Creativity is often attributed to “genius” and thought possible only for those with a special talent for pulling ideas out of thin air. However, only a tiny percentage of inventions are actually created purely out of inventors’ minds, while the vast majority are grounded in earlier work done by others. Many skills we can help our students develop—such as asking questions, seeking input, and dealing positively with setbacks—foster creativity. 

Creativity was one of the desired student learning outcomes (DSLOs) we settled on back in 2013. At SAS, we seek to help students learn how best to come up with new ways of considering, thinking, and producing, no matter what the challenge. They face a rapidly changing world where original solutions to pressing problems will be highly valued. Therefore we continue to develop and refine how we teach creativity in our classes and activities.

In addition to creatively producing works of literature, art, and music, students are asked to think creatively. Creative thinking may best be thought of as the process of designing solutions, sometimes called design thinking. This process involves understanding a problem, empathizing with those affected by it, researching previous solutions and wrong turns, and then proposing, designing, testing, and refining improvements. By learning this process, our students come to see creativity as something they can practice and master, rather than a mysterious talent some have and others don’t.

Increasingly, we are incorporating creativity skills into lessons and activities. In art, music, drama, and tech, students learn building-block skills while engaging in creative assignments. Elementary art students, for instance, learn about colors, brush strokes, materials, and famous artists as they work on an original piece. Individual and group projects in other disciplines also allow students to focus on a problem and design solutions. An eighth grade science class learned that delivery companies have trouble keeping food at the right temperature, so they interviewed drivers, created prototypes, and are now collecting feedback and refining their product. Challenges like this help develop students’ creative skills, confidence, and enthusiasm. I see creative opportunities everywhere as I move through the school, including with our rainforest, sustainability efforts, space-lab group, makerspaces, and many of our teams and service clubs. 

Risk-taking and setbacks are integral to the creative process, so SAS teachers create conditions that reassure kids it’s safe to fail. Our move toward assessing processes as well as results is one aspect of this; another is frequent modelling by our teachers. By participating in a faculty play or art show, designing a robot, writing poetry, or developing a new curriculum, our teachers’ willingness to be creative encourages our kids to stretch themselves too. Parents can also help, by showing interest in students’ projects, asking open-ended questions, being positive about the journey rather than just the end goal, and encouraging kids to persevere. We also encourage families to take advantage of the many creative performances, opportunities, and events in our community. You never know what may inspire your child to new creative heights! 

My next article will explain the desired student learning outcome of content knowledge. Feedback, questions, or comments about our Learning at SAS series are always welcome at learningatsas@sas.edu.sg. Please get in touch!

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