering a problem
  • being confident in their ability to discover a new way to address the problem
  • accepting the challenge to make a positive change
  • thinking
  • ideating (having ideas! Awesome word, isn’t it? Around since the 1800’s I believe)
  • bringing one of those ideas to life to “recirculate the endless supply of free materials and bring the Arts to children everywhere.

There’s a lot to love about this! The process, the creativity, the crayons (I happen to love crayons, lol.) the openness to possibility, the thought, the action, and the benefit to children and the environment.

Rock on Crayon Initiative!

Let’s follow their lead. Let’s wonder, question, think, ideate, believe, and make positive innovations!

 

Possibility Thinking Happens!

yogurt lady bugsI was delighted to receive this email from a parent of one of my kindergarteners:

Last night, M was finishing up 2 small containers of applesauce. She washed them out, put them on the counter, and said, “Save these. I’m turning them into ladybugs after school tomorrow.”

How awesome?!?!!!

What will this become? Clearly, the possibilities are endless.

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes crack me up! I was reminded of them when I saw the documentary film Dear Mr. Watterson by Joel Schroeder. (http://www.dearmrwatterson.com/DMW/dearmrwatterson.html)

I think Bill Watterson and his characters are quite creative, so I thought I’d share a strip that cracks me up as a teacher (and a student!). It’s published in There’s Treasure Everywhere – one of many Calvin and Hobbes books I own and enjoy. Even the title is fab!

calvinandhobbes

Ok, now, before other teachers (or creativity researchers) crank and kvetch that Calvin isn’t REALLY being creative because his innovation isn’t useful in this application, let me say I get it! I understand that definition of creativity, but I LOVE Calvin’s possibility thinking (Anna Craft), his notion of loopholes, and his desire to use them. That sense of possibility, of playfulness, of seeing and using loopholes, of reckless abandon, of seeing and creating the new – that is important and useful!

Do I think Calvin needs to learn a bit of prudence? Yes, of course — though it would make his character much less amusing — but prudence cannot come at the cost of possibility thinking or illumination.

Illumination – that AHA! moment — and evaluation (prudence) — are two distinctly different things. Both are valuable and both must be given encouragement, thought, space and time. And, both must be celebrated!

So, one of my goals as a teacher is to encourage creativity, possibility noticing and thinking, dreaming, playfulness, and risk taking, while also teaching, and encouraging evaluation.

Oh, and I also hope to be open to those times when my question actually asks to be interpreted creatively! Cause really, read the question before Calvin once more. Didn’t he do what was asked? Hmmm ….

Possibility thinking

While researching creativity I read several articles by Anna Craft. She suggests the idea of “possibility thinking” as a key element of creativity and an important part of education.

Possibility thinking involves exactly what it says – thinking about possibilities. It involves current knowledge, as we consider what the element/thought is and how it is used. But, it also involves knowledge yet unknown, “what might it be?” and “how might we use it?”

While it is important for us to help our students develop and broaden their knowledge, I believe (agreeing with Craft) that helping our students develop the ability and willingness to engage in possibility thinking is key! Possibility thinking allows us, and our students, to embark on new paths of thinking, and opens the door to new understanding, ideas and discoveries.

Here is a profound example of everyday possibility thinking (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15DE8_-ptZ8). A dad fashions a usable prosthetic hand for his son after viewing a video posted by Ivan Owen – co-creator of the Robohand prosthesis (Here’s a link to Ivan’s ted talk – http://www.tedxrainier.com/events/2013tedxrainier/ivan-owen).

WOW! There are so many great things about this story. First of all, of course, is a young man now able to use his hand.

But there is more – possibility thinking, a generosity of spirit and thought when Ivan Owen open sourced his idea, a mix of convergent and divergent thinking, collaboration, taking risks, experimenting, re-thinking, improving design, persevering, and continuing in the face of skepticism. All this ….

Think of the levels of possibility thinking (and I’m sure there are even more than I mention)

  • Considering and developing a printer.
  • Expanding on that idea which leads to considering and developing a 3D printer!
  • Imagining the possibilities of what can be created with the printer – including affordable, DIY-able, customizable hands!

Un-believable! Or no, not unbelievable, totally believable to someone open to possibility.

small hands