Fostering creativity in schools through engaged learning

Julia Dalman (@JuliaDalman, NU Edmonton alum) has been coordinating a Global Cafe to connect Edmonton high school students. They have been working towards making the Global Cafe into a physical hub and about 60 volunteers have signed up to participate from groups including the Parkland Institute, Make Poverty History and the Council of Canadians. The project was recently featured in the Globe and Mail article, “How schools are fostering creativity by handing control to students,” by Erin Millar, June 20, 2012.

About the project:

The idea for the Global Café was innovated after a passionate panel discussion regarding the future of education and how youth can become more engaged in their communities. The Global Café pilot project is part of a larger movement within the school for what educational reform could look like. Right now we have students who are taking both Math and Physics and unable to recognize the correlation of problem solving skills between the two courses. Our students are missing the critical connections between courses in a curriculum that is designed to have overlap between subjects. There are different ways of delivering curriculum that could achieve deeper learning and meaning for these students. We do not have to standardize the learning experiences of our youth the way we standardize their exams. Students can have more agency in the ways they learn, and JasperPlace High School innovates the ways this can be accomplished. Read more >>

From the article:

Ms. Dalman’s first task was to launch Global Cafe, a student-run café on school grounds, in an effort to create a space at school that students truly owned. “Students control the profits from the café,” she said. “They can put the money towards different projects proposed by students and teachers. It gives them a voice in the direction of the school.”

As soon as Ms. Dalman began soliciting ideas from students for how to run the café, she was overwhelmed by their creativity. “They don’t see barriers. Their ideas are huge. They are so creative,” she said. For example, the students decided to run the café on a zero waste model, an ambitious and challenging goal.

While Ms. Dalman acts as a guide for the Global Cafe, even the smallest details are up to the students. They were in charge of picking furniture. When the students asked which brand of coffee they should serve, they were told to research the politics and ethics of coffee and make up their own minds.

The key to unlocking this creativity was to empower the students to question. “We assume that kids are naturally creative and that they know how to question the status quo. And they are not,” said Ms. Stiles. “By the time we get them in high school they are just looking for marks, and we taught them to be like that.”

Read the full article >>