See the video of the Student Center redesign project here.
“Mr. Jones, do you think we could just have keys to the school?” That was a question posed to me a few weeks ago by a high school senior so impassioned by his work that he wanted to have more access to the campus than what our normal school week provides. Earlier this year, another group of junior and senior students embarked on a creative design project meant to address an overused and under cared for part of campus.
In his 2010 TedTalk, Tom Wujec introduced the world to the Marshmallow Challenge. Through this simple yet challenging exercise, participants are asked to create the tallest free-standing structure they can in less than 20 minutes with minimal items: limited sticks of uncooked spaghetti, masking tape, and string. The only real rule is that the structure must support a marshmallow on top. What Tom and other researchers have found is that kindergarten students outperform MBA students on this task. Why?
Quite simply, this is because older students with more formal education are trained how to think and how to approach a problem. As students age, their ability to be creative consistently declines. Sir Ken Robinson, an acclaimed educationalist, claims that schools and the process of education kill creativity, arguing that “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it.” As Robinson cites, “creativity is as important as literacy and we should afford it the same status.” A recent article in Forbes magazine cites creativity as one of the top skills people need in order to be successful in 2020 and beyond; just behind complex problem solving and critical thinking.
Remember the senior requesting unfettered access to campus? He is a member of the Upper School’s Robotics team. Robotics is a first-year program in the Upper School. This group started with a few parts, motors, wheels, and a challenge. Their robot improved each week and the results were evident in each competition, eventually allowing them to go undefeated in their last tournament. The group of students responsible for the redesign of the Student Center utilized an empathetic design process. Seeking feedback from peers, teachers, and others in the community who regularly use that space, these students leveraged the feedback gathered to inform their designs. The final iteration of their Student Center project recently raised over $100,000 of support from the community.
These are just a few examples of how passionate learners utilize their ability to be creative on our campus. I believe that Trinity School is uniquely positioned to combat the effects of students losing their aptitude for creativity by instilling a passion to learn and a willingness to experiment. Evidence of this can be seen not only in the Robotics team and Student Center redesigners but also in the recent Glowtastic Museum. Students from PK-12 displayed a wide variety of glow-in-the-dark works of art. This creative spirit and energy can be seen in students of all ages in spaces all over campus.