I know I probably throw around the phrase “treasure trove” quite a bit, but I can’t resist using it for this extraordinary gift that Donna Golightly (@DonnaGolightly1) has painstakingly assembled and shared for all to use. Her Book Creator resource, An A-Z of Creativity is full of free website tools (and one non-web based tool, Toontastic) that can really make creating fun for both teachers and students. I feel like I am pretty knowledgeable about what’s out there, but I definitely found quite a few links that were new to me, and I imagine you will, too. Thanks to Donna for curating these and making them available for everyone! I’ll be adding this to my “Fun Stuff” Wakelet. When I have time. After I experiment with some of the sites…
I have long been fascinated with the intersection of math, nature, and art. From Fibonacci to fractals, I find it intriguing to recognize patterns and similarities in natural objects and animals that also appear in those created by humans, and that we can imagine wildly creative innovations from very logical, patterned, or symmetrical visions. When I came across this video of the “Art of the Microcosmos” by Emily Graslie, I had a feeling that it would lead me down a rabbit hole of Fibonaccian proportions, and I was correct. Her interview with James Weiss made me wish I had him as a Biology teacher in high school, or that I had even once gotten the chance to observe the incredible microscopic animals shown in the video. Of course, I’ve known about the tardigrade (also known affectionately as “water bear”) for a few years, so I definitely have no problem imagining it or any other of the strangely beautiful creatures in this video as artistic inspiration.
Following Emily’s film, I had to look up Klaus Kemp, who creates diatomic art, and then I made the mistake of Googling “art made with microbes” and found an entirely different branch of scientific art grown in petri dishes.
After a couple of hours of being transfixed by so many things I had never seen or even known about before watching Graslie’s video, I finally had the wherewithal to drag myself away and try to do something somewhat productive (though not even minutely creative). I started a new Wakelet of “Math, Art, and Nature,” and I even used Wakelet’s new layout option of columns to attempt to organize it a bit. (You may need to scroll horizontally to see all of the columns, and scroll vertically within a column to see all of the links.) This is, of course, separate from my “Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep,” collection, but I went ahead and added a link to it in that one, too.
Just a reminder that, even though fancy microscopes might be nice, you can always get your students started with observations of that microscopic world with an inexpensive Foldscope. You might be surprised at the incredible images you can view with this simple tool.
Last week, I mentioned the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. Reynolds is currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and he has joined with the Library of Congress to make a series of short videos challenging children to authentically express themselves about different topics. The Write.Right.Rite. series currently has over 20 prompts, and each one is a personal invitation from Jason Reynolds to think creatively. From asking you to design an award for yourself to writing a song for the shower, this list of ideas would be fun for any writing classroom – and I really wish I could see some of the responses!
If you haven’t ever picked up a book by Jason Reynolds, you can get a quick idea of his unique voice by reading one of the wonderful, “Grab the Mic” newsletters he has authored. Also, the Library of Congress has curated an impressive list of resources that give more information about this incredible author.
For more innovative writing ideas for your classroom, check out this post about 826 Digital, a project for young writers by another wonderful author, Dave Eggers.
One of the challenges I have with students when we are doing Design Thinking is to teach them to embrace constraints. Sometimes I will get feedback from them at the end of projects that “we should be able to do whatever we want,” despite my explanation that my experience has shown that complete freedom can often be too overwhelming – and sometimes not very safe. So, I’ve been watching the slow emergence of innovative ideas coming out of our current pandemic situation with some delight at the creativity being revealed as people try to design around social distancing.
- Pool noodle hats in Minnesota
- Song Dynasty headwear in China
- “Here Comes the Sun” picnic blanket
- Quarantine Hugs in Indiana
- Collapsible Rings by Michael Jantzen
- Bumper Tables in Maryland
- Mannequins, Panda Bears, and all Kinds of Unique Architectural Changes in restaurants all over the world
These are all basically ideas using, at the very least, the “Adapt” step of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., as people attempt to find ways to stay healthy while still leaving their homes. After you show them a few of the linked images, students might enjoy designing their own social distancing hacks for school, shopping, the beach, etc… I’d love to see their ideas!
The Creativity Project is a book edited by Colby Sharp, a 5th grade teacher in Michigan who is one of the co-founders of “The Nerdy Book Club Blog.” For this book, Sharp reached out to forty-four authors and illustrators of children’s books to ask them to send him two creative prompts. After receiving these, he mixed them up and mailed two of the prompts to each contributor, who could then select one to which they would respond. The chosen prompts and results are collected in this book, along with the forty-four unused prompts.
As you read the book, you will be astounded by the imaginative collection of short stories, comics, poems, and illustrations that the creators chose for inspiration, as well as the responses they whimsically crafted. You may feel like you are immersed in an exposition of improvisation that appears on the pages instead of the screen.
I wanted to list some of the authors and illustrators who participated, but then I felt like I would be granting those names more importance than the ones omitted. For the full list, you can look at this page on Sharp’s website.
If you know someone who struggles with choosing writing topics, this book is a great gift to give or share!
My article, “How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom,” has just been published on the NEO Blog. I hope that you will find that it gives some practical suggestions and resources for the ways that educators can model and apply the Design Thinking process. This article was written before the pandemic drastically changed learning environments, but next month’s article on how distance learning can promote global collaboration will definitely take our new reality into account.
I hope you will take some time to browse through some of the other articles on the NEO Blog, as they are very thorough and cover a wide range of topics of interest to educators. Please let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions for future articles!