from the EDITOR’S desk
Although creativity is often associated with the arts, it plays an integral role in science, as science is a creative quest where scientists ask questions for which they don’t already know the answer. In their daily work, scientists and engineers work to investigate and solve problems by generating and connecting ideas. In classrooms that focus on vocabulary and concepts, we may inadvertently send the message that creativity has no role in science.
Students learn science—and use critical and creative thinking—by doing science. Rather than focusing on memorizing facts, they are engaged in application in which they apply content knowledge to real-world situations. This requires us to be risk-takers who are both courageous and creative in our teaching approaches. Courageous because the NGSS requires us to put aside teacher-directed lessons and labs where the outcome is predetermined. Creative because we need to scaffold student learning in such a way that our students begin to take responsibility for their own learning. In doing so, they replicate the work of real-world scientists and learn to take risks as they think creatively and critically.
This is the very essence of how science works. “Scientists and engineers rely on human qualities such as persistence, precision, reasoning, logic, imagination and creativity” (NGSS Lead States 2013, p. 100). The inclusion of engineering in the standards provides our students with tremendous opportunities for applying creative thinking as they develop models and test, revise, and retest those models. In addition, our students’ brain development is at a pivotal point, as unused neural pathways are pruned during adolescence. The incorporation of creative thinking can help our students to develop new neural pathways as they make connections between concepts and dream up solutions to problems (Drapeau 2014).
What can you do to promote creative thinking in your classroom? Consider a project-based learning approach and involve your students in competitions, science fairs, and engineering tasks. Connect them to working scientists. Engage them with robotics. Above all, let them see you struggle with failure, because failure plays an important role in the engineering and design process. For it is failure that catalyzes us to analyze, refine, invent, and apply creative approaches and models for solving problems.
Editor, Science Scope
Drapeau, P. 2014. Sparking student creativity: Practical ways to promote innovative thinking and problem solving. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states (Vol. 2: Appendix). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Patty McGinnis is an instructional coach and veteran middle school teacher. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @patty_mcginnis.