As an educator, I am passionate about a variety of topics. One component that has been a common thread in my teaching is that I have always encouraged the use of creativity, technology, and problem solving in the classroom.
A program that is part of St. Christopher’s Second Century Vision is B.U.I.L.D. “Boys Using Innovation to Learn and Design” was a constant in our second grade curriculum and in our classroom. In this type of learning, creative thinking and problem solving, technological savvy, and collaboration are common themes.The benefits to this program are countless.
If you walked into our second grade classroom last year, you would have seen fourteen happy, lively, and motivated seven and eight year-old boys. You would have seen a “Creation Station” where boys were invited to create with various recyclable materials including paper towel rolls, cereal boxes, popsicle sticks and egg cartons, to name a few. Scissors, glue, paper, and other supplies were easy to access. Most often you would find us creating a product and working in groups, regardless of the subject area. iPads and computers were checked out often so we could research and reflect through technology. The boys worked in groups all around the room to plan, communicate, build, and reflect on their design briefs.
In her book Sparking Student Creativity, Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving, Patti Drapeau writes the following, “Creative lessons instill excitement and interest, and as students become more engaged, they put in more effort.” This indeed occurred in our classroom. The boys were extremely motivated to build a bridge out of toothpicks and gummy bears for a math lesson involving measurement. They created their own 3-D model of a four-digit number where they had to visually show the number, identify place value for each number and create a model of the number any way they wanted. They were thrilled to make a model of Monticello after studying Thomas Jefferson and visiting his home. All the while, they collaborated with different boys in our room learning how to work together, properly plan, and communicate their ideas to their peers at the end of the process.
One of our favorite projects was a lesson in our Science Curriculum. After studying sound, the boys had a design brief in which they had to come up with their own musical instrument based on their knowledge of how sound is created. Many of them planned and researched instruments from other countries. In the end, the boys joined together on their own to make a band. They worked with iMovie to communicate their strategies and final products to share with the class. They created sound and revealed that they knew how it worked. Science, technology, art, building, creativity and problem solving were fully explored and their final assessment of sound was joyous, fun, and challenging. I was also proud of how the boys went beyond the assignment and created a band with different instruments all on their own.
Collaborative learning and creative thinking does not come easily to everyone. We worked very hard on process. We explored planning, research and teamwork through videos, practice, and stories. Throughout their planning, the boys utilized and improved their communication skills. None of the design briefs were easy, and we learned how to change a plan if it did not go as we had thought it would. Experience helped us to grow in this type of meaningful learning.
Boys love to “B.U.I.L.D.” Not only did they create products to correlate with a lesson but the B.U.I.L.D. process helped to build their character, use of effective technology, critical thinking skills, and ability to collaborate and be a team player. The boys also grew from reflecting on how they would have done their project differently, as well as highlighting the areas that went well. B.U.I.L.D. allowed the boys to learn, grow, and thrive as learners.