Creativity, innovation are skills that can be taught

There are certain skills identified as “21st Century” skills our students will need to succeed.  These are:  collaboration; critical thinking & problem solving; communication; and creativity & innovation.

These are skills that are either inherent or easily incorporated into every single class students take.  For instance, collaboration is taught by group work; critical thinking & problem solving is part of every math or science lab, work with literature, and evaluating history; communication is practiced in the various papers students write and during in-class discussion.

However, creativity and innovation is a bit more of a challenge.  Certainly, our very creative teachers are finding ways to incorporate it into many classes.  At last night’s board meeting, Boyd art teacher Mrs. Cooper presented her amazing Lead Artists & 21st Century Art program, which teaches all these skills through the creation of public artwork.  I personally have seen projects like roller coasters, song writing, and creating characters from history.

But I believe there is still a long way to go to help our students develop their innate creativity and ability to think innovatively.  Especially as students get older, the pure volume of material they need to learn becomes overwhelming.  It can be hard to find time to add interesting, creative projects to the already-packed days.

Since creativity and innovation are skills that are developed with practice, we must find ways to incorporate them into classes on a regular basis.  Some of this is easy – for instance, adding more fiction story requirements, or requiring the use of cursive writing (which has been proven to develop language fluency and many other skills – click here for more info).

There are also many free curriculum options that, with a bit of creativity on our part, can be incorporated into what we’re already teaching.  For instance, NKU has a Creative Thinking Program that offers free curriculum and is used by schools all over the country; Amazing Kids! offers students the chance to have their fictional stories, non-fiction articles, interviews, poetry, jokes and artwork shared internationally; and St. Andrew’s runs two incredibly effective programs, a science fair and an inventor’s fair.  The possibilities are endless.

As we move forward with determining ways to provide, measure and improve 21st century skills, I’ll be pushing the creativity/innovation area.  We will soon be relying on our kids to help create new industries and keep our country going – so let’s prepare them as best we can.

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