Category: Novare

Welcome Indigo Program!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Welcome Indigo Program!

The Indigo Program is a safe and caring K-8 program designed to educate the whole child. At Indigo, “We provide multi-age interactions and constructivist learning activities through a positive discipline approach. This approach is supported by strong parent involvement. Indigo values the unique learning styles, skills and abilities of each child so they will be prepared to make a positive impact on the world.”

I had the honor of working with Mimi, Nasreen, and Natalie. We focused on looking at the benefits of having portfolios. Novare can show which standards connect with a proficiency level and date stamp along with narrative opportunities from both teachers and students to help students delve deeper into ideas. The Indigo team is also interested in reporting out not only projects to families, but also reports that can incorporate student, teacher, parent learning goals, overall view of assessment, narratives, pictures, videos and portfolios all in one report, easily assembled with portals, that permit students to manage their portfolios and parents to better understand what their children are learning. All this information is in one place!

Novare Connecting with Oelwein High School
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Novare Connecting with Oelwein High School

It has been truly inspiring to meet so many thoughtful, insightful and caring education professionals! I am proud to announce that Novare is working with the leadership team at Oelwein High School. Their Mission Statement is: The Oelwein Community School District is ‘forming the future’ by accepting, educating, guiding, inspiring, and caring about students in order that they may achieve their fullest potential.

Josh and Liz shared with me their excitement of being able to track multiple assessments on a single standard to show how students progress over time. They are also interested in the ways they can customize report cards to share how students are doing. Liz and I discussed how Novare can help with also supporting students with special curricular standards to personalize learning and meet students where they perform.

Welcome Earl Frost Elementary
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Welcome Earl Frost Elementary

Novare is excited to work with Frost Elementary School. Frost’s mission is to ensure that every child’s potential is achieved. The entire Frost Team is dedicated to creating a nurturing yet rigorous environment that enables each child to develop academically, socially, and emotionally. Frost teachers work collaboratively to design and implement curriculum that will engage students through common core standard-aligned units. Every lesson aims to develop the following skills in each child:

  • Learning – critical thinking, creative, collaboration, and communication
  • Literacy – information literacy, media literacy, and technology literacy
  • Life – flexibility, initiative, social skills, productivity, and leadership

I had the privilege of working with Tiffany and Erin. Erin has great curiosity and explored many aspects of the platform. Her focus was personalizing PBIS standards and creating groups and projects. Tiffany is thoughtful and insightful. She explored ways to organize groups, create learning goals for assignments, began tracking assessment and looking at ways Novare can help teachers collaborate. It’s wonderful to work with this savvy leadership team.

Mondays with Molly- Super School and Project Based Learning
On / by Terra Casteleyn / in Novare

Mondays with Molly: Super School and Project Based Learning

So last week you blogged about the Super School Project, what about it resonates with you?

Well, one thing I like about the contest is that it is set up for a great Project Based Learning experience.

So is the contest a project itself?

Yes. The project starts with a challenge to create a real school. The way it works is, the contest provides all of the criteria, then groups get together to submit whatever their idea of what a high school should look like, in their eyes. It requires students to have input and engage in the process of their own education… what do they think should change? Should be available? What do they think education should look like.

It makes sense to touch base with the actual users of education, the students… just like in any normal marketplace.

Exactly. But what it does is raise the question… what is the purpose of this education? As you would a product… what is the consumer needing this for?

Well my mind goes directly to… being educated, and by that I mean smart in some way, and of course, to prepare one for a career…

Ok, some argue economics… needing an educated workforce ready for careers. Others argue that our focus should be raising happy children. And I personally I don’t believe they are separate. I think the goal should both… educating people to be able to tackle the problems in society and in real life and make our world a better place.   

So how would you approach this contest and this solution?

Well, I believe the best way is to engage students the way they learn naturally. This is done by creating a rich learning environment for all students and preparing students for any opportunity that is out there.

Right. Because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all… not everyone has the same destiny.

Exactly, that means a certain facility with language, both reading, writing and articulating ideas as well as using math concepts to manipulate data and understand graphs… basic science and social studies to understand the interconnected relationships…as well as collaborating, managing time, persevering…

To me, that means we want thinkers that can solve problems. It goes past careers and income and further into helping society. At the most basic level, to create a satisfied generation that is engaged and fullfilled… and then to the next level… which would be this same generation that would feel inspired to make a difference in our world… I mean, even on a global level.

I guess we don’t always connect how we learn in high school to how we feel and operate ourselves in the real world… and it’s impact on society.

Education has always always been the key.

So with regards to what you are doing at Novare, how does this connect to that?

Well, we don’t define the projects… we feel that is up to the schools and the teachers, they know what their students need. But what they need is help in organizing information to help guide the next steps and ultimately…save teachers time. Which, believe me, is huge!

So Novare enables schools to embark on Project Based Learning….?

Yes, we engage students by supporting project based learning… allowing students to demonstrate understanding in multiple modes, explore projects that excite them, get feedback and try again, as well as, building perseverance, reflection and resiliency.

What is it about Projects that make education practice different? Is it the process of the project or the way in which we have to then assess projects?

Both. Project Work is not new. The process is open ended, helping students learn to make decisions and manage time. However, using technology to support teachers with organizing projects and connecting open-ended projects to assessment IS new. Being able to do it in one place is new. Supporting teachers to make it sustainable is new… and it’s what Novare is doing.

Well, I will certainly check out the Super School Project and what people are saying.

Yes, they’re mixing it up and it’s fun to watch.

Thanks, Molly! See you next time!

Common Core Results Are Back
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Common Core Results Are Back

The test results are back from the controversial, high risk, end of year tests. Based on the results from this test most of our students in this nation are not proficient in needed skills. Articles like this and this talk about what isn’t working and many bloggers, writers, and educators don’t seem to have an easy answer… and I know why… there is no easy answer! The results provide information from only one metric we chose to use at the end of the school year. Most students did not perform well on the standardized tests.

What it leaves me with are more questions than answers.  As a nation, did we really expect all of our students to master these deeper learning concepts so quickly?  Do our teachers have the needed resources to develop and guide the students through this shift in learning? Is this a good baseline to determine student growth as we move forward? Shouldn’t we use multiple types of assessment to determine how students are doing and ultimately the effectiveness of the common core.

These are not easy to implement, It can be scary knowing that you are going to learn less content for deeper learning. What gets left out? How do you balance it. What level do students need to be successful in life?  How do we measure that success? I am a mother to four and each is so different.

Diane Ravitch’s blog has a great compilation of different tests and some issues with them. They show students from many states scoring proficient or above mostly between 30 and 50 percent. That means half or most are not proficient. What does that mean? It could mean many things…

  1. The test is valid, Our students are not able to think in the way we are now wanting them to perform and we can use this information to shape how we teach. That means putting it in a form that is usable for schools to look at programs and individuals and work on developing these skills.
  2. The test is invalid, The questions are biased / do not assess what is intended.  Having a third party review the tests to determine validity would restore faith in this process.
  3. Technology has not caught up to use this test accurately (students struggling with typing, or schools not having the infrastructure to support online testing, glitches with wifi etc.  skewing results.
  4. This type of test is not the best metric to gauge what is happening.  

I do believe we need a metric outside the classroom to determine if students have the skills needed to be college ready. I am not convinced this is the only or best way to do that. Therefore I don’t think these results will tell us what we want to know about our children being prepared for the future.

The common core was designed to move away from content driven multiple choice tests. It would make sense that an evaluation of it should be more project based. Scaling that view could be challenging, but possible.  

Technology will be the key to implementing and organizing engaging projects. It will provide tools for students to collaborate, revise and learn. We need to do more than change testing standards. We need to rethink the way we assess our students. Technology is the way in which we can make this happen.

The Super School Project is ReImagining High School!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

The Super School Project is ReImagining High School!

The Super School contest is asking us to rethink education to better prepare our children for college, career and life. It is an opportunity to bring together all the people involved in education: students, parents, educators, and business to design public high schools in order to help students be prepared for the future.

I am extremely excited because it:

  1. Mobilizes our nation, moving from East to West to start the dialogues of changing schools to better prepare students for college, career and life. 
  2. Provides strong criteria to guide the process, but not limit the solutions.
  3. Emphasizes using research to create diverse models for high schools.
  4. Funds 5 public schools to implement solutions.  

 

I think this contest is an excellent way to generate excitement and dialogue about solutions for education. So many times the focus is negative on what doesn’t work and this contest shifts it to what will work. It helps us focus on change in a positive way.  The focus is how to prepare students and engage them both in the contest and in education. It also provides $50 million to start the process and truly rethink education!

I am fired up about this and wanted to share it with you. This is an amazing example of Project Based Learning. An engaging challenge set in the “real world”. It has excellent criteria to guide the project and is extremely open ended.

This is the exact type of projects we support for classroom teachers. Where they can set up a project with criteria and students can create, edit, revise, and dialogue easily about it. Educators can guide and probe for deeper understanding and provide feedback connecting to narratives, standards or social emotional learning!

I’m going to be following this on TwitterThis will be fabulous to participate and watch! 

See you next week when we get our Mondays with Molly rolling again!

Warmly,

Molly

Novare Partners with the San Carlos School District
On / by admin / in Novare

Novare Partners with the San Carlos School District

Novare is proud to announce that we have on-boarded the San Carlos School District. We are so excited to support this amazing District focused on some incredible goals, bringing Project Based Learning and 21st Century ‘Habits of Mind” skills to the classroom, without loosing student accountability.

“The San Carlos School District has been working with Novare to create a digital solution for our Project Based Learning approaches that are well underway in the district. Novare is helping the district find easy ways to upload and ‘tag’ student work so that students can gather evidence towards competency in the 21st Century ‘Habits of Mind’ skills, which include Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Citizenship / Stewardship and Ownership. We are excited to be able to compile digital examples of projects that students have collaborated on, while also allowing students to gather individual artifacts and assessments to self assess and set goals for future improvement. In addition to this, the student growth over time that is demonstrated in a digital portfolio can be shared in student led conferences and at 8th grade exit presentations. We are very excited about the possibilities that this flexible and forward thinking digital solution offers to us!” – Marie Crawford, Principle on Special Assignment, SCSD

More About SCSD: The San Carlos School District shall provide an innovative and engaging learning experience that fosters the development of the Whole Child to ensure all students are well prepared for success in the 21st Century, as evidenced by:

  • Reaching their highest academic, social, emotional, intellectual, and physical potential;
  • Becoming problem solvers, critical thinkers, risk-takers, designers, collaborators, and innovators; and
  • Developing into contributing, empathic citizens and leaders who are responsible stewards of their world and care about equity and justice, both locally and worldwide.

SCSD has had a long history of focus on the “whole child,” the notion that learning needs to go significantly beyond the traditional basic subjects and cover areas such as music and the arts (fine arts, theater, etc.); sustainability; physical, social, emotional wellness; leadership skills and community involvement; and communication and collaboration skills. Students are encouraged to examine their own thoughts and actions and be sensitive to others’ feelings and needs. Within the context of guided activities and peer feedback, children acquire the tools to be successful within the interpersonal domain, as well as to develop personal resiliency and awareness in the intrapersonal domain.

Mondays with Molly – Creating Classroom Culture!
On / by Terra Casteleyn / in Novare

Mondays with Molly – Creating Classroom Culture!

So we’re back to school!

Yes! Today is the first day for many students. Some started last week, some will start next week, but everyone is getting back to the full swing of things!

It’s always exciting, a fresh group of students, with different personalities and characters that are going to be with you for the entire year. That must be exciting!

Yes. Perhaps nervous excitement, but exciting all the same. And the same feeling goes for students too… new teachers, new curriculum, etc.

So what is the most important thing happening right now? Getting everything set up?

Well, I would say over and beyond that is creating the classroom culture for the school year. It can truly change the entire trajectory for the year… and you want to set the tone from the get-go.

Sounds like creating the learning environment during the first days of school is crucial.

It is. Teachers want to set the tone for the year and that happens in the first days of school. How these first days go help determine how the year will go. This is true for both teachers and students. The first day is so important. Students of all ages are anxious. They want to know who is in their class and who their teachers will be. Will it be a good year?

So what’s the most important thing for students?

I’d say their internal dialogue sounds like… Will my teacher like me? Will I like my teacher? That relationship is key to get students comfortable to make mistakes, be risk takers and truly learn.

I never really thought about that likability relationship… it always seems to be classroom organization, etc. But that makes sense, the more comfortable you are, the more you are willing to stretch yourself.

Exactly. We want children to be able to try things that are hard for them, and that means failing sometimes the first time they try something. Building a culture where it is ok to try and not succeed the first time is important. Analyzing ideas, being open minded and persevering when it gets hard are the life skills that are going to help students succeed in school and beyond.

I can remember a teacher who intimidated me and I never raised my hand… but can think of another one who I truly loved and I was sitting at the front of the room, hand raised, willing to risk it! That must be a tricky thing to manage though…How do you set up this culture?

Really it breaks down to respect and time. Teachers care about students, they want them to succeed. When students feel that support they are more likely to respond and risk being wrong. It means taking some time to build that relationship, talking and listening when things are on and off track to help students learn. The focus is on learning, not simply getting through work to get a grade.

How do teachers do this?

The first step is to give students ownership over their work. Support students. Really listening to what they have to say. Probing with questions and providing the opportunity to revise their answers. Let them fail (see the failure) and guide them with questions to find the right answers. And if you jump in too early with the answers, it cuts off that metacognitive disequilibrium that helps students realize they are wrong and develop the skills needed to find solutions.

Yes, to be patient and let them figure that out themselves. It’s really true. It also strengthens them for life too, not just in the classroom…

Agreed. Actually, I was reading an article in the NY times this month about college students. (My eldest is off to college next week), and found this interesting for parents, but also for educators, strengthening students to take challenges, fail, persevere succeed. I have it right here, can I read an excerpt?

Oh please do!

“Children “deserve to be strengthened, not strangled, by the fierceness of a parent’s love,” Ms. Lythcott-Haims wrote in a 2005 op-ed piece for The Chicago Tribune. If by adulthood they cannot fend for themselves, she asked, “shouldn’t we worry?”

..Troubled by the growing number of parents who not only stayed in near-constant cellphone contact with their offspring but also showed up to help them enroll in classes, contacted professors and met with advisers (illustrating the progression from helicopter to lawn mower parents, who go beyond hovering to clear obstacles out of their child’s way) …. robs children of opportunities to develop independence and resiliency, thereby crippling them emotionally later in life.”

Well then, the opposite question must be asked…. how do you set up a classroom culture for academic risk takers? Those who are extra comfortable?

First, show students you care about them. Realize you have individuals that like to learn different ways. Some kids hate being in the limelight, others live for it. Expecting each child to get up and introduce themselves can add stress. There is no one way to do this. No one way that works great for every student. Providing opportunities to have personalized learning helps.

Then how can you create something that works with different styles?

Well, we talk a lot about open ended projects. That can start on the first day of class. Set criteria.  Instead of stand up and tell the class about yourself …   It could be a project that is more open ended.

What would that look like?

An example would be generating criteria together.

Project:  Introduction

Goals:  Get to know each other, Incorporating Language Arts into the project,  Due tomorrow.

Having an open ended project permits students to meet the criteria and at the same time tailor it to their personal style. Possible examples, but certainly not limited to these could be a poem, posters, collages, videos, interviews, blogs, etc.

This is a nice way to build a culture. Day 2 could be revising projects for more details…  It makes the project more engaging when students can own it and by making it a work in progress takes stress off of the first share and reinforces a culture focused on revision and learning.

Gotcha. So if I had to sum up your perspective on culture, I would say 1. the first days are paramount to setting the tone for the year, 2. be intentional about creating a culture that encourages engagement and risk, being ok with failing, and 3. create long term projects that can allow different students at different paces to go as wide and as deep as will challenge them.

Wow! That’s perfect. Yep. I think that is a great overview.

Ok, until next time… have a great morning!

You too.

Additional Reading: Top Tips to Set a Positive Tone for the New Year

Top Tips to Set a Positive Tone for the New School Year
On / by Featured Blogger / in Novare

Top Tips to Set a Positive Tone for the New School Year

Originally posted on TeachHub.com by Janelle Cox

Around this time of year, classroom management is at the forefront of every teacher’s mind. You want to start the school year off fresh, with new expectations and a positive outlook. One aspect of a teacher’s job is to create a positive learning environment for their students; a place where students are not judged, and feel comfortable learning. Use the following tips to help you create a year of positivity.

Set the Tone from Day One

Begin the school year with a positive outlook. Do not complain to your colleagues about how many students you have in class or how you hate the grade you’re teaching. Don’t complain about trivial things like how you don’t have a refrigerator in your classroom, or how lunch is so late in the day. Start the year off on a positive note. Think to yourself how lucky you are to have a teaching job with the economy the way it is. Be grateful for your health and the health of your students. Start the year by greeting your students with open arms and a big smile.

Create a Prejudice-Free Zone

When students enter your classroom they must leave all prejudice aside, regardless of how they feel. Tell students it’s a requirement that once their feet step into your classroom, they are to leave all thoughts of stereotypes or prejudices at the door. Explain that in your classroom everyone feel safe and accepted for who they are. By implementing this plan ofclassroom management, it will set a positive tone for the rest of the school year.

The Power of Positivity

Create an atmosphere that would make it impossible for students to feel negative. Display positive quotes and messages around the room so that students are surrounded by optimism.  Create lessons and activities that incorporate positive messages. You’ll find that your students will learn to treat others with respect, as well as conduct themselves in a respectable manner.

Create an Outlet for Expression

Start the year off right by giving students the opportunity to express their needs or concerns in a positive way. Provide students with an anonymous box where they can address any concerns or thoughts they may have in a constructive fashion. Have students keep personal journals and provide writing activities that allow students to have a positive outlet of their expressions.

Build a Classroom Community

Creating a classroom community through positive ways of classroom management is a great way for students to positively relate to their peers. It gives children the confidence to make positive relationships, and provides them with the opportunity to have respectful interactions with their peers. During the few weeks of school, introduce students to their new classroom environment, and you will see they will slowly begin to feel a sense of community.

Make Personal Connections

One way to set a positive tone in your classroom is to create a personal relationship with each one of your students. Learn their names quickly and take the time to get to know each individual student. Plan an icebreaker or getting-to-know you activity where you will learn more about the child’s personal life. When you show your students that you are invested in getting to know them on a personal level, it will show that you value and respect them. This will help you in creating a positive learning environment in your classroom.

Make Discipline about Accountability

Oftentimes teaches focus on what students are doing wrong, and punish them without giving the student the opportunity to reflect on their behavior. Give students the time to cool off and think about what they have done. Then take the time to calmly discuss how they could have gone about the situation in a more positive way. Model the steps they should have taken to ensure the situation doesn’t occur in the future.

In order for all students to thrive it is essential that teachers create a positive learning environment — especially for the students who have suffered neglect, come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or are new to the school. Students thrive in an atmosphere where they are respected, feel safe, and are loved. When teachers create this kind of positive environment for their students, it is easier for each child to reach his/her full potential.

Fuel Creativity in the Classroom With Divergent Thinking
On / by Featured Blogger / in Novare

Fuel Creativity in the Classroom With Divergent Thinking

Originally Posted on Edutopia by Stacey Goodman

Recently, I showed a group of students in my high school art class a film called Ma Vie En Rose (My Life in Pink), about a seven-year-old boy named Ludovic who identifies as female. Ludovic has an active imagination, but is bullied by both adults and other kids who are unnerved by his desire to wear dresses and play with dolls. The film challenged my students to broaden their understanding of gender and identity and led to a discussion about ways in which our imaginations are limited when we are forced to be who we are not. It also reminded me of other examples in which character is forced to choose an identity, such as the movie Divergent, based on the popular trilogy of novels by Veronica Roth.

In Divergent, a dystopian future society has been divided into five factions based on perceived virtues. Young people are forced to choose a faction as a rite of passage to becoming an adult. Tris, the story’s female hero, knows that the price of choosing faction might mean being cut off from family and friends forever, and wonders if she truly belongs to any one faction at all. Like the character Ludovic in Ma Vie En Rose, Tris feels compelled to hide who she is, and knows that her behavior and ways of thinking might put herself and family at risk. Tris also knows that the most dangerous people in this society are considered those whose thinking is unrestricted and cannot be easily categorized; those people are called divergent.

Defining Divergent Thinking

The word divergent is partly defined as “tending to be different or develop in different directions.” Divergent thinking refers to the way the mind generates ideas beyond proscribed expectations and rote thinking — what is usually referred to “thinking outside the box,” and is often associated with creativity. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, requires one to restrict ideas to those that might be correct or the best solution to a problem.

Studies suggest that, as children, our divergence capability operate at a genius level, but that our ability to think divergently decreases dramatically as we become adults. Perhaps this is as it should be to a certain degree, and as teachers and adults we would be concerned if our middle and high school extended imaginative play into everyday life as would a four-year-old. Yet, many teachers at some point in their teaching career become frustrated by their students’ inability to think creatively, and others — as best exemplified bySir Ken Robinson’s famous Ted Talk, blame schooling itself for killing the imagination.

Divergent behavior is discouraged in school when students are scared to say or do the “wrong thing” in class. This is not surprising since schools often tolerate environments in which both teachers and peer groups keep in-check those who say and do things that are off-script, incorrect or inappropriate. This system of overt-convergence is enforced by a grading culture that systematically penalizes students for being “wrong,” and by allowing a school environment in which students tease those who exhibit non-normative behaviors. So, if divergent thinking is key to being creative, it becomes clear why our students find being open with their imaginations and divergent ideas inhibited.

It must be said that there are valid reasons why divergent thinking is discouraged in our classrooms. Divergent thinking treats all ideas equally regardless of context or applicability and disregards rubrics, criteria or any process for assessment. There are also situations when divergent behavior might actually cause physical harm such as in chemistry class or on the playground, and we expect our students to display good judgment — or convergent thinking strategies, so that can make correct decisions.

Teachers also might find divergent thinking and behavior a challenge when students ignore directions and rules, and if we are honest with ourselves, display personality traits that operate outside societal norms. These non-normative students, kids like the character Ludovic, who are transgender or who identify as atheists, for example, might be considered divergent in many of our communities. It is up to us as school administrators and teachers to ensure that good judgment extends beyond what might be considered current social norm and take into account what is best for our students’ spirits, humanity and ultimate sense of belonging.

In the Classroom: Strategies

Ideally, divergent and convergent thinking work in harmony with each other. The geneplore model diagrams this relation between divergent, generative thinking and evaluative, convergent thinking. Helping our students understand these strategies and how they compliment each other also encourages metacognitive learning so that students better understand their own thinking and creative abilities.

As an art teacher, my job is foster an environment for creative work, and I believe the following five strategies might be useful for non-art teachers as well.

Strategy #1: Reversing the Question/Answer Paradigm

Problem-based learning derived from an approach developed for training medical students in Canada but has since been used in K-12 education and other project-based learning environments. The premise of it is simple: Instead of asking questions to which there is a correct answer, ask students to create the problem. Students pose their problem by first tapping into their own wishes and goals that might have real-life results or be largely theoretical and in end in the modeling stages. Such questions such as “How can we grow vegetables without using pesticides?” And, “How can we feed the world’s population in a sustainable way?” Both encourage students to think divergently.

Strategy #2: Let the Music Play

In my classroom students serve as guest DJs and play their music while we are in the studio mode of our projects. I love the atmosphere that music creates. I also know how “tribal” adolescents often see each other in terms of musical taste, so I introduce the guest DJ at the beginning of the term as a strategy for setting norms in the classroom in order to create an environment in which judgment of each other is deferred, restrained, and more thoughtful. When students learn to defer judgment, the learning environment becomes open to other influences and ideas. When we are not afraid of being immediately judged by our taste, we are more likely to share ideas and opinions and therefore become less afraid to be divergent in our thinking and behavior.

Strategy #3: Inquiry-based Feedback

Instead of value-based feedback, inquiry coupled by deep observation encourages a more open-ended and in-depth approach for evaluating students’ work. Students are encouraged to minimize expressing their likes and dislikes, but to first spend at least two minutes silently observing, and then asking questions prefixed by phrases such as, “I noticed that . . .,” “why . . . ,” and “how . . .  .”

Strategy #4: Encourage Play & Manage Failure

When failure is framed by reflection and iteration and less by penalty and closure, we are more likely to loosen up in our efforts and be less afraid to make mistakes. Once we are less afraid to make mistakes, we open up the environment for play and experimentation. In my community art class, I prepare my students to take risks in their own projects by creating one-day exercises in which they engage with the public in a safe but unpredictable way. One example involves asking other students outside of class to have their photo taken. The scary aspect of being rejected is overcome, and students gain courage to open up and take risks. If rejection does occur, students have time to reflect and strategize in preparation for “scaling up” their ideas or projects.

Strategy #5: Using Art Strategies

I use a few art strategies such as collage, readymade, and pareidolia to open up the divergent thinking part of the students’ brains. Students become less concerned by exact interpretation and more open to poetry, metaphor, and dream imagery in general. Here is a description of each one:

  • Collage: When artfully done, brings disparate images together and finds relationships based on aesthetics, absurdity, or spatial arrangements and not their literal meaning or function in the real world. Once the images are de-coupled from their literal role, this opens up to non-linear thinking in general.
  • Readymade: This involves taking ordinary objects and through language, playful renaming of what they are or re-imagining of how they function. Artist Duchamp’s most famous example is taking a urinal, flipping it upside down and calling it Fountain. I ask my students to do the same with the ordinary objects around them, and using the material, shape, or alternative functions of the object, they re-imagine the object.
  • Pareidolia: A phenomenon of looking at an object and finding semblance of something else that is not really there, much like seeing the shape of a dragon in the clouds, or noticing that a three-prong power outlet looks like a face. I show the students the short animated film, The Deep by the artist Pes, in which ordinary objects are turned into mysterious sea creatures. I then ask them to take photos of examples of pareidolia around them. Students have fun re-interpreting the world.

Divergent thinking strategies offer the possibility of doing more than fostering a creative classroom environment; they can also help us better understand and appreciate difference in all areas of our students’ lives. Young people like the fictional characters Ludovic and Tris might then find a world that is more accepting, and we could only benefit from the creative possibilities when young people are allowed to be who they are.