Creativity is a subjective thing, usually considered an inherent trait and one most often associated with "soft" school subjects such as music and art class. You either have creativity or you don't, right? But is that really true? Can kids in particular be taught how to be more creative and can that happen in science class? I happen to think so and here's why.
Rote Learning Stifles Creativity
In the public school environment, creative answers and solutions are often not appreciated. And it's no wonder with all the red tape and national requirements that teachers face these days. They are more worried about getting their kids to pass standards tests than encouraging them to think about new ways to approach old problems. Fortunately, as a homeschool teacher, you can get past those barriers to creativity.
The biggest obstacle to promoting creativity in the classroom is rote learning - asking your kids to simply memorize facts out of context. There's nothing creative about that type of learning and it can actually be detrimental in the way it discourages kids from thinking outside the box or making decisions on their own.
Let's look at an example. If you are teaching astronomy this semester, you might be studying the planets in our solar system which, of course, revolve around our sun. That's a fact - but a pretty boring one. Your kids might be memorizing the names and orders of all those planets, again a fact but not one that gets kids excited. And learning those random facts doesn't result in good retention because they aren't associated with things within the child's environment.
Exploration Promotes Creativity
No matter what subject you are teaching in the home classroom, it can involve creative learning if you help them explore new knowledge while allowing mistakes to be made. Kids are much more likely to become creative when presented with "what if" questions without obvious answers.
In the above example about teaching astronomy, an easy way to get creative is to ask students to create a model of the solar system while talking about color choices based on what each planet's atmosphere is like. While you're at it, have your kids explore why or why not human beings might be able to one day live on other planets. Ask them about the elements necessary to support life and discuss which planets are most likely to contain those elements. There was a recent scientific discovery of a new planet in the Alpha Centauri system closes to our own which is very similar in size to Earth. Exploring science news such as this opens the door to creative exploration.
When it comes to teaching science, experimentation should be a major aspect of the curriculum. And there are few things better at promoting creativity than the ability to form hypotheses and then perform experiments to find out whether they are supported or found false. The less knowledge a child has at his disposal, the more likely those hypotheses are to be outlandish, but that's okay. He can hone his knowledge based on facts about the natural world as he progresses through the basics of science. Thus, making mistakes is itself an integral part of creativity because it leads to exploration of how to get it right next time.
Giving kids the answers to every problem and asking them to memorize those facts is one way to teach science, but a more effective way that also promotes creativity is by allowing them to explore knowledge. Help them get excited about the wonders of the natural world and they are sure to think of all sorts of fantastic new ideas. Creativity can be taught as long as the homeschool classroom encourages it.