Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Teaching for creativity

Wharton professor Adam Grant talks and writes about creativity and how to nurture it.  In the short video at the end of this post he talks specifically about how to nurture creativity in students.

His three main points are that values should take president over rules; that character is more important than behavior; and that giving kids examples from the books they read  - of kids doing creative things that haven't been done before, are ways to develop creativity.

This is interesting to me.  It speaks to the way we construct the school experience for our students and what we intend for them to gain from it.  It is a question the Parker faculty is always trying to get to the root of - How do we develop creativity, empathy, and purpose in our students - skills that will serve them well for their entire lives?

We strive to inspire curiosity by posing interesting questions and by giving students the ways and means to explore the world around them and topics they become interested in.  We set high expectations and let the children help develop rules, giving them the real responsibility (with adult support) to construct a kind and supportive community.  We set up many experiences where learning has a purpose beyond the immediate classroom, by doing projects that have an impact on others: citizen science, teaching others, coming up with solutions to real world problems, community service.  And everyone is immersed in the arts -  music, dance, instruments, painting, dramatics, public speaking, design and many, many other creative practices.

We also give them time to play and to contemplate.

I like Grant's ideas and hope to expand even further on the question of developing creativity and innovators.  On the evening of April 5 we are having a panel discussion, open to the public, about just this topic.  We have some amazing thinkers lined up - Stay tuned - more information is coming!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Developing STEMpathy

Disruptive technology surrounds us: self-driving cars, software that writes poetry, drones delivering packages...When machines are competing with people for thinking, what's a human to do?!

Thomas Freidman has been thinking about this, and in his recent article From hands to heads to the hearts he answers that humans have what computers don't - a heart.  He writes that everyone needs STEMpathy to succeed in this new age.

The attributes that can't be programmed are the ones we must develop in school, like passion, character and a collaborative spirit.  It is crucial to combine knowledge with heart to if we want students to thrive in the technical age we live in.

It's a reminder of the importance of Parker's core values and mission, the right ones for our age, or any age.

This morning five alumni from 2008 and 2013 visited for a panel discussion.  Represented were an art teacher and a novelist, a future biochemist, a future biomedical engineer, and a budding labor relations specialist.   Their empathy was evident and the values and advice they espoused were about the importance of being friends with people who want to make you better, building relationships with teachers, and finding activities, clubs and subjects that you feel passionate about.  They are all serious about ideas and value learning over grades.

They loved the fun they had at Parker - playing in the stream and being outdoors.  They valued the friends and teachers.  The thesis project was defining and prepared them for writing everywhere, even in college.   They learned to learn for learning's sake, and felt proud of it.  These young adults were definitely skilled in STEMpathy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A reading/running connection

There is lots of evidence that an active learning environment with time for physical activity, running and play helps children learn better.  The mind-body-learning connection is powerful stuff!  A new study from Finland shows that first grade children, especially boys, need time running around in order to learn to read.  Sitting for longer periods doesn't help - it actually hinders reading and math development!  Here is the article in : Boys Who Sit Still Have  Harder Time Learning to Read.

Boys whose days were more sedentary when they were in first grade (a crucial year for learning to read) made fewer gains in reading in second and third grade.

I'm happy to note that Parker kids in the lower grades get a minimum of 60 to 75 minutes a day for actual recess, and there is also phys ed, Muddy Boots Club, time spent outdoors just for fun, movement in music and Spanish and not a lot of "seat time".  It is a great argument for the adventure we are about to embark on -Winter Fridays - when everyone gets a change of pace for swimming, skiing, XC skiing, snow boarding, and movement.  Active body - active mind!