The Sciencenter's Quarterly Education Newsletter
Creative Thinking at Every Stage
Inspiring Creativity
How many times do you find yourself in an unexpected situation and realize that you need to think outside of the box to change the outcome? Creativity is a skill that people of all ages use daily. At the Sciencenter, we are constantly exploring the creative problem solving process; looking for ways to incorporate it in our programs and on the museum floor. Applying this type of creativity is what drives engineers and other scientists to do the work they do and is how they stay innovative. But how do you inspire children to tap into, and develop this skill?

According to research from The Center for Childhood Creativity , a division of the Bay Area Discovery Museum, "children need time to immerse themselves in creative activities, a place that feels safe to express ideas that are unconventional, and encouragement to explore the unknown" to develop strong creative thinking skills.

When you observe your children playing, or play along with them, you are engaging in the process of creativity. While building structures in the Big Blue Block area at the Sciencenter, families and children imagine the different types of creations they can build using the different types of blocks. Adults can offer opportunities for creative thinking by asking questions like, "Can you build a store? What would it sell?".

The next time you visit the Reinvention Station at the Sciencenter, challenge the children you are with to create a new tool that will solve a daily problem. Encourage them to take a moment to brainstorm ideas, then create and test them, and recognize that solutions can take time to create. The process of thinking creatively is a skill that continues to develop and, like a muscle, needs to be used to become stronger.
Science for All Ages
 How children learn about the world around them
Early Explorers (ages 0 - 5)
Creative Play
Children begin developing their creativity at a very young age. Adults can support this development through play. According to the  Head Start Early Learning Outcome Framework , a cognitive development goal for young children is to use objects or symbols to represent something else. Between the ages of 8 to 18 months, children use toy objects by mimicking how they are used by adults, such as cooking in a pretend kitchen. Between the ages of 16 to 36 months, their creativity expands to using objects and symbols to represent different objects in pretend play. For example, a child might move a block around the floor like a car, or hold it to their ear like a telephone. At the Sciencenter, we promote creativity through open-ended exploration of various sensory materials, such as slime or playdough.

Try this! You can support creative play at home with your children using some of these ideas from PBS .
Young Scientists (ages 5 - 11)
Engineering Creativity
Informal educational institutions play a vital role in providing STEM education for early elementary age students (grades K – 2). According to research , “STEM educational experiences – particularly when designed to foster creativity, collaboration, and persistence lead to greater problem-solving skills and better equip young people for the dynamic world they will face after graduation."

Using open-ended prompts, the Sciencenter's field trip program and summer camp sessions promote the development of creative problem solving year-round. At Power the Future field trips, students work together in small groups to design and test windmills while Sciencenter educators support the creative process by posing open-ended questions. Summer camp counselors use guided play to encourage creative thinking as campers engineer water rockets, boats, catapults, and roller coasters. Through these experiences, kids learn to trust their observations and problem-solving instincts.

Try this! At your next visit to the Sciencenter, let your child's creativity take the lead in the Reinvention Station. While your child gathers materials such as cardboard tubes, popsicle sticks, and fabric scraps, ask open-ended questions like "can you build something that moves?" to encourage interpretation and invention.
Future Science Leaders (ages 11 - 14)
Giving it Time
Thinking creatively is a valuable skill for developing something new, but the process is often rushed. Allowing kids time to think through their ideas and distill them into a realistic goal is a long and challenging process, but one worth exploring. Each year, our middle school Future Science Leaders (FSL) investigate different areas of STEM and decide how to best communicate what they have learned to museum guests. Whether they decide to make a how-to video, develop a hands-on activity, or create an exhibit prototype, FSL members are given ample time to brainstorm ideas and think of creative solutions for sharing science content with the public.Even after initial goals are determined, the brainstorming process continues as the FSL create, test, modify, and re-test their projects.

Try this! Using questions from PBS Kids - Design Squad, adults and educators can encourage continued creative thinking and better engage kids in the brainstorming process.

During our summer Future Science Leader Counselor-in-Training+ (FSL CIT+ ) program, participants have an opportunity to put their creativity to work while designing and developing ideas for new mini-golf obstacles and hands-on activities.
CESL Spotlight
Collaborative for Early Science Learning:
A Sciencenter-led partnership of museum professionals working with Head Start
One of our primary goals during Head Start professional development sessions and family engagement workshops is to show educators, parents, and caregivers that science does not have to feel intimidating. Science is all around us and can be demonstrated using almost anything – you just need to be creative.

Educators often do not have the budget to buy specialized materials. At Head Start professional development workshops, we demonstrate how teachers can be creative with the resources they already have. For example, a preschool classroom is full of supplies like blocks, plastic animals, paper, and water. If a teacher is interested in conducting a lesson about measuring but does not have access to rulers, students can measure items using blocks to practice this science process skill. Is the desk 2, 3, or 5 blocks tall?

Another simple way to be resourceful is by taking advantage of outdoor spaces. Educators, parents, caregivers, and children can practice science process skills with a simple walk through the park or playground. Encourage children to make observations about the leaves or rocks that they see. Are they round? Do they have rough edges? What color are they? As they make observations, children learn about the world around them. Outdoor exploration also offers an opportunity to practice making predictions. Have your kids collect different items from nature and ask whether they think those items will sink or float in water. Test their predictions with something as simple as a bucket filled with water.

Here are some other creative ways to take advantage of everyday materials and outdoor spaces to encourage science exploration in young learners.
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