Category Archives: STEM

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.

Inly’s Technology Philosophy

By Julie Kelly-Detwiler and Kelley Huxtable

B07A8074Our Parent Insight Event on Technology was missed due to snow days, but we wanted to share some of our thoughts on technology at Inly, as well as some often requested guidelines and resources for parents.

Technology at Inly at a Glance

At Inly, we use Montessori’s work to guide our introduction of technology into the classroom.  Montessori observed—and current brain study confirms—that three-dimensional, hands-on materials are the most effective tools to learning for young children. And so, from Toddler House to grade 2, we intentionally minimize the use of screen-based technologies. There is a great deal of current evidence showing that the process of physically crossing the midline of the body builds a child’s brain pathways and that much is lost in this development when children move too quickly to keyboarding, or work on tablets or smart phones. Our focus is to instill habits of mind that will encourage children’s natural capacity to problem solve. We focus on how children behave when they don’t know an answer.  Montessori works allow children the space and time to build this mental toolkit, which is the set of skills they need to attack and solve future problems. In addition, we emphasize computational thinking by exposing them to coding with cups, building circuits to create art, and incorporating STEM activities into their reading comprehension.

In third grade, our students take a year-long course on library and technology where they are formally introduced to skills in two key areas of technology: digital citizenship and digital literacy.  There is a great deal of direct instruction in research skills, accessing and assessing sources, and digital safety.  During third grade, each Inly student is given an Inly e-mail address and access to Google Apps, which they begin to use in preparation for their transition to UE.  We recommend that this be the first time students experience a level of independence with technology and, in this closed system, we are able to monitor every interaction so that we can use our students’ successes and missteps as learning opportunities within a protected domain.

In Upper Elementary, direct instruction in technology is continuous and ongoing, and is integrated into other areas of study. At this level, technology becomes a tool to create and share knowledge. Students have access to various devices for research, writing, and presentations. They create and share work using Google Apps, begin using interactive white-board technology in their teaching and learning, and engage in some curricular skills work online. Sixth year students complete a year-long capstone project that culminates in a presentation in which they use multiple technologies to demonstrate their learning.

By Middle School, students are quite comfortable using technology for academic and creative exploration and presentation. They have access to laptops in the classroom,  complete their Spanish work in an online audio/video language lab, and explore a variety of technology applications in committee work to create and problem-solve.   At this age, students are often exploring or using social media, and the social emotional lessons around digital citizenship, empathy, and social boundaries are real and frequent.

In addition to class work, students are searching out other ways to explore and learn with  technology on campus—from designing in 3D to running DIY robotics programs using micro-controllers and breadboards to learning to program with Lego EV3 Mindstorms.   The push toward innovation and creation is no doubt exciting and having students take the lead is an awesome experience that is not new to Inly. We are looking forward to continuing our journey into this new world of making and innovating with all our students, parents, and alums.