Category Archives: Creativity and Innovation

Cultivating Creative Thinking at School and at Home

Peter and Paul Reynolds of FablevisionGoing Places: How to inspire the next generation of innovators and inventors

A conversation with Paul Reynolds and Peter H. Reynolds, authors, makers and visionary leaders of FableVision.

The twin brothers were keynote speakers at the Fall 2016 opening of Inly School’s new innovation hub, then hung around campus for a tour of the da Vinci Studio and its maker spaces, a book signing of their bestselling children’s books Going Places, and a chat about creativity, innovation and what makes kids tick.

What’s the key to creative thinking? Can it be cultivated?

Paul: I’d say, ‘Be curious.’ That’s where it starts, right there. Often if you tell people to be creative they freeze up. They say they’re not creative. But if you encourage them to be curious about the world around them, then they open up and creativity follows from there.

Peter: Make schools inviting, hands-on learning environments and then go home and make your home an extension of that learning.  Going Places book signing Inly School

When we were young our dad turned our garage into a maker space and workshop where we could build things out of wood. And our mom brought home an old Savin office copier from work. They were throwing it away so she brought it home and put it in the dining room and put a table cloth over it and a vase of flowers. When we wanted to use it we just took off the table cloth.

How cool is that?

Peter: I would make copies of things and it was so old that the copies were really light so I’d have to draw over the outlines with black marker and then I’d walk down to the five and dime in town and make new copies of the redrawn ones with the store copier.

So you were learning about printing and publishing from an early age…

Peter: Exactly. Without realizing it. I was just doing it.

And completely self-directed. Although your mom was clever to provide a tool. What can parents do to foster creativity at home?

Paul: It’s important for kids to see you drawing and singing. If you say you can’t draw, that sends a powerful message. Be brave. Show them that trying new things is fun. Make your home an extension of the school learning environment and let kids know you are also part of that learning team. Ask yourself, Do we have opportunities for creation in our house?

In the early days of video games we said to our three boys, ‘I know you really love playing video games — but it’s just as much fun to make them yourselves.’ So they did, using MIT’s Scratch programming language for kids. It’s no accident then that our middle son Ben graduated this year from MIT with a degree in computer science and game design, and is now set to graduate this June with a master’s while working at the MIT Media Lab. He experienced the joy and agency of making — and we expect it will pay dividends for years to come.

Sally Sisson

 The Reynolds brothers tour the new da Vinci Studio, an innovation lab comprising the Digital Lab and Design Studio, Robotics Space and Maker Space; and the Think Tank, an environment specifically designed for students to imagine and invent.digital_design_technology_inly_reynolds

Top: Paul and Peter Reynolds make some noise in the Digital Lab and Design Studio.

Middle: Illustrator Peter H. Reynolds makes his mark on the wall-to-wall whiteboard in Inly’s new Think Tank. 

Bottom: Imagination in action! Children dive into the creative peter_reynolds_going_places_inlyprocess, experimenting in their own maker space in the da Vinci Studio.

maker_space_inly_schoolFurther news and inspiration
For more in this series on creativity, innovation, and the new learning labs and spaces at Inly, see:

Celebrating Imagination and a Library for the Future

Print and Digital Find the Perfect Home


Books on imagination and innovation

Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds

“A celebration of creative spirit and thinking outside the box.” Watch the book trailer below.

Celebrating Imagination and a Library for the Future

A look inside the Grealish Family Pavilion (Part Two)

Inly School Library Stained Glass

Book-themed door panel by the creative hands at Coastal Art Glass in Norwell MA

We’re all still in awe of this amazing new space, and it’s hard to chronicle all of the magical moments happening here every day. Books are discovered and rediscovered, read silently and read aloud; ideas and imagination are sparked and stirred; thoughtful research is conducted in an environment that’s at once stimulating and serene.

Students and teachers tend to linger here, finding their favorite spot on a couch or at a table where they can look out the windows at the changing view. Trust me, it’s hard to leave!

Here are more photos from the official building opening this fall, including those from the Going Places book signing with authors and keynote speakers Peter and Paul Reynolds. Stay tuned for more photos and moments as each chapter unfolds…

Inly School Library Scituate MA

Author Peter H. Reynolds and Donna Milani Luther greet Inly Library visitors

Montessori School Library Scituate MA

Rooted in the Imagination Station one floor below, the Library Tree is graced with glass leaves that sparkle in the sunlight

For more on the Inly Library and Going Places book signing, check out these two posts by Shelley Sommer on Sommer Reading: A Book About Blogs:

A Photo Tour of the New Inly Library 

peter_reynolds_inly_school_book_signing

More Pictures and Authors Peter & Paul Reynolds

Also see Part One: Print and Digital Find the Perfect Home

Print and Digital Find the Perfect Home

A look inside the Grealish Family Pavilion (Part One)

Step inside Inly’s wondrous new addition and you’ll be captivated by the quiet buzz of creative energy that radiates from the studios, classrooms, learning spaces… and from within. Here the worlds of print and digital, words and pictures, information and imagination work in harmony to inspire innovative thinking on many different levels.

First you’ll see the da Vinci Studio, an innovation lab made up of maker spaces dedicated to robotics, digital design and tinkering of all kinds. Inside the Imagination Station at the center of it all, students can stare up to the twinkling ceiling of the new library on the second floor.

imagination_station_inly

It’s no coincidence that the two main spaces are linked in such a direct way. The worlds of print and technology have always worked together in thoughtful, meaningful ways at Inly.

“I have to say I feel really good about the prominence of the library in the new building,” says Head Librarian Shelley Sommer. “I feel that it really honors the role of reading. And the fact that we give equal space to both books and technology makes an important statement.”

Kelley Huxtable, Technology Integrationist, puts it this way: “These new spaces are all about ideas. They’re about making and sharing things and ideas and experiences. When you get to make something yourself, you’re completely engaged and you really own it. And that’s what really drives learning.”

Read more about the new building here:

New Innovation Hub Officially Unveiled at Inly School

 

 

CEF: Why K12 Schools Need To Embrace Creative Problem-Solving

The Creative Education Foundation on John Hunter, brainstorming techniques, and hope for future generations of creative thinkers and innovators.

The Creative Education Foundation (CEF), co-sponsors of Inly’s Omran ♦ Nelson Speaker Series event with John Hunter on April 9th, have trained thousands of people in creative problem-solving and brainstorming over the years. In fact, the founder of the foundation “invented” both brainstorming and creative problem-solving, techniques that have become the foundation of creative processes around the world. CEF clients include Visa, Stanley Black & Decker, HP, Microsoft, Hershey, Boeing, Staples and Ocean Spray. The group has a wide reach, having conducted Visioning Workshops at Disney World’s Epcot Center and CEF YouthWise programs in South Africa. Current projects include a brain science research study with Dartmouth College and consulting in Dubai to help educators use creativity in their work.

The Inly connection? Donna Milani Luther, Inly’s Head of School, has served as a designated leader and consultant for the CEF since 1984. She and John Hunter both presented talks at the CEF’s annual Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) Conference in 2012 (sparking the idea to bring Hunter to speak at Inly). In 2013, the CEF moved its headquarters to the Inly School campus.

We recently had a chance to chat with both Stephen Brand and Kitty Heusner of the CEF about their work with school administrators and educators and their philosophy on the importance of creativity in K–12 education.

Stephen Brand, Director of Programming, CEF

You help adults in organizations tackle complex business problems. How does this work apply to K–12 education?
Over the years we’ve trained thousands of people in creative problem-solving and brainstorming, helping them uncover ideas and solutions to daily or long-term challenges. Whether you’re in a business or a nonprofit organization or running a K–12 school, many of the principles are the same.

For instance, we now offer a course called “Creativity in the 21st Century Classroom.”
We bring together teachers and principals, professional development staff and curriculum directors and we show them how to apply these proven methods in the classroom. We show them how to actively use creativity, brain-based learning research (i.e. multiple intelligence theory), and learning styles to accelerate learning and help them prepare for the Common Core State Standards with foundational skills that integrate creativity, collaboration, and action on ideas generated.

How does this tie into your overall mission?
Our mission is about “engaging and developing the next generation of creative thinkers and innovators.” Part of the CEF vision is enable educators to initiate change in their schools, revitalize communities and enhance methods and systems with new, yielding results that reflect the very problems identified to resolve. We’re most interested in helping administrators realize the power of using creativity in schools in developing a culture of innovation, creative approaches to student engagement and building the creative thinking skills of their students Independent, magnet and charter schools are initially investing much more in creativity in their schools. What we offer is fits more easily in independent, charter and magnet schools as they seek to differentiate their learning experiences from the typical public school. International schools seem to be quite intrigued with infusing creative thinking in their schools as well.

With the public schools, it’s going to take early adopters to jump on this. It really takes a forward-thinking superintendent or principal in a public school to embrace creativity as a core component in their efforts. Our hope is to get more and more schools, public, private, urban, suburban, to embrace this creative approach to education and find better ways of motivating students and allowing the ideas of students to drive their learning.

Does your research focus on adults or students?
Both. We’re currently working with Dartmouth College on a study to see whether learning creative thinking and creative problem-solving skills would change the actual brain structure of middle school students. This involves taking functional MRIs and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data. In our academic journal, the Journal of Creative Behavior and at our annual conference we address creativity in education as well as creativity in business, organizations and even governments. Right now we see the K–12 education space as critical. Our world is becoming increasingly complex and we want to help schools and administrators focus on preparing future leaders to brainstorm creative solutions to complex problems in whatever fields they explore.

Katherine O. (Kitty) Heusner, Ph.D., Chair of the Board of Trustees, CEF

What do students need to succeed in this century? In the future?
They need critical thinking and problem-solving skills to navigate the changing world around them. One of our hopes is that CEF can reach out to schools that are often underserved to develop programs that promote creativity as a necessary skill for success. One of the ironies in education is that the ones who need help with creative problem-solving the most often receive the least.

Is this type of teaching and learning possible in traditional schools?
Yes, I think it is. When I hear people say, ‘We can’t do anything with creative thinking because we have to focus on the curriculum content,’ I think, ‘Wait a minute. It’s not about stopping to teach creativity as a new subject, it’s about infusing strategies into your teaching that foster creative thinking and present the content in creative ways.’

The reality is that most people have not experienced this type of learning themselves, and so it’s difficult to really see the possibilities. That’s why it’s important to work with the total school community—to work with administrators to help them model and support the change, to work with teachers to develop the skill set and mind set, and to involve parents to understand the importance.

What do you think is most important take-away from Hunter’s film and talks?
That one person in one classroom can truly make a significant difference in children, one at a time. John Hunter is an inspiring example of a teacher who did not in any way abandon what his students needed to learn—but rather saw a way to do it that would create enthusiasm and interest and, more importantly, develop critical in-depth learning and skill development that goes far beyond the content area that he may have originally been planning to teach. By allowing students to imagine themselves and play the roles Prime Ministers, Secretaries of State and even Arms Dealers, they became more engaged and motivated to understand the content as they lived the content.

How would you describe John Hunter’s approach to creative problem-solving?
What John has come up with is adaptable and adoptable for this changing population. It facilitates effective creative-thinking techniques—the key principle being that you do the divergent “open gathering” ideas separate from the “choosing among” ideas. We observe his students engaged in this type of learning in the film (World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements). They were encouraged not to jump early to conclusions but to jump thoughtfully to conclusions after they had gathered a variety of ideas and listened to each other in wonderful ways. It is creative thinking and problem-solving in action at its finest!

Further Reading:

John Hunter and His Montessori Message: An interview with Inly’s head of school

John Hunter Presents “World Peace Game” Film and Talk on Experiential Education

Culture of Creativity at Inly School

 

Unveiling Inly’s New Strategic Plan

InlyNextLogoThe theme of March at Inly School seems to be creativity and innovation. In early March, we were delighted to unveil our new Strategic Plan at the ribbon cutting ceremony of Antico Commons (the plan is available on our website or by clicking here). In front of a group of Inly families, faculty members, and friends, our three guest speakers spoke about the different components of the plan, “InlyNext.” The timing of the unveiling was fitting—since the Antico Commons is the newest learning space on campus and was designed with “InlyNext” in mind.

The Antico family (minus their eldest son, Tucker) at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of Antico Commons

The Antico family (minus their eldest son, Tucker) at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of Antico Commons

As many of you know, Montessori education is extraordinary for fostering creativity and innovation. It provides structure that leads to freedom, prompts open-ended thinking and questioning, and presents opportunities to explore the iterative process. I’m thrilled that the Antico Commons is going to help us blaze the trail as we move forward in fostering this kind of creative work at our school.

In another creative endeavor in late March, our K–8 students participated in a Creativity Cans project in the Meehan Family Artsbarn. Seated in mixed groups on the floor, our students received what I like to refer to as the “same point of departure.” Each student was given their own personal Creativity Can and asked to design a creature with the contents found within. Over the course of an hour, the students designed their creatures. Some students knew what their creatures would look like right away, while others needed time to try a few different things before committing. It was an amazing process to witness. (To see a video of the event, click here.)

A collection of Creativity Can "creatures" designed by Inly students.

A collection of Creativity Can “creatures” designed by Inly students.

While every Creativity Can contained the same materials—glue, colorful popsicle sticks, string, craft paper, pipe cleaners, wheels, etc.—no two creatures ended up looking alike. As we move forward, the creatures will be used for Writer’s Workshop and other writing prompts for the spring term. These writing assignments will vary in sophistication based on level. The extra materials have also been used by Annemarie Whilton, our Art Teacher, to create collaborative creatures with the Children’s House Students. The Lower Elementary students are also working with Ellyn Einhorn, our school Naturalist and Science teacher, to create outdoor habitats for each creature around campus.

The Creativity Cans Project was generously funded by Faber-Castell and the inventors of The Creativity Cans. We were fortunate to have the CEO of Faber-Castell, Jamie Gallagher, visit Inly School this week to hear more about how we approached the Creativity Cans project. Jamie sat down with a small group of teachers and students to hear about our Creativity Cans project. He was deeply impressed and hopes to work with more schools in the future.

“More and more surveys are revealing that creativity scores are going down and the importance of creativity is going up,” Jamie explained, “That delta is very clear—and that’s what we’re trying to go after.”

Creativity and innovation are two growth mindsets that our students will need in this century to be successful. They will need to know how to adapt, how to iterate, how to brainstorm. They will need to understand that their ideas are important and valuable and unique—and therefore, could help solve future world problems that have yet to arise. Having a space for innovation and hosting activities that encourage creativity are two ways that Inly School continues to prepare our students to become global citizens with next-century skills.

In more creativity and innovation news, in the next two weeks, our Middle School students will be attending NuVu. To read more about this cool experience, please see: 8th Grade Students Get Crash Course in Solving Real-World Problems at NuVu.

John Hunter and His Montessori Message

A chat with Inly’s head of school about student-centered learning, global awareness and the power of experiential education

John Hunter at Inly School in Scituate MA

John Hunter presents his film “World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements” at Inly School on April 9th

When Donna Milani Luther heard John Hunter speak at the Creative Education Foundation’s annual Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) Conference last summer, she was blown away. “His approach aligned so perfectly with ours, and his message was so compelling, that I immediately knew I wanted to bring him to Inly to meet with our school community. And I wanted other teachers and administrators and parents to share in the experience, too.”

John Hunter will speak at Inly on Wednesday, April 9 as part of the Omran ♦ Nelson Speaker Series. For a full description of the event, see the Inly News story:  John Hunter to Present “World Peace Game” Film and Talk on Hands-On, Experiential Learning.

To purchase online tickets visit the Inly Speaker Series page.

Q: Hunter’s talk is called, “The Schools and Teachers our Students Need Us To
Be.” What does this mean, exactly?

It’s about allowing students to guide their own learning, based on their interests. It’s about teachers and schools allowing students to really take ownership. John’s message is that we all need to focus on how students learn best and then thoughtfully prepare the best type of environment for this success. He asks us to ask ourselves: What are our roles as guides for children in this century?

Q: Hands-on, experiential learning is the focal point of his film, “World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements.” Is this a focal point of his talk as well?

World_Peace_Foundation_Inly_SchoolYes. He firmly believes that experiential education is the most effective way for students to learn, and that’s really the premise of this talk. It’s the best proven way to capture students’ attention and extend their learning and their capacity to stay on a task. As educators we want to see students building skills around interest and content, and we want the learning to be rigorous and challenging and fun.

Q: And can it be rigorous enough, this type of experiential learning?

Oh, absolutely. It’s about teaching from the inside out.

I think that people generally will challenge themselves if they feel like they’re learning and growing. Otherwise they just look to the least common denominator. We see that alive in our school every day and you see that in great schools and in great teachers.

Kids will often keep going if inspired. But when they’re led in a direction that’s rote … that’s ‘sorry, you can’t spend any more time on that because our curriculum maps say you have to do this tomorrow,’ and the child isn’t really interested in going there, they’re really not going to learn nearly as much.

So, yes, I believe it can be rigorous and I believe it’s our job as teachers to stay ten steps ahead to be true guides to help students develop.

Can you speak to the Montessori like aspects of his message? Peace studies and global awareness are two themes that come to mind.

Yes, this is very much the type of cosmic education that Maria Montessori cared about. Understanding our place in the world, figuring out that there are pieces that make up the whole, that we’re all part of that in some way and that our job is to find out how it all fits together… It’s all part of the continuum in a Montessori school.

His approach is very much what we do in Montessori—not only in the content delivery but in the content itself.

The entire World Peace Game is also very Montessori in that it is very hands-on and the teacher really steps back and guides the students to solve the problem on their own. Yes, it is a challenge and it’s a big challenge! World peace is not something you can solve in a day. But he has designed something that’s appropriately long enough for 4th, 5th and 6th graders and designed it to capture their attention and to extend their attention—and extend their thinking and learning and processing and their capacity to stay on a task.

These students are the future designers and inventors and entrepreneurs, the ones who are figuring all this out. I think it’s ingenious and it gives me hope.

 

 

The Third Teacher: The Montessori Learning Environment

by Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

circuits

Lower elementary students at Inly enjoying the Destination Exploration station featuring circuit boards


I was delighted to recently read a book called The Third Teacher, a collaborative project by Cannon Design, VS Furniture, and Bruce Mau Design. The premise of The Third Teacher is that in every classroom environment, there are three entities responsible for teaching and learning; the first is the teacher; the second is the student; the third is the environment. The book explores how much an environment can support or detract from learning.

The Third Teacher is structured in a series of small vignettes that discuss different possibilities for enhancing learning environments, with perspectives from experts in various educational fields. It states, “This book is intended to ignite a blaze of discussion and initiative about environment as an essential element of learning.” Not surprisingly, the book references Maria Montessori’s philosophies on learning spaces. In particular, it discusses her feelings about movement within the classroom. “Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through his movements,” Maria Montessori wrote. In her last book, The Absorbent Mind, she observed, “When we think of intellectual activity, we always imagine people sitting still, motionless. But mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it. It is vital that educational theory and practice should be informed by that idea.” The Third Teacher, inspired by Maria Montessori, encourages designers and educators to “Make peace with fidgeting. Think of it as brain development, which it is. Then think of how to make room for it in the classroom.”

I had the great fortune to meet two of the architects from Cannon Design who collaborated on writing The Third Teacher, Trung Le and Christian Long. Le and Long work solely on designing schools and other learning environments and are incredibly passionate about elevating these spaces. Cannon Design not only explores classroom environments but also hallways, waiting spaces, bathrooms, playgrounds–absolutely every aspect of a learning environment inside and out. They examine how inviting a space is and how much freedom and independence a space encourages. They even examine whether a learning space asks children to be two different ways; one way in a hallway, for example; and another way in a classroom and what this might mean. The ultimate question they consider is can learning happen everywhere? The answer, of course, is yes it can and yes it should.

Buddha_Board

An Inly student is seen here painting on a Buddha board, a canvas that turns black with water. As the water slowly evaporates, the designs magically disappear. This is one of many of the Destination Exploration stations set up around the school.

After reading this book, we were inspired to install the “Destination Exploration” stations that you will now see set up around the main building. These stations remind our children that they don’t have to just learn inside a room–they inspire children to explore outside the classroom–to stop and explore. They provide everything from a mental break– like the soothing Buddha Boards–to a mental challenge–like the chess set and circuit boards.  The Third Teacher states, “Children of all ages need places where they can learn by touching, manipulating, and making things with their hands… trigger the senses. Sound, smell, taste, touch, and movement power memory. An environment rich in sensory experiences helps students retain and retrieve what they learn.” Our Destination Exploration stations allow our children to do exactly this: EXPLORE through the use of all of their senses. These stations also help Inly have inspiring environments everywhere–not just in the classrooms–proving that even a hallway can be an incredible opportunity for learning, engagement, and fun.

Next time you visit Inly, please stop by a Destination Exploration station. Observe a child as they problem solve and get creative. It is a truly magical sight.