Creativity: Nature or nurture? - Education Matters Magazine
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Creativity: Nature or nurture?

Nüdel Kart

Over the past 20 years creativity has become an increasingly important skill, and education systems around the world are trying hard to integrate it into the curriculum. But it’s been challenging to put research into practice, according to educator and Nüdel Kart founder, Marcus Veerman.

Veerman has been working with creativity researcher and consultant Dr Tim Patston to demystify creativity and communicate the benefits of teaching these skills to students.

Dr Patston’s research found that certain creativity attitudes, when combined, were a better predictor of Year 12 scores than conscientiousness.

“In other words, students who had specific attitudes, skills, and attributes of creativity did better than students who just worked hard,” says Veerman.

“Perhaps of more importance is that these elements of creativity are not gifts bestowed at birth to some, but can be taught and developed in the classroom from the early years of school to all students so everyone can reap the benefits.”

Dr Patston has identified three main factors required for creativity to thrive which are the right Attitudes, Processes and Environment. Veerman refers to this as the APE factor. It’s this APE factor that makes us humans truly unique and so incredible.

“This really is a gamechanger for teachers who know creativity is essential but lack a road map to implement it in the school environment,” says Veerman.

For Veerman, the third factor, the environment, is the area that has consumed him for the last three years.

He says, if students are put in a classic classroom environment, it will often hinder their creative response, even if the students’ attitudes and processes are good. The three factors all need to work in harmony.

To equip teachers with the tools to teach creativity, Veerman’s Nüdel Kart creates an instant environment for students to practice and demonstrate those attitudes and processes.

Teachers can then observe, and after that, teach the students the attitudes they need to further develop.

“Teachers lead the way through a collaborative and genuine, two-way dialogue with the students to help them build the skills,” he says.

“We need to create authentic open-ended challenges, or even better, let the children develop their own. Both these approaches help students to build their creativity.”

Dr Patston says although teachers have a conceptual understanding of creativity, and believe that it is important, they often lack the bridge which will enable them to include it in their everyday teaching programs and assessments.

“An open-ended Nüdel Kart session doesn’t have a lot of rules. This lack of structure necessitates that children practice these higher order thinking skills like leadership, self-regulation, negotiation, conflict resolution, all critical for success in this century,” Veerman says.

“Instead of the teachers guiding the classes and themes, by using the Nüdel Kart, tasks can be created by the students and will help to cover many of the skills that have been traditionally hard to teach in a rigid classroom environment. This kind of student engagement can be combined with the curriculum to create a deeply engaging holistic learning environment with higher levels of wellbeing.”

With the help of Belgian STEM toy designer, Emma Ribbens, Veerman co-designed the shopping trolley sized kart for up to 30 children. They then rigorously tested it around the world with wealthy private schools all the way to Syrian refugee camp schools.

“We found the same results – the kart creates a highly stimulating, mobile learning space that trusts a child’s unstoppable urge to learn through exploration, experimentation, and imagination,” he says.

Winner of two Australian Good design awards, the Nüdel Kart is a deconstructable, mobile kart that explodes into a research-backed loose parts space, with 340 pieces, that children can explore with billions of different combinations.

“On top of this we worked really hard with teachers to ensure the kart wasn’t a burden. It is mobile and compact for storage and most importantly, simple to pack up for a tired, time-poor teacher,” Veerman explains.

Compared to most construction and STEM toys where there is an obvious order and way to do things, Veerman designed the kart with a combination of order and some deliberate chaos thrown in.

Following the successful launch of the Nüdel Kart, Playground Ideas has launched the Nüdel Rover, a smaller, more transportable and more affordable version of the original kart.

For smaller groups of up to eight children.

Veerman says the Rover was specifically designed to have an additional therapeutic aspect to it.

“It is of course, designed for educators, but this new size is also perfect for educational occupational therapists, social workers and other allied health specialists to use with students for social skills development and other lagging skills. The materials and quality are the same, it is just smaller in size with a focus on health and wellbeing as well as learning,” he says.

For 12 years, the charity Playground Ideas has supported over 2.5 million children in 143 countries to have more time to express themselves freely and enhance their creativity skills to succeed in the future through play.

Nüdel Kart is its new chapter to support learning and development for this century. 

“Education systems are on the way to a creativity revolution, and Nüdel Kart provides teachers with the environment to continue that journey,” says Veerman.

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