Creative Classrooms

Educating kids for a future we can’t yet conceive calls for thinking outside the box. These elementary schools are reimagining everything from lesson plans to playground design. In each case, the goal is to establish a culture where creativity comes first.

According to koodakpress، This past spring, when second-graders at Kettle Falls cleaned out the wood duck-nesting boxes they had built earlier in the year, the messy, smelly task revealed a mystery to solve: Too many of the eggs had failed to hatch. “The students’ next job was to find an answer that they couldn’t read about in a textbook,” says the school’s principal, Val McKern. “Was it the weather? Did the hens need more protection? They felt like wildlife biologists trying to figure it out.” Based on the available evidence, the kids concluded that predators had played the largest role in the baby ducks’ demise.

Kettle Falls is one of 160 schools in the U.S. that use the Expeditionary Learning (EL) model, which was developed by experts from Outward Bound and Harvard University. Each grade embarks on several major explorations with the goal of promoting critical thinking and creative problem solving. They start with a guiding question that usually has a local connection, such as “How does the weather in our area change over time?” or “What factors does it take for a business to be successful in Kettle Falls?”

The students perform fieldwork and record data to analyze later in the classroom. They also learn from visiting experts. When fourth-graders study forest management, they hear from conservationists as well as timber workers. “This approach makes them consider multiple perspectives on an issue,” says McKern.

Collaboration is an integral part of the learning process. Desks are arranged in groups rather than rows, and instead of focusing on the “right” answer, teachers help kids generate lots of ideas so they can discuss them and learn from each other. “Not knowing exactly where every lesson is going to end up can be tricky for teachers, but the opportunity to be creative is our overall goal for students,” says Tony Altucher, an EL school designer.

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