Creative Thinking in Science

creative-thinking-shoesHow many uses can you think of for a shoe?

(That isn’t a trick question)  How did you get on?  Did you think of using it as a hammer?  How about using it as a coffin for a dead hamster?  No?  Then maybe your creativity just isn’t flowing.  And you’re not the only one…

During a recent practical activity with some Year 1 children, I asked them ‘How can you bounce this bouncy ball as high as possible?’  The creative thinking I got was not only original and imaginative, but would also work (in a world where you could (safely) throw a bouncy ball from space and hit a whale, of course).  Yet, when I ask this same question of adults I get the same old tried and tested answers.

In fact, in these divergent thinking tasks, the average ‘score’ for an adult is an unoriginal 10-12 answers, did you get better than that?  Almost all children under 5 score very highly indeed when asked to respond to this type of creative thinking question, but at some point of childhood we lose the ability to think this widely (data taken from here).  How disappointing!

How does all this relate to science then?  Well science is an incredibly creative subject – you might not believe that if you are only used to learning some facts about cells off by heart, but think about inventing (for example).  In the most basic form, science is a fantastic opportunity for teachers to encourage creative thinking from their students – they just have to ask the right (open) questions (and allow the children the time to think of and discuss the various answers of course).

So why not start September with an old shoe in the middle of the room – it might just humble you to see what the children have to offer.  Don’t fancy that, try one of these:

How did the moon get there?

How can we make this plant grow quicker?

What happens if you keep cutting this rubber in half, then in half again all day?

Got a really good open question that worked with your class?  Let everyone know in the comments.

About the author: Matt Stanford

Matt Stanford
Matt has been working in education for 10 years, teaching science to all ages from preschool to degree. Before he became a teacher he studied chemistry at Masters level and completed his PhD at The University of Warwick. It was during his time at university that he got involved in outreach work in local primary schools and found his passion for inspiring learning.

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