The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2022

Creativity and Design Update: Harnessing the Creative Mind

Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
Fay welcomed two experts in design thinking and creative problem solving this spring to share their perspectives on the importance of nurturing creativity and design skills through hands-on problem-solving.
When Fay’s new Center for Creativity and Design opens this fall, the spacious workspaces and state-of-the-art tools will undoubtedly be what catches the eye first. However, the habits of mind that our students will be practicing each day in the new center will be its most impressive product. While students will have the opportunity to build, fabricate, design, and craft, design thinking is not just about the products that are made. It is about the creativity and problem- solving skills that grow from the seed of an idea into a thoughtfully designed and tested solution to a problem. This spring, Fay welcomed two experts in design thinking and creative problem solving to share their perspectives on the importance of nurturing these skills through open-ended learning opportunities and hands-on problem- solving.
On March 21, Gary Stager, author of Invent to Learn, led a workshop for Fay faculty and staff. Gary is one of the world's leading advocates for computer programming, robotics, and learning-by- doing in classrooms. As Gary notes, "the best way to educate students for an uncertain future is to recognize that the primary obligation of schools is to introduce children to things they don't yet know they love." Gary modeled this concept in his workshop, challenging Fay faculty and staff to work in small groups to design and program a robot that could deliver the Easter Bunny's eggs. With a quick tutorial on snap programming, a basic Hummingbird robotics kit, and some cardboard, faculty and staff were left to create, problem-solve, and iterate independently. From a robotic bunny cart to a rotating egg drop table and chute, the faculty tackled the open-ended challenge, arriving at various successful solutions.
"Our workshop demonstrated how a diverse community could use technology to solve problems unanticipated by the curriculum and regardless of previous experience," says Gary. "In just a couple of hours, Fay School personnel engineered and programmed working robots designed to solve an open-ended problem. This provided an opportunity to acknowledge what Piaget teaches us that ‘knowledge is a consequence of experience,’ but that with a good prompt, sufficient time, appropriate materials, and a collegial community including a range of expertise, we can solve problems bigger than ourselves."
On April 28, Fay's Ideas&Insights Speaker Series brought best-selling author and world-renowned scientist, inventor, and autism spokesperson Temple Grandin to campus. Temple stressed the importance of engaging different thinking and processing styles in the classroom and provided tips on working with those students. She pointed out that different thinking styles can be complementary and are, in fact, often essential to achieving a goal. Like Gary, Temple is a proponent of hands-on learning to build problem- solving skills and expertise, citing a study that found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are almost three times as likely to engage in an arts and crafts hobby as the average scientist. "That is an argument for keeping hands-on learning in the curriculum!" she noted.

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