Unleash the creativity of children for a brighter future
Angelina Lo-Chui, founder of CreativeKids and IMCreative
Hong Kong and the world are facing unprecedented challenges. Angelina Lo-Chui (Angie), Founder of CreativeKids and IMCreative, believes that design thinking in education plays a vital role in the future development of the city. As she offers insights into the importance of design thinking to nurture children’s creative problem-solving skills, she also points out how teachers and parents could adjust their roles and expectations.
How to unleash the creativity of children for a brighter future?
Angelina Lo-Chui (Angie) established her art studio about three decades ago, and soon discovered that something important was missing in the teaching and learning process. While children could learn to ask questions through art, they could also learn to answer through design. Recognising that design thinking and creative problem-solving skills would be crucial for the new generation, she made design thinking an integral part of the CreativeKids programme.
CreativeKids – Where Art Meets Design
“Art is a process in which the creators find their own selves by asking questions and presenting the answers in an aesthetic way. Meanwhile, design focuses on responding to an identified problem and aims to improve the quality of life.” With this in mind, Angie founded CreativeKids and introduced the concept of design thinking as a pedagogy that combines art and design. This unique approach nurtures children’s sensibility and rationality and encourages them to solve problems empathetically through creativity and innovation.
Why is design thinking a key element of the programme?
Angie believes adults’ responsibility is to prepare children for the ever-changing world. Design thinking can help achieve this goal by inspiring the little ones to observe peoples’ needs and think of possible solutions. Through design education, creativity development has an added dimension: a social dimension of purposeful and constructive creativity. Angie believes that creative character and creative competence are equally important. Creative collaboration is more meaningful than competition.
“Hong Kong is experiencing unprecedented changes socially and politically. Children cannot be excluded from a world they are inheriting. Through design thinking, children get involved in understanding what is happening in the society around them in ways appropriate to their developmental stages. Children learn to identify problems, think creatively and critically when they participate in solving problems. They will no longer be passive learners. Children can initiate questions. Their curiosity and sensory discovery often allow them to contribute fresh angles missed out by adults. Adults tend to be inhibited in creativity through years of conformity to standard answers and social norms.” This is why CreativeKids has been advocating the essential role of design thinking in the development of children.
The “Playful Public Design by Children” project was an example of the application of design thinking in which children identified and responded to the user needs in Shing Mun Country Park. They had to exercise empathy to consider the needs of both human beings and the animals. During the field trip, children accompanied by their parents observed, raised questions and identified potential problems based on the guidelines provided, and then explored possible solutions.
The project offers interesting insights into children’s concepts of a country park. For example, many children could not tell the difference between theme parks, city parks and country parks,. They tended to focus on the lack of recreational facilities and the relationship between monkeys and human beings. The project also underlines the roles of parents and teachers in developing design thinking in education. Adults, by keeping an open mind, could develop their own creativity with the children in reciprocal ways. Adults could engage children in multi-angle analysis by including children’s viewpoints in brainstorming or creative discussions.
The Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA) recently announced that the “Playful Public Design by Children” project was selected to represent Hong Kong in the Golden Cubes Award 2020 (International level) organised by the International Union of Architects (UIA).
Equip Future Leaders with Creative Problem-Solving Mindset
Traditionally children are excluded from solving problems in the adult world. Design thinking allows children to participate in hypothetical or real-life problem-solving. The process is beneficial to developing leadership and supporting children’s agency as they learn to make purposeful choices and decisions. Here are Angie’s suggestions for educators and parents who want to make the most of design thinking.
- Educators need to practice design thinking themselves. Once convinced, they might be able to practice it in their teaching. Design thinking is not some procedures or programs to be taught as a single or separate subject. Educators could ‘integrate’ design thinking in the pedagogy in a cross-curricular way, be it in history, natural science, social sciences, and visual art
- Switch roles. Teachers do not have to own all the answers. They do not have to be the authority figures to pass out problems for students to guess the standard answers. They could facilitate children to make sensible choices among the countless information accessible online. Children could initiate questions, find problems and solutions to needs. Children could develop the proactive role as researchers, designers and change-makers
- Form new habits of thinking and learning:
- INQUIRE: Learn and teach by asking questions to identify problems and needs
- IDEATE: Based on the questions, think of possible ideas to solve problems/needs
- IMPROVISE: Allow children to visualise and develop their ideas in 2D or 3D forms and with different materials in an intuitive way.
- Rethink review family values. Focus on the process instead of only the results.
- Parents could become inquirers too and guide their children to think by asking questions. Consider ways to allow children’s participation in problem-solving process that is appropriate to their ages.
- Trust your children. As creativity is inborn and has no shortcut, parents could allow room for their children to learn through exploring. Listening and paying attention to children’s ideas could be the fuel they need to build their creative confidence.
Here is Angie’s last piece of advice to parents and educators: “Life is a series of choices. Design thinking allows children to create options in finding the best solutions to problems, children learn to make judgement by balancing subjective likes and dislikes with rational choices. Parents and educators could provide a non-judgemental environment for children to rehearse the consequences of their choices.”