This past week was Engineers Week, which celebrates how engineers make a difference by creating innovations and encourages children to think like engineers. Engineering simply means that we look at problems and try to solve them using creative thinking. Creative problem solving is a much needed skill in today’s world, and every area of our curriculum uses this skill. Students use scientific order, research innovations in history, write and draw their findings, designs, and directions, and find the mathematical principles and patterns to execute their ideas. It’s important to cultivate creative thinking in our children even when they’re not at school, and there are plenty of easy and inexpensive ways to do this at home.
Be willing to try new things. It’s helpful to expose your children to new kinds of experiences, art and design styles, food, books and music. Asking our children to try a “bite” of something new exposes them to different mediums for inspiration and they may find they like something they didn’t think they would like. It also gives us the opportunity to show them how to express why they like or don’t like something.
Go outside. Many ideas come to us through playing outside, and we can take a look at nature to see how God made things work. Using inspiration from nature has given us many innovations in engineering. Plus, adding fresh air and physical activity gives us a much needed break from all of our screen time, and we can have discussions about how God has engineered our world.
Create and build with items you already have or can find for free. Studies show that giving yourself limitations enhances creative thinking. Spaghetti noodles and marshmallows work just as well as Lego bricks for building structures. Stack Cheerios and see what creations you can make with your food. Don’t be afraid to make some messes. Afterwards, we can teach our children personal responsibility in using our resources wisely and in cleaning up.
Take things apart and put them back together. Allow your children to explore the world around them and how things work by taking them apart and examining the pieces. Finding out how things already work enhances creative problem solving and allows your child to ask questions about how to make similar objects or to improve on current objects.
Ask questions. Using the principles of the scientific order, ask what if questions and hypothesize about outcomes. Experiment with building and use trial and error, but encourage your child not to criticize himself or herself personally. Ask how something that already exists can be made better or more efficient. Ask how or if they can change their own creations in size, shape, color or anything else. Research innovations throughout history. Then write it all down. Keep an engineering journal to write and doodle designs, questions, hypothesis and outcomes.
It’s not hard to see that engineering and creative thinking are integrated in so many areas of academic and social education. At Covenant, this kind of thinking and cross-curricular integration is so much a part of how we do things regularly. Even our literacy night activities include innovating, engineering, reading, writing, science, history, math, the arts and Bible. Our goal is to partner with families to teach important life skills like creative problem solving through a Biblical worldview so their children are educated and equipped for life beyond school, no matter what career field they choose. Try some of these ideas at home, and then stop in for a tour to check out how we’re integrating creative thinking and engineering skills into our classes.
Rebekah Buchanan is the theater department director at Covenant Christian Academy and can be reached at rebekah firstname.lastname@example.org..