Walking around the classrooms and the halls, one cannot help but see creativity explode in both the arts and academics. This is not surprising, given the fact that younger aged children are incredibly creative. Dr. Kyung Hee Kim, a professor of education at the College of William and Mary, gathered data on levels of creativity in American students. She used the “Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking” and found that creativity “declines throughout a lifetime, as 95% of 3 to 5 year olds test as creative geniuses. By the time they hit 20 years of age, that number is around 2%” (21st Century Skills).
What makes the Junior school at HSC unique is that they aren’t taking creativity for granted; instead, they are systematically fostering a culture of innovation in their classrooms. Just like literacy and numeracy, creativity must be developed and honed if it is going to be sustained as the children grow older. The Junior school at HSC is intentionally building the intellectual, social and emotional infrastructure needed to sustain the habits of innovative thinking.
One of the key distinctives is the “Wonder Wall,” which goes beyond differentiated instruction to personalised learning. In almost every classroom, students are given the opportunity to go beyond the curriculum and ask a wonder question.
It also empowers them to seek their own answers and discover their own solutions rather than look to the authority in the room (i.e., the teacher). Curiosity and creativity are inextricably linked.
Placing a premium on curiosity is one of the things the "Wonder Wall" does well: "publishing" the students' questions on the wall teaches them to value good questions rather than just valuing right answers. This not only fosters a Growth Mindset, it also fosters creative and innovative thinking. Innovation, like education, is a process not a destination. Although answers and solutions do matter, they cannot be reached without good questions drawn from observations in the real world. While watching birds, da Vinci wondered how we could fly; even though he was wrong about flight, da Vinci's "pattern of thinking behind the idea was exemplary" (Perkins, 2000, p.3).
Collaboration is another factor in fostering cultures of innovation. The teacher and fellow students come alongside the learner as guides and "co-sojourners" in the quest for answers. The opportunity to work together with peers and teachers (as well as librarians and other support staff) shows the students that finding answers is often a group effort that takes time and perseverance.
As I stated earlier, what the Junior school at HSC is doing is giving students sustainable infrastructure to wonder about their world, identify real problems, and work hard to resolve the questions and overcome challenges.
In this blog post I am hardly scratching the surface of innovation in the Junior school at HSC. "Destination Imagination," numerous successful "Tutty Joy & Innovation Fund" grants and the new Makerspace are just a few more of the ways innovative thinking is being woven into the fabric of a strong academic program. Creating an innovative culture is clearly a passion for the principal and the faculty.
As students at HSC progress through the grade levels, we need to continue to build on the innovation infrastructure established in Early Education.
I would like to offer up a big thanks to the Shailau for her support of my research and for the Junior school to open up their classrooms and let me peek in on the innovation action!
- 21st Century Skills and Education. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://kaboom.org/play_matters/21st_century_skills_and_education
- Perkins, D. N. (2000). The Eureka effect: the art and logic of breakthrough thinking. Whitehouse Station: W.W. Norton.
- Tanner, W. (2016, September 14). What is Innovation? Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://soapboxhq.com/what-is-innovation/