Guest post by Cathy Sheafor, mother, teacher, and blogger at Think!, a blog that inspires children of all ages to think outside of the box, evolved from my desire to create new challenges.
Household Object Challenges
Research shows that we learn best by doing. Author Daniel Pink in his book, A Whole New Mind, argues that we are better prepared for the future if we embrace these concepts: design, story, empathy, sympathy, play, and meaning.
So, I set about creating challenges that would invite children to learn by doing and incorporate the concepts articulated by Daniel Pink on Think! Using household materials makes these challenges affordable but also more challenging. Innovation requires the creative use of resources. If you want your child to be an innovator, there is no better preparation than these types of challenges.
Each challenge invites participants to
– design something or weave a story.
– play and create conversations about meaning.
– encourage learning through trial and error
– examine, experiment, and solve problems.
And, when these challenges are embraced by families or sets of friends, they produce valuable opportunities for developing empathetic and sympathetic skills. In short, these challenges reproduce the challenges of communities, engineers, artists, musicians, and others. And, they prepare children to be unprepared. They teach children to imagine, create, and solve. Put simply, these challenges give children the opportunity to learn through living.
A Goal and a Process
If I have convinced you of the value of these challenges, you might ask how you can create challenges yourself. It is simple. First, I focus on a goal and a process. If I want to improve design ability and the process of working together, I might create a collaborative art project such as assigning blindfolded pairs to create art together without talking. Or, if I want to improve engineering skills and critical thinking, I might focus on bridge building with unusual household materials that will require trial and error.
As a parent or educator, I encourage you to think first about a purpose of a challenge and then let your creative ideas flow and create challenges to help your students to achieve. And, know that sometimes you too will fail. That is part of the fun.
I do always try to complete a challenge before posting it so that I know that there is at least one solution. Usually, I am surprised by the creative genius that produces a solution completely different than what I expect. The lack of rules and absence of expectations allows children the freedom to create. Join in. You’ll have fun and learn too! Have questions or ideas? You can reach me at [email protected].
Try a Challenge
— Open your junk drawers and create a robot using 10 items or less.
— Build a house using nothing but 2 sheets of paper, 2 band-aids, 2 paperclips, and 2 sticks of gum.
— Build a catapult using a spoon, a couple of rubber bands and a some paperclips.
For more challenges, visit www.kidswhothink.blogspot.com.
Bio: Cathy Sheafor is a teacher, a mother, a wife, a volunteer, a mentor, a friend, a former homeschooling parent, a former Head of School of a private tuition-free school for low-income girls, a writer, a photographer, a painter, a former coach, a former attorney, a sports movie fan, and a cancer survivor.