Why Schools Need Sparks

Most educators agree that creativity is an essential part of a student’s development. Unfortunately, students often do not have opportunities to be creative. There is generally a larger focus on core subjects in schools. Teachers are also under tremendous pressure to meet certain learning goals. Genius Plaza offers a way for teachers to overcome many of these creative blocks through Sparks!

To be clear, to be “creative” is to be thoughtful, expressive, and imaginative, and that does not mean creativity is solely related to the arts. In fact, creativity can lend to productivity and growth in all subject areas if it is allowed. One reason teachers are hesitant to try activities and strategies that promote creative thinking is that it moves away from structure in the classroom and may move towards behavior problems and loss of valuable instructional time. Perhaps when students are driven to problem solving in the context of the subject, nothing is truly lost.

What is a Spark?

So what is a Spark, and what does it have to do with creativity? At Genius Plaza, a Spark is a creation tool for students. They can write their own vocabulary sets, which includes images and sentences, thus allowing them to express terms in ways that are meaningful to them. A worksheet is another creation tool for students where they can do more than ask their own questions. They can also share experiments for others to try or activities they tried in order to solve a

problem. Another Spark tool that students really seem to enjoy are videos. Students can record videos that explore, rather than explain, a topic. Students bring you into their world, their reality through videos.

An ebook is another creation tool unlike typical digital books. It provides the student a place to express their thoughts related to a topic, organize their thoughts, and bring them to life through the ebook. It also serves as a space for storytelling and for reflection on a topic. Students can write from any perspective using an ebook, and of course, the images only strengthen the message a student is attempting to communicate.

Finally, there are the games. Who doesn’t love games? There are five different game tools students can use to create their own challenging adventures for other students to play. Students will have to think of problems they want gamers to solve and then create the solutions as they create the games.

Why Spark?

The benefits of a Spark go beyond simply creating it. For teachers, Sparks allow creativity to happen in the classroom and at home for both the individual student and for groups of students, allowing collaboration. Of course, group work opens the door for students to develop and strengthen other skills that can only be done through collaboration. These are the same skills that students will be expected to practice daily throughout college and their eventual careers.

Sparks allow teachers to set goals for students but leave ample room for students to be expressive. For example, high school students recently participated in a Spark contest for one of the Genius Careers programs. Students learned about microbiologist Glenda Castro and then created ebooks. The teacher set the minimum number of pages and amount of text for each page, but students had the freedom to choose their perspective. Some described how their personal experiences related to the journey of Glenda Castro into her career as a microbiologist. Many wrote about what it takes to become a microbiologist and the daily life as a microbiologist. Another students simply wrote a reflection that shared personal feelings toward the career.

The possibilities are endless with a Spark. It provides a way for teachers to infuse technology in the classroom as well as dive into their course topics. Simultaneously, it gives students opportunities to express themselves. A Spark is not only a creation but an embodiment of creativity for students.

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