Think Outside the Box

Julie Schlossinger, Head of Lower School
Recently, several teachers assigned a “Think Outside the Box Thursday” exercise for their students upon arrival to the classroom. When I dropped into the classrooms, hearing what each student created out of two simple lines on a blank piece of paper confirmed that our teachers continue to provide unique ways for our students to develop further problem-solving and creativity skills. Those skills have been identified as having a significant impact on college achievement and future work success.
 
Much research has been conducted on what skills, work habits, and mindsets contribute to career success. Michael Boyles, from Harvard Business School, notes that creative problem-solving “encourages exploring open-ended solutions” and developing new perspectives. His research found that those with the skills to find innovative solutions to complex problems often overcome unforeseen challenges and solve unconventional problems in their work settings. This includes academic settings like college. Additionally, creative problem-solving sparks innovative ideas, something desired in almost all workplaces.  
At Renbrook, our Lower School students have multiple daily opportunities to grow their creativity and problem-solving skills. This occurs in a variety of content areas, such as:
  • STEAM class where they are tasked with engineering a windmill
  • writing class when they are asked to rewrite the ending of a story
  • math class when they solve complex, multi-steps word problems
  • social studies when they assume the role of a United Nations world leader and are tasked with coming up with a plan that tackles one of the Global Goals
  • recess when they respond to a classmate during a conflict
This list could go on and on. What’s important here is the variety of settings and tasks that provide many opportunities for developing creative problem-solving. Undoubtedly, their assignments become more sophisticated as the students move through the grades. 
Attached is a short video compilation of second and third-grade students sharing their “Think Outside the box Thursday” drawings. You will notice the difference between the second-grade ideas and the third-graders’ drawings. While these may seem simple, there is much at play here. Creative problem-solving involves other cognitive processes such as abstraction, decision-making, inference, analysis, and synthesis of basic background knowledge and new ideas. 
You can always do this at home to support your child’s skill development in these areas. For instance, you could choose a random object from around the house, like an oven mitt at dinner, and each family member gets a turn identifying that object as something else. For example, if I were handed the oven mitt, I would hold it up and say, “This is not an oven mitt; it is a hockey glove.” A simple activity stretches our minds in ways we don’t even realize.
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