How to Encourage Creativity in Youth
HOW TO ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY IN YOUTH
by Dr. Farag Moussa
President of IFIA
Children are like seeds; they need water and sunshine to grow, and for their creativity to develop and flourish. In short, children need to be constantly stimulated, from kindergarten through secondary school. What are the problems encountered and what is needed to spur them on?
The first problem relates to the general environment of the country the children and young people live in. Does it stimulate creativity? Does it tolerate and adequately encourage new ideas and different thinking? These are indeed huge questions that cannot be answered in a few lines.
The second problem is that it is not sufficient, as some may think, to increase the technological awareness of the youth. More important are the educational systems that should be oriented in such a way as to stimulate creative thinking. The teaching, therefore, should be based on the discovery of knowledge, and the development of critical attitudes, rather than on the passive absorption of knowledge. And this applies to all disciplines.
Unfortunately, school teaching – and this is a trend all over the world – is usually based on the child’s ability to memorize. The highest marks are often given to those who merely studied their lessons well ! The pupil whose creative side is more developed is even considered sometimes as a disturbing element in the class.
For this reason some educators decided to encourage creativity outside the school system, thus the science clubs which are now open to the young, in different countries, are places where they can unleash their ideas and imagination.
Science fairs for the young are also useful. In this regard, the Youth Science Foundation of Canada wrote:
“The comments made by the students support the concept of science fairs as a meaningful educational and motivational tool. There are the friends you can make and the good feeling from knowing that you are not alone in your interest in science. There’s an increased awareness of science and its importance, and a satisfaction from the ‘hands-on’, direct experience not normally available at school.The judges you meet, the job opportunities that are opened up, all these are available to young people through science fairs”.
Some science clubs and science fairs are only open to students of high-school grades, where science is taught. Children – aged 6 through 12 – are neglected. And yet there is no age for teaching creative thinking ; it can even be advantageous to start at a very early age. Let us look at the experience of some countries in this respect.
In Japan, a contest is organized every year by the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation (JIII). The children have one of two choices : (1) they follow the year’s specific theme proposed by the organizers (i.e. safety devices for daily life, or material for use in the field of education); (2) they choose their own theme freely. In both cases, the child inventor must submit a model in addition to the design.
In the USA, children participating in the nationwide invention contest organized by the Weekly Reader – a well-known periodical used in American schools since 1928 – do not have to submit a model. A drawing or a photograph is sufficient to enter the contest, the purpose of which is to stimulate creative thinking among all the students in a class, all becoming involved in the process of invention either individually or in small groups. The class then chooses the best invention which will be presented later at the level of the national contest.
Again, in Japan, attention is paid to boys and girls from early childhood. Some children are too small to make a model of their inventions, so they just present a drawing on paper.
In Holland, a competition was launched in 1990 for the first time aimed at children up to 13 years of age. They were asked to write, and illustrate with a drawing, the solution they found to one of five problems: (1) How to clean a lion’s teeth? (2) Invent a fun machine; (3) Invent a machine that can stroke your pet animal if you are away from home; (4) How can you quickly count the number of hairs on someone’s head? (5) How can you read a book in the bath, or under the shower, without it getting wet? Six thousand solutions were presented to the organizers! As many came from girls as boys. The prizes were awarded 60% to boys and 40% to girls, out of the five first prizes three went to girls.
P.S.: Concerning girls in particular, see Girls by the same author.
POLICIES TO PROMOTE CREATIVENESS IN YOUNGSTERS
by Moussa Gning
Vice-president of the Senegalese Association
for the Promotion of Inventions and Innovations (ASPI)
(Article published in IFIA-YOUTH Newsletter, No. 3, July-December 1996)
One of the objectives of the Senegalese Association for the Promotion of Inventions and Innovations (ASPI) is to set up real policies to promote creativeness and inventiveness in youngsters. Unlike adults, their main contribution to life is still to come. A society, where youth is considered a peripheral element of minor importance in an adult-centered world, creates a static situation detrimental to its future. The youth of today is the driving force of tomorrow’s development.
The necessity of encouraging invention and creativity in young people is essential to the development of any country – but it is not enough. Necessary conditions for the encouragement of creative potentialities must be identified. Education is a glorious means with the formidable mission of preparing today’s youth for tomorrow’s society.
But in our country, institutional education concerns only a minority of young people who represent the overwhelming majority of the total population. Young people without access to conventional educational institutions, or who have to leave prematurely, should receive maximum encouragement for their inventive and creative capacities. It is essential to identify those ways and means of promoting conditions favorable to the development of potential inventive and creative talents.
1. Educational institutions
General education: The development of inventive and creative facilties – from nursery to secondary school – implies setting up means to encourage youngsters to seek renewal and progress through: a liberating environment, student reponsibility, and the spirit of initiative. Subjects considered of minor importance (i.e., drawing, modelling, cutting & pasting), but which frequently represent the only opportunities offered to young people to communicate their dreams, should be re-evaluated.
Vocational schools: Future generations should be prepared for technological evolution, and learn to overcome psychological resistance to change in any given sector. This can be achieved through: developing a sense of reponsibility; strengthening the spirit of initiative; encouraging a critical attitude in order to favorize the search for original solutions to everyday problems; organizing competitive examinations for best young creators, both within and between different educational institutions; proclaiming, with maximum media coverage, exam results at special ceremonies.
2. The “unconventional” sector. In this sector, preoccupations are aimed more toward the learning of a trade, but include also training for the supervision of youngsters. Here more than anywhere else, the search for conditions to promote creativeness and inventiveness should consitute the principle line of thinking of those in charge. Orientation should stress the development of intitative, responsibility, and the search for originality.
Young inventors are not precocious or pretentious persons to be ignored and marginalized, but rather youngsters full of curiosity, eager for knowledge, whose actions deserve to be encouraged. These boys and girls are not dangerous disturbers of the established order, but harbingers of a better world.