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I took a Creative Problem Solving course and I learned how to prepare students for thinking out of the box. Foremost is the concept of practice. If you do not practice creative thinking, you will end up with mediocre ideas. The best ideas arrive after all the mediocre stuff has been thought of. Allow the students to explore unusual and wild ideas as it is best to tame that one than to try to expand one that is middle-of-the-road.
My students are used to "brain writing" activities that activate a list of possible solutions for a problem. These activities usually last a few minutes, just to get the brain working. I find that students often attach themselves to an idea generated by the group. Others get an idea by "springboarding" from something else mentioned. It seems everyone finds direction and they are off developing ideas.
Naturally, when I first introduced this method there were moans and groans. I managed to make it fun by relating the themes to their interests. One popular activity went like this:
I told the story of how my brother was moving boxes of CDs. He dropped a large box with dozens of CDs that were not in cases. He was heartbroken over the loss and wanted to know how to make use of CDs. The class brainstormed some ideas and they came up with 87 uses for the CDs. The kids were primed to begin thinking for themselves as they experienced success for something unrelated to them. Other stories include how the same brother added a zero onto a Ping-Pong ball order for the sporting goods store. Instead of ordering 1,000 balls, 10,000 arrived and he was in a pickle. Again they came up with great ideas for all the ping pong balls to get him out of trouble with his boss.
The next time I mentioned my brother and how he goofed up somehow they all agreed to find a new brother. Now I invent relatives with dilemmas and they suggest I run away from home!
I have small classes and this is a breeze. In the college class, we broke into small groups of 5 or 6. Once they get the hang of it - It can be really fun.
Hope this might help someone. It has been a great addition to my teaching.
----- Original Message -----
From: Aaron and Jennifer
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2000 5:31 PM
Subject: thinking outside the box
Ugh. I just realized how narrow-minded my students are today. I think
they are going to kill me. (figuratively) They are so mad and frustrated
with my right now. I think they are ready to call it quits.
The project we are doing involves some serious thinking skills - but
quite fun. They have to design a chair (functional) using paper bags, an
unlimited supply, and a roll of masking tape. The chair has to able to
support one person and relate to some kind of function/purpose. Of course,
they are thinking chairs must have four legs and a seat and can only used
for working conditions.
They bet me I could not do it. I took the easy route and made a very
simple chair - which is functional. (tested it myself) I am not sure what
their reaction is going to be.
It almost scares me to see my students not be able to think outside the
box. What is our world going to be like when they become tomorrow's leaders?
Food for thought.
Jennifer in Michigan
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