Dylan posts a picture of the T. rex he sculpted out of twist ties for his parents to see. Miya releases the monarch she helped raise in the butterfly habitat. And, a team of Upper School students apply for a QuestWorks grant to fund the development of a community service project.

When children are engaged in creative thinking and hands-on learning, their cognitive processes are working on all cylinders. Studies have linked creativity to higher academic achievement, higher order thinking, problem-solving ability and better memory retention.

More than glue sticks and glitter.

Most schools “insert” creativity into their curriculum, usually in the earlier grades and in arts classes. In the best schools, though, creativity isn’t worked in -- it’s a way of thinking that is imbued in every aspect of learning, in every grade.

In a creative learning environment, multisensory learning experiences are designed into the curriculum, tapping into children’s natural curiosity and sparking key “learning moments.”

Experienced teachers look for these moments, knowing that one might occur during studio time, in the classroom, in the lab or in the middle of recess.   

When one occurs, students make cross-disciplinary connections and soak up advanced principles in math, science, art, language, music and technology. The teacher’s role is less to “instruct” and more to facilitate the student’s natural abilities within a positive, energized environment.

The well-designed school

The 231-acre campus of Columbus Academy is an exemplar of a school dedicated to stimulating creativity. Its classrooms and studios are flooded with natural light. Music fills the air. Bright colors, geometric shapes, whimsical mobiles -- even space-age furniture -- are all designed to create a home for a child’s imagination. Interactive halls feature creativity stations where children spontaneously make widgets, sculpt or play a collective game. Student artwork lines the halls and formal exhibitions are displayed in the two-story Morse Hall gallery.

Plugged and unplugged

Digital natives, now in their third generation, fully integrate technology into their lives.  

Schools should do the same.

The idea isn’t for the school to provide computers to sit at, but to offer opportunities for self-initiated, active learning by making the full range of media available -- not just mobile devices, 3D printers and robotic equipment, but also Legos, board games, drawing tools and musical instruments.

The school’s IT director, like the librarian, is readily available to help a student explore an interest, tackle a puzzling assignment and foster a love of learning.

Sometimes, it IS rocket science.

Innovation will drive our economy. And schools have the responsibility to educate students in ways that foster an innovative mindset. One of the ways this is done at Columbus Academy is through Questworks Innovation Grants. Modeled after the aeronautic “Skunk Works” at Lockheed Martin, Upper School students can apply for grants to create the technology of the future. Using principles they've learned in class, they make sophisticated working prototypes of projects such as eco-friendly windmills and “smart” skateboards that assist with public transportation.

The only criterion for the project? They must design something that will make the world a better place.

“What did you do in school today?”

When a parent asks this question -- and all do -- the answer given reveals the true measure of a school’s worth. Academy parents say that their kids enthusiastically respond. On any given day, parents may be treated to a lengthy dissertation on gravity or a painting in the style of Georgia O’Keefe. On some days, though, a student might reveal that the best part of the day was a quiet walk along the wooded trail when the only sound was birdsong.

For more examples of how schools make discovery a part of their students' daily experience, check out these videos: Sparking Creativity, Funding Student Exploration in Technology and Makerspace Movement. For more information about the Columbus Academy curriculum, contact us via email or at 614-509-2220.