STEM/STEAM: Teaching A Creative Problem-Solving Process

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Continuing the discussion from yesterday's post, "STEM/STEAM: Can we add one more letter?"

Most adults agree that creativity is important.  Adobe’s “State of Create” study back in April of 2012 provided many interesting insights including these two tidbits:

1. Unlocking creative potential is seen as key to economic and societal growth

2. Only 1 in 4 people feel that they’re living up to their creative potential

The Extraordinaires Design StudioOur industry has the ability to impact that both of these tidbits through the development of products that encourage creative thinking.  Out of the products I ran across at Toy Fair there’s only one that really sticks out as a forerunner in making creativity, problem solving, and invention it’s main foci:  The Extraordinaires Design Studio from The Creativity Hub.  You can argue that it fits into the “A is for Art” portion of the STEAM trend because it’s got some art and design to it, but it also has a strong emphasis on creative problem solving and invention. The reason it really stood out is that it teaches a process, so instead of thinking that all ideas just pop into your head fully formed, The Extraordinaires Design Studio helps guide the child through multiple steps.  Start with a character (vampire) and an object they want (remote control) and then use the Research, Design, and Improve decks to help guide you through your thinking process.  So just as a science or engineering kit is teaching a child how to effectively assemble an experiment or model, this is teaching them how to creatively problem solve – something we desperately need.

Why is a product like this so important to the STEM/STEAM trend?  Think about it this way: Creative ideas without the know-how gives us more of the “Back to the Future hover board” kind of products (good idea, doesn’t work), whereas the know-how without creative thinking or problem solving skills gives us products that aren’t very strong or exciting.  One without the other is an incomplete package.

If we are looking to the STEM/STEAM trend to help encourage future generations to be innovative and economic leaders through strong science, technology, engineering, and math skills, we cannot forget about creative thinking and problem solving, as they are integral to innovation.   Hopefully, next Toy Fair I will see a large influx of toys and games that encourage how to creative think and problem solve to compliment the STEM/STEAM products we saw so many of this year. 

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