QUESTION: How do you get an active group of middle schoolers engaged in the art room?
ANSWER: Follow the simple creative problem solving steps below.
Step #1: Find out what they like. In this example, it is a mini skateboard.
Step #2: First discussion is led by the teacher and the statement of the problem is revealed to the students: Each student will design a mini skateboard park. (You may prefer teams, but my students were excited about individually taking them home.) They will know a lot about this topic already. Listen. Show them how to brainstorm on the white board or on slips of recycled paper.
Step #3: The students begin researching what is already out there, finding out where they are going with the problem, and sharing these findings with each other. Mini presentations are made that are very informal with some visuals to share to facilitate discussions.
Step #4: Have them continue discussing, brainstorming, analyzing, and sketching out the possibilities and potential solutions. These are preliminary ideas with no measuring.
Step #5: Students will then choose their best ideas and thoughts, creating a more formal sketched design.
Step #6: Students will now draw their chosen favorite design to scale. Remember the construction advice, “measure twice, cut once”. I give each student an old art room drawing board measuring 18″x 24″ to use as a base, so the final design was drawn on a piece of paper this size. Students could also use recycled corrugated cardboard for the base.
Step #7: As a class, raid the school’s recycled cardboard box bin.They love this adventure. Getting out of the room for a bit is also good exercise for the brain. Take them out to dumpster dive! Enjoy the smiles and increased enthusiasm.
Step #8: Time to build! There will be lots of questioning, measuring, cutting, mistake making, fixing, hot gluing, comparing, changing, self-regulating, discussing, more dumpster diving, and everything that goes with creating going on. They will ask for all that stuff you have been collecting over the years and will finally use. An almost guaranteed request for spray paint will happen. It will also be noisy as they bring in their mini skateboards to school or use your provided ones to test their designs. The teacher’s job is listening, advising, and watching. Don’t forget the safety talk before they build. Cutting knives and hot glue can hurt.
Step #9: Final presentations of designs. Let them really enjoy the end of the creative process and share their design decisions, what worked and didn’t work, and how they can use the actual skateboard on their park design with the rest of the class. Quite a few of my students also made a second park, with an even more improved design, while they waited for the others to finish. They were motivated and got faster with the new ideas and skills generated in the creative problem solving process. What a great evaluation and re-evaluation moment for them all.