Critical and Creative Thinking
Critical Thinking Skills: How Children Benefit from Advancing these Essential Skills
Our students learn to build analytical, critical thinking skills through purposeful evaluation of information. They seek primary sources, evaluate the influence of historical or situational context on outcomes, consider multiple perspectives on issues and challenge their own assumptions.
Their active curiosity deepens their subject matter knowledge, sharpens their critical thinking skills and enables students to develop an informed point of view. Rather than memorizing information, they understand and can apply their knowledge with confidence.
Westward Expansion Journaling
Teachers provide a layered learning approach to help students climb the winding road to higher level critical thinking. History teacher Sig Orne, ’80, shares a summary of an 8th grade project that expands critical thinking and empathy while researching the human experience of Westward Expansion. The American Dream, a year-long theme, is intertwined throughout this assignment.
“Westward Expansion kicks off with assigned summer reading—a collection of primary source journals from the Oregon Trail. We begin the year with discussions and research about The American Dream that culminate with a round table seminar. Conversations about Westward Expansion emerge as a step toward attaining the American Dream—including whether that dream is really attainable."
Throughout the project, 8th grade historians recognize that history is the story of real people, making real decisions, and the outcomes those decisions trigger.
Creative Thinking: Why We Invest in Creative Thinking Skills
Tower students learn to evaluate current processes, identify opportunities to improve an outcome or experience, and create new, innovative solutions. Students often work in collaborative learning groups which facilitate diverse idea exchange, analysis, iteration and ultimately the creation of novel solutions.
Colleen Parenteau, science teacher and permaculture lead at Tower designed a project for her 6th grade students. Armed with knowledge of permaculture—the design of agricultural ecosystems that prioritize diversity and resilience of natural ecosystems—students are redesigning garden spaces on campus to create stable, productive fruit and vegetable gardens, where invasive species once thrived.
Students began interviewing the people who use the spaces to learn what features would be most appreciated. They proposed a fruit orchard in one location and a pollinator garden in a second location. Because native bees are more efficient pollinators for fruits and vegetables, perennials will be selected that best welcome those productive pollinators.
They are currently designing the gardens, incorporating data gathered from solar pathfinders and input from clients (the clients, in this case, are 2nd grade students and our Head of School). Designs for the orchard and pollinator gardens will be presented, feedback incorporated and new gardens will be planted.
The permaculture project will wrap up with a public webinar, co-hosted by students, discussing how to design gardens for growing food in harmony with nature.
Mark Roberge, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School, teaches an MBA course called, The Start-Up Bootcamp. Mr. Roberge visited Tower's 5th grade as a guest lecturer and offered a mini Start-Up Bootcamp class. He shared his enthusiasm for innovation and encouraged students to think in new ways about existing products and services, and identify the need for entirely new ones.
He challenged students to think creatively, to collaborate on solutions, and present their idea's merit to investors. Among their inventions: a mouth guard that flossed all of your teeth at once, and multi-flavored lollipops that healed cavities.
Working quickly in team structures helped them build skills in negotiation, critical thinking, creative thinking and consensus-building.