The Secret to a Great Staff Meeting is … CREATIVITY!

The Call of Creativity-

I look over at the laughter and my Head of School is using a tiny light and a giant comb on the business director’s head, illustrating the proper use of the flashlight their group designed. I couldn’t believe how great their design was! In fact, EVERY group had a great design. They all worked, mostly, and the room was alive with creative energy.


C is for Cookie and Creativity

Have you had your vitamin C lately? Creativity is seen as frivolous in many foolish places. If we overvalue efficiency then creativity is simply a distraction or decoration. In fact, creativity is the tool we have to maintain to be able to craft the world, and not merely wash it down with a frosty beverage. While I work with young students, my adult workshops are more dramatic than most of my classes. For the kids, I am often just connecting with their out-of-school self that rides horses or rescues motorbikes, or the other way around. When I work with adults, learning about design thinking, creativity, or puppet building, they are often surprised at how creativity impacts them.

Safe, and Creative

Making is an essentially creative activity, and Design Thinking can help set up some easy “game rules” that make the creative process less overwhelming and even safer. All creative action creates real vulnerability. When we ask adults to create in front of other adults it can be stressful and uncomfortable. Design thinking provides a process that can drive what we do, fill in the next step. This makes the experience more predictable and familiar.

STEAM Learning

If you don’t know much about Design Thinking, I oversimplify it as – A design process that has a real user with real needs at the center of the process. In this staff meeting, I wanted to get everybody into a DT experience, but I also needed it to take 45 minutes or less. I also wanted everybody to get hands-on with the BBC Microbit. I am developing a project that got a micro-grant from Sparkfun and we got LEDs and Microbits to control them. With those goals in mind, a few new puppets in hand, I created the next chapter in my Design Thinking with Puppets project. I think I will run this one at conferences because it does come together quickly and dynamically.
I gathered what real examples I could find around the school, and developed a simple script. The video below provides the teachers with all the information they need to design a flashlight for one of 4 users. I have also embedded the google slide deck I used to support the presentation. The teachers did not have to code the Microbit, as I gave it to them with a working code on it that turned on and off an LED if they hooked it up right. They didn’t, and then they figured it out.
I tried to structure this so there were several great choice points and a solid foundation of information to respond to. The safety I spoke of earlier is there, in the information. Why are you suggesting something? because you see how the need is present in the information from the user. The video is short and the process requires that the teachers also draw from their own experience and this is where much of the rich detail comes from.

Process and Choice-Rich Learning

The challenge of “Make a Flashlight” was made much more complex and varied by placing it in a design thinking context. There were several groups that needed their light to flash. They had the tools available to change the code on the Microbit and they figured it out. The day after the meeting, I had several people remark on how much fun they had. Having fun together does us all good. The world is challenging and we can make great stuff together anyway. When school leaders make the space and time for adults to engage in purposeful play, it makes it much easier for those adults to bring purposeful play to their students.

If you liked this and want to read more words by me about teachers try Programming in the Primary Grades, Beyond the Hour of Code, from Rowman and Littlefield Press. If you want to bring a creative experience to your school, let me know.

About the author, Sam

Sam is Makerspace coordinator at Echo Horizon School, the nicest little school on Los Angeles' West Side. In the classroom since '02 Sam has taught grades PreK-12. Every lesson is a writing lesson.

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