Creativity is especially vital in a time of change

Now, more than ever, we need creative approaches in our schools to cope with a fast-changing world amid the pandemic.

COVID-19 has forever transformed the world as we know it: the way we live, the way we work, the way we learn and the way we play. And it has shown how quickly the world can change. Now, more than ever, we need creative approaches. And that starts in our schools.

Creativity is especially vital in a time of change

Full STEAM ahead for a world yet to be imagined

With some of our youngest students at Nord Anglia International School Pudong due to graduate in 2030, a new age of careers yet to be imagined will continue to emerge.

This year has highlighted just how quickly the world can change and now, more than ever, the jobs of the future require flexible, innovative and multi-faceted individuals.

These skills are grounded in integrating and applying different nodes of knowledge, which is exactly the point of STEAM.

Science, technology, engineering, art and math are all fields which are highly respected and celebrated in their discrete forms. However, when elements of these fields are integrated together, it unequivocally results in breakthroughs for the challenges we face in the world today.

Our collaborative workspace to undertake STEAM projects centers around our Makerspace and this is where imagination and creation can truly thrive.

Students at NAIS Pudong have access to a wide range of resources, which allow them to explore, experiment and create in rich first-hand experiences.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s core philosophy of “Mens et Manus,” or “Mind and Hand,” is very much at work as our students strive for their spark of inspiration to materialize into something tangible and functional.

This year’s particular focus on physical computing and design skills has been a significant contributor to support our students to transform their high-concept ideas into physical outcomes.

Whether it be creating prototypes for social distancing sensors, assistive video game controllers for people with disabilities or structural models for amphibious homes, our students are actively exploring solutions to real-world challenges.

As part of our innovative STEAM program, Nord Anglia Education has established a special collaboration with MIT. The rich opportunities for our staff and students to engage with MIT’s ethos and philosophies have been pivotal in supporting NAIS Pudong students to collaborate and embrace their curiosity and creativity.

With different staff members and students having visited MIT for events and training, regular online seminars from world-leading thinkers on our Global Campus platform, and annual STEAM challenges introduced by a range of MIT faculty, the opportunities are rich and varied.

This year’s MIT challenge, “Into the Void,” is focused around outer space and we are very much looking forward to retired astronaut Dr Jeff Hoffman challenging Nord Anglia students with a Mars-related STEAM project in the second term.

With NASA’s Perseverance Rover landing in February 2021, the timing could not be better! The opportunity to apply a variety of skills from the fields of STEAM in hands-on learning is a highly exciting, enjoyable and rewarding experience for our students.

The cross-functional approach exemplifies how we can prepare our students to adapt their skills and make connections across different fields in an ever-changing world.

Sharing STEAM and this cutting-edge collaboration with a renowned institution such as MIT is a truly stimulating experience for us here at NAIS Pudong.

But more importantly, it characterizes our higher responsibility to best equip our students for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

(This article is contributed by Kerem Hussein, Year 6 teacher and STEAM lead at Nord Anglia International School Pudong.)

Thinking outside the box critical for innovation

It is within the classroom that creative learning and its ally, the skill of creativity, are blended to provide learning experiences designed to address the needs of students to become transformational agents within the context of their world.

To understand the role creative learning plays in fostering a 21st century skill set, one must first understand what is meant by the term.

Creative learning is a delivery method designed by educators to engage students with real-world applications of course content and skills.

This, of course, happens at an age-appropriate level so that students are progressively becoming more adept at engaging real world scenarios while developing their skills.

Creativity on the other hand is the skill of creating something new, of addressing problems with viable new solutions after analyzing, understanding and connecting the dots or visible patterns.

In short, it is what is required from each student to address these real-world problems.

Creativity is one that can be taught and practiced. Creative learning environments provide the opportunity for this.

Creative learning’s design is by necessity one of collaboration amongst students.

As they work together on projects, they are also able to explore their passions as individuals, bringing that understanding to the table as the group addresses the task at hand.

The learning environment offered by the teacher is safe and supports individuals and groups taking risks as they engage in learning and practice skills.

In Concordia International School Shanghai’s elementary division, the creative learning story is best told through examples.

For instance, in a social studies unit on global citizenship, Grade 2 students reflect on people, animals and things on the planet that they care about.

Creativity is especially vital in a time of change

Dawn De Koker is elementary school assistant principal at Concordia International School Shanghai.

Each child’s reflection mirrors their unique personality, and as a group, they collaborate to analyze commonalities in their search for understanding of what it means to care for others, for animals and the world we live in.

Ultimately, the students use this understanding to articulate what it means to be a global citizen. Students interview community members to find out how others care for people, animals and the planet.

By first understanding themselves, they apply this understanding to teach other students how to be global citizens and how to bring about change by taking action for the things that are important to them.

Similarly, the Grade 4 classes have been learning about the complexities of our global society by looking at the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

These students are becoming more aware of overarching issues the world is facing and the connection between economics, education, people, culture and our planet.

As the students evaluate these connections, they learn how the choices they make create an impact that ripples far beyond them.

These young students are learning how to use their voice and their opinions to advocate for informed decision making to ensure a more sustainable, equitable future for all.

Creative learning remains a vital tool in educating students to lead change that will transform the future.

(This article is contributed by Dawn De Koker, elementary school assistant principal at Concordia International School Shanghai.)

Thinking outside the box critical for innovation

Human beings, by nature, are curious creatures. We desire to understand how the world works and express these discoveries in new and innovative ways.

In the English language, a common phrase that reinforces this idea is “thinking outside the box.” When coming up with solutions, looking at innovation is one of the foundations of an inquiry-based education espoused by the International Baccalaureate.

Gone is the idea that one solution fits all or that creative thinking is segregated into only individual disciplines without connecting to other fields.

Creative thinking within the IB is seen as a process. The belief that inherently, as students and teachers utilize creative thinking, we can discover the best solution to a given problem.

At the Western International School of Shanghai, we look to develop creative thinking in our students. We believe it should underpin our curriculum in all three school divisions, from Prekindergarten to Grade 12.

It is a crucial component within each subject, whether it be the Primary Years Program’s units of inquiry that have all disciplines come together to collaboratively develop students’ creative thinking to the upper years in Secondary where students’ creative thinking is encouraged to flourish within our Middle Years Programs and Diploma Programs. This is especially true in our Visual Arts and Design department. These departments challenge students to develop innovative solutions.

Creativity is especially vital in a time of change

Vanessa Vanek works for DP and MYP Visual Art, MYP Digital Design at Western International School of Shanghai.

In Ken Robinson’s well-known Ted Talk, he made the provocative statement that “creativity is now as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

One misconception about creative thinking is you either have it or don’t. This is not the case, and research shows innovative thinking is vital in times of unforeseeable constraints, such as with the present global pandemic.

With so many educational systems that have to be online or virtual, what was once done in the classroom is no longer relevant to students’ needs. Teachers have to indeed think outside the box. They are being called upon to seek innovative ways to educate students.

And when guiding students to the place where they understand that because humans have a curious nature, they too have the innate ability to harness creative thinking, this is a necessity given the way the world is in flux.

Seeking to develop creative thinking in students prepares them for an increasingly globally connected world. Added to that is the need to prepare students to have empathy for another person’s ideas or perspective that creative thinking fosters.

Creative thinking allows for divergent thinking — the ability to come up with multiple solutions to a problem.

Creative thinking in the classroom instills in students the ability to make connections where at first, it may not have been obvious.

(This article is contributed by Vanessa Vanek, DP and MYP Visual Art, MYP Digital Design at Western International School of Shanghai.)

Tools for navigating an increasingly complex world

Creativity is the ability to make new things or think of original ideas and even doing ordinary things in different ways.

 We also need to understand what creativity is not: It is not one specific group of subjects that kids take in school. Kids can be creative in all subjects.

Education is meant to prepare kids for the future. Many problems in the world are too complex, and one approach will not fit all.

If the problems in the future are completely unpredictable, flexibility and creativity will be the key to success.

An IBM survey of more than 1,500 chief executive officers from 60 countries and regions and 33 industries worldwide found they believe that — more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision — successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity.

Creativity requires a safe environment in which to play, exercise autonomy and take risks.

As risk-takers, students need to trust they can make a mistake in front of their teachers.

 At Shanghai Singapore International School, we try to give students a lot of latitude to take risks and make mistakes.

Creativity is especially vital in a time of change

Oscar K. Becwarika teaches chemistry at Shanghai Singapore International School.

We encourage each other to be present with students’ ideas and have more off-the-cuff conversations with students. This will enable feedback that encourages self-assessment and independence.

Re-word assignments to promote creative thinking. Adding instructions such as “Come up with as many solutions as possible” and “Be creative!” can increase creative performance.

Give students direct feedback on their creativity. Many don’t realize how creative they are.

Creativity may be disguised as unconventional student behavior. For students who are often disruptive, see if you notice any creativity in their behavior.

Protect and support your students’ intrinsic motivation. This fuels creativity. Make it clear to students that creativity requires effort. The process is not a simple “a-ha” that strikes without warning.

Tell students that truly creative people must imagine, struggle and re-imagine while working on a project.

 Discuss creativity myths and stereotypes with your students. Help them understand what creativity is and is not, and how to recognize it in the world around them.

Experiment with activities where students can practice creative thinking such as debate, drama and 3D models.

As a chemistry teacher, I have experimented with using balloons for molecular and atomic models, as well as Christmas chemistry trees. Students have created their own hydrogen-powered cars. 

(This article is contributed by Oscar K. Becwarika, chemistry teacher at Shanghai Singapore International School.)

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