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The creativity in science

Recently I attended a creativity in education workshop. One of the activities involved an instinctive-immediate reaction to some photos. One was a trio of young primary school girls, test-tubes at the ready,  engaged in a science experiment. Among my reactions –

  • They look like they are really engaged in this science task
  • They seemed totally relaxed around each other
  • There was no teacher hovering
  • The sketches and visuals on the wall in the background
  • That they were girls doing science and not boys

All of the above were on my list of my reactions. But my initial reaction was wondering where all that disappeared to. This apparently joyful collaborative experimenting with learning tools that is prominent in primary school has disappeared by the time students get to third level. Where has it disappeared to?

We read every day about falling interest in science among secondary school pupils. Despite much effort by various interest groups to stimulate interest in the sciences, students are turning away from it in droves. There is a perception of science being boring and complex. Where has that come from?

The finger of blame can lie in a number of places. The perception of “nerds” is one. Poor career guidance in schools is another. Parents passing the message that it’s almost a badge of honour to know nothing about science doesn’t help. Perception of poorly-paid jobs following graduation helps even less.

All of the above seem valid. However, a significant element in my opinion concerns education as a whole at second level. The emphasis on grades and leaving cert “points” is enough to kill off any enthusiasm youngsters might with them bring from primary school. How can the love for sheer playful experimentation survive this culture of grades grades grades?

The problem is how on earth can we reverse this grades grades grades emphasis and re-embrace love of experimental learning before it’s too late?

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Get with the program

Haven’t the foggiest how I stumbled across this but it’s interesting and builds on the recent posts in here.


(the creator, Aurcaen, doesn’t seem to like embeds)

I love the maze example. The typical, expected, tried and tested method of getting through a maze are ditched and instead the as-the-bird-flies method is chosen and why not? After all, where is the rule that says this isn’t allowed? And you get to knock down a few walls on the way!

Do students believe everything they see / read?   I’m not convinced it’s as black-and-white as this.  I think many do form their own opinions but they might struggle to discuss and critiques them in the depth to which their instructors would like them to.

Where did the syntax for text messaging come from? Who originated it?  Something I hadn’t thought about but you must admit it’s a creative solution to the challenge of getting a message across using as few characters as possible and so save some cents.

All in all, the vid points out the fact that students are forging ahead in preparing themselves for their future. We, in education, have a role to play. By not embracing modern technology, innovative communication methods, allowing students to practice the softer skills of negotiation, interactivity, managing company culture, etc, we might be depriving them of something valuable in that future.

Art – (un)limited by time and place

The locals have come up with an interesting one to deter the local kiddies (young ones and not so young ones) from covering the place with graffiti. Here’s a step-by-step –

  • Acquire a couple of sheets of plywood from somewhere or other
  • Affix said plywood to railings of centrally-located sports courts
  • Affix sign telling the kiddies that if they absolutely want to exercise a bit of graffiti in the local area they have to use that boarding and nothing else
  • Wait to see product of kiddies graffiti work
  • Wait a month to see product of kiddies graffiti work

Anyhow, its now working. The boarding is now covered with spray paint but here’s my question. Is it pretty? Is it art? Or is it a chaos of paint? When is art art, and when is it a mess of paint? It’s all completely subjective. In my mind the locals attempt are pretty darned nice and isnt it wonderful that they’ve got a free public canvass. Yet, if the very same art were on, say, the wall of my house….. “art” isn’t what I would be calling it. But, isn’t it the same creative expression and the same talent? Of course it is!

The point of the story; there is a wealth of talent that’s abused and ridiculed simply because it’s the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time of year always makes me uncomfortable and I silently apologise to my students for making them sit exams. I just know that –

  • I’ll end up reading lots of off-the-point material that the exam question didn’t ask for. The students are showing off lots of knowledge that I cant give them any credit for
  • At least one student having family problems (little son / daughter having accidents the morning of the exam and requiring a trip to A & E). Result – not mentally tuned into the exam
  • At least one student stressing out in traffic across the city. Result – not mentally tuned into the exam
  • Cramming instead of reflecting. Result – killing off the knowledge that has been built up
  • etc etc etc….

…from students who exhibit significantly more skills and capabilities at other times of the year. There’s just something not quite right going on. For too many kids the the exquisite graffiti goes on the house wall where its not appreciated and the the scribble goes on the official boarding. Result – failure and disappointment and a knock on the head for self-confidence.

graffiti girl

Pic ref: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76605