For nearly two decades, I have spent a day a week (when I am not away on book or lecture tours) teaching creative writing to school children in economically disadvantaged areas. For nearly a decade I even served on the National Commission of UNESCO. There is plenty of evidence that teaching creativity and curiosity help STEM performance. Why does creativity help you understand how a cell works or figure out math solutions?
Most children think science is a collection of facts they need to memorize and in these days of the internet where facts (and fake news) are easily accessible, it is easy to miss the reason for the importance of scientific thought. Even most of my colleagues in medicine have become siloed within specialties and more emphasis is placed on Medicare-billing than dreaming up answers to challenges we encounter in experiments or labs. This is because most of knowledge regarding anatomy and physiology is learned in medical school, and later accessing peer-reviewed journals and guidelines reveal new “facts”. All this leaves little room for the process of creative learning outside (and sometimes even within) academia.
Science should be about curiosity, observing and of gathering information about everything in nature or life. That’s why schools have science and math fairs – to help develop the curiosity to seek out solutions or understand why things happen.
Last week I was at Henderson North School in Auckland. It is a low-decile primary school in Auckland (here schools are ranked by deciles 1-10 relative to degrees of affluence; this school was ranked decile 3). I had taken along a picture book, “The Boy Who Lost his Underpants” and taught the class how to craft stories using the 3 C’s: (setting) context, (developing) characters and (resolving) conflict and applying this to science and life in general. We had a good fun morning.
When I left, I had a task for them. Let’s re-work Humpty Dumpty, the fairy tale I said … and create additional verses for this nursery rhyme using the 3 C’s. A week later the class sent me many different versions created by different students. I reckon this (pictured) is the best Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme ever. Don’t you agree?