It is 10 a.m. on Monday but the creative juices are flowing. Sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at Boys’ Latin partner up and find their seats as they begin Innovation Period, a unique opportunity to explore a wide array of arts, technology and engineering topics.
Today, the boys are starting to build their own giant paper roller coasters. But, before getting down to how many loops they want to incorporate into their designs, they must first work through some fundamentals. Each boy is given a bouncy ball and a set of marbles. After a little experimentation, STEAM Coordinator and Innovation Period Teacher Susan Brown asks the class, “So how do marbles translate to rollercoasters?” The resounding answer is energy, and there’s no shortage of it in this classroom.
Whether designing their own roller coasters, reassembling vintage car engines or building their own drones, these students are totally focused on the task at hand.
“It’s learning for the sake of learning,” Brown observes. “During Innovation Period, the boys are completely engaged.”
But creative and innovative thinking doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom. There are many ways to engage your child in hands-on discovery. Here are three strategies for fostering intellectual curiosity all day long:
- Make it hands-on. Kids learn best when they are involved in hands-on activities. Take advantage of your child’s innate interest in tinkering, building and creating and provide opportunities for experiential learning that make topics more approachable and accessible.
- Offer a variety of materials and tools. While some offerings during BL’s Innovation Period may include high-tech tasks like designing and creating 3D-printed objects, low-tech options abound as well. Brown’s roller coasters are built with just a little bit of imagination and a lot of card stock. She notes that one of the best aspects of the roller coaster project is the way it promotes self-expression. “I find it interesting that each rollercoaster reflects the personality of the builder,” Brown notes.
- Keep it open-ended. While it can be hard to fight the temptation to intervene, it’s critical for kids to discover things on their own. As Brown explains, “We give them parameters but we’re not directing what they’re doing.” Choice and independent discovery are fundamentals of innovative thinking. The key is to provide a framework and then take a step back so kids have the chance to solve problems on their own terms using their own ideas.
Ready to see some innovation in action? Head to Boys’ Latin for Innovation Day on Saturday, December 3 at 9 a.m. Parents and students in grades 3-12 will participate in a variety of hands-on activities designed to spark creativity and imagination. Learn more and register at boyslatinmd.com.