Exploring Creativity Through Hands-On Learning and Collaborative Experiences
By Kara Stucky, Middle School Design Technology Teacher at the International Community School (Singapore)
At ICS, we foster a growth mindset, allowing students to try new things, celebrate progress, and develop persistence. The overall goal is to prepare students for their future courses and careers through open-ended challenges to develop complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and collaborative skills.
We incorporate all of those necessary skills in a project based course called 'Design Technology'. This course is focused on concepts from science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). Students explore their creativity through hands-on learning and collaborative experiences in making and inventing. They also learn how to apply the design thinking process through developing, testing, and refining prototypes.
Having this in mind, our 8th graders were tasked to do a project collaboration between Design Technology and English Language Arts. The idea came about when I came across a project that was done at another school - where the teacher had their students create robots as they read Shakespeare. I thought it would be a good learning experience for our students and shared the project idea with our English teacher, Ms. Crawford. She was interested in collaborating efforts to do a similar project with me. At that time, the 8th graders were reading To Kill a Mockingbird, so we decided to challenge them and see whether they could blend their creative juices to come-up with something that would have cross-curricular connections.
For this project, the 8th graders learned how to program the Hummingbird Robotics kits with Scratch. They learned how to program the motors to move and the lights to light-up. They also created variables and used sensors so that the robot could detect various aspects of its environment (light, sound, temperature, etc.).
The students used the Engineering Design Process to brainstorm, plan, create, and improve their robots. They created robots that reacted to stimuli and showed changes that occur in characters/themes in To Kill A Mockingbird. The presentations and expo that they did was an opportunity for the students to showcase their creative work and inspire others.
Here's what the students had to say about the whole learning process:
"Something I enjoyed about this project was that I got to have fun and get closer with people I wasn't close to, and this project also taught me how to stay humble and live with the golden rule as I was the one researching on claims and pictures.
Before we actually worked on the project, I thought that this would be impossible to do because it seemed really hard; however our team came across a discussion and opened our creativity for ideas, then at the end, we made it. I learned about myself that I am a easy person to give up, but I also have perseverance."
-Seo Young (Ivy) Hong
"I suppose that I learned that sometimes, the path that I take first isn't always the easiest and best path, because I see something in my head, but when I try to apply it other problems arise. By programming, I learned that I don't always think too far ahead. However, I learned that I can be a good team player and be a person going around the team and helping individual people out."
"I enjoyed designing the robot, and thinking of ideas on how we can implement the lights and servo motor into our project. I feel like this project helped me unleash the creative sense in me, as we were given a lot of freedom and resources to create our robot, so we really had to think outside of the box."
"I enjoyed the teamwork part about the project. It was a learning experience, also where I was able to interact with people I normally didn't always interact with.
Some problems that I did encounter while working on this project was trying to figure out all of the code. We definitely struggled with this a little bit, but in the end we were able to work it out.
What I learned about myself is that if I actually work extremely hard, and strive to succeed, in the end it will all work out and the goal will be achieved."
"I actually enjoyed the part when I programmed Scout with Ms. Stucky's help because I always thought that programming was hard until I actually tried it myself. I learnt that if it is so much more wiser to actually try something than to just say that it is hard without trying to do it."
-Ho Jung Kim