I was talking with a Wells Fargo volunteer at the Denver Youth Summit last week, and he said something that stuck with me: Every student needs to learn to think big.
An Earth Force student wanted to create a ‘trash trap’ to put in Cherry Creek, the local river, to help filter trash out of the river and keep it clean. The student was discouraged by the complexity of bringing the idea to life, so the Wells Fargo volunteer encouraged him to stay the course and think even bigger: “What if you didn’t just have a ‘trash trap’ in Cherry Creek? What if you had them in every river?” The student’s eyes lit up as he said, “Then every river would be clean!”
Somewhere within the vast landscape of standardize testing, the path to youth creativity has dwindled. It’s become more and more challenging to find opportunities for students to think big when educators are literally being asked to ‘teach to the test.’ Jonah Lehrer wrote a book called Imagine: How Creativity Works. In it, he writes that by the time students become seniors in high school, only 5% would consider themselves creative.
It’s a scary stat to think about, especially because we need our education system to generate creative problem solvers who can lead the way in solving pressing environmental issues.
So, how do we create more scenarios like the one above, where students are not only encouraged to think big, but they’re supported in realizing the power behind their creative ideas?
The foundation of creativity within the Community Action and Problem-Solving Process focuses on two core concepts: youth voice and inquiry-based learning. These two tools allow students to lead their own learning and removes the concept of a ‘bad idea.’ (Because within the Process, every thought/idea is valid.) For big ideas to develop, students need to believe in themselves and feel confident and comfortable in their learning environment.
We’ve written about the two concepts quite a bit. Check out some of our past posts for tips and tricks on how to better foster youth voice and create an inquiry-based approach to learning:
- Tips on How to Better Ignite Youth Voice
- Supporting Authentic Youth Voice in Decision-Making
- Guest Post: Applying Inquiry-Based Learning to the Flint Water Crisis
- What Exactly is Youth Voice?
We know educators are working hard to make sure their students get the opportunity to think creatively. What are some ways you build big thinking into your classroom?
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.