What does a yellow elephant, a furry frog, and a rubber duck have in common? Read on to find the answer!
Many studies have shown that when children are given the chance to explore, be creative, co-create, and have fun, they become more engaged in learning. And yet, the "joy factor" in education is often underrated or compartmentalised into scheduled lunch breaks, extracurricular activities, or even just after school hours.
But what if, instead of allowing children to do something fun only if they behave well, what if we flipped that - and let fun be the very thing that drives the learning process? How can we make education enjoyable and engage students in today’s world?
To explore this topic, a host of leading educationists, creatives, teachers, parents, and students converged digitally on the 29th of May 2021, at Leaps of Knowledge: Episode E - Enjoy What You Do and Who You Do It With. Leaps: Episode E featured the premiere of an engaging documentary-style episode with insightful perspectives on the topic, two interactive Masterclasses by icons of Malaysian Theatre and practitioners of Design Thinking, as well as a fun networking session for participants to exchange ideas and experience joy!
“I really liked when we shared our problems and thought about the solutions. We got to hear different opinions from students, teachers, as well as parents.” - Evelyn Wan, Educator, Malaysia
“The Masterclasses were obviously awesome, but the camaraderie in the comments and the connections happening were also extremely great. Loved being a part of this space!” - Prachipallavi Samal, Educator, India
“Education has a common language across the globe and the HEART series is a wonderful way of looking at education and professionally growing as a teacher. Wonderful ideas are shared.” - Nutan Iyer, Educator, India
Here are 5 wonderful ideas from Leaps: Episode E.
Von Wong, an artist and activist whose work has garnered over 100 million views, shares that any learning or movement must first begin by igniting a sense of curiosity. When there is curiosity, people ask questions, and when people have a question, that means there’s an opportunity to start a conversation. He shared that there are topics that may appear dull and difficult to attract interest especially when it’s delivered as a boring science article or just a statistic. For example, every 60 seconds, a truckload of plastic flows into the ocean. This statistic may be familiar, but what does it look like? What does it feel like? What happens when all of these bottles are flowing into the ocean every 60 seconds?
For Von, this is where his art comes into play to ignite that sense of curiosity. He aims to get people wondering, "What is going on here? What am I looking at?" Ideally, what comes to mind is, is it real? Is it fake? How do I feel about it? Once people are feeling interested, then they will want to dive deeper into the topic to learn more about the problem.
Saku Tuominen, Founder and Creative Director of HundrED, a global education non-profit that improves education through impactful innovations, sees creativity as the act of trying to improve the status quo. For example, you can find a new way to run meetings, teach kids, create learning environments, fight bullying, improve school food, and so on. He reminds us that every creative act consists of two parts. One half is in thinking - something that others don't and finding a better way to do something. The other half of creativity is the element of actively doing. Quite often people think that being creative involves a large amount of thinking and then finally doing, but it is actually a cyclic process - which means that you think, you test, you modify, you test, and so on.
Karen Wong, Head of Centre at Kindity School, believes that the future is not about finding a right answer as there are search engines for that. The future is in teaching our children how to find creative solutions - different answers to one problem - through their active participation in a cycle of feeling, imagining, doing, and sharing.
When we are trying to do things in a new way, we have to accept that not everything works. And that's not a bad thing! Saku Tuominen shares that "the essence of creativity and learning is deeply accepting that many of the things that I will try will not work. So if we're trying to add creativity to the curriculum, for example, and at the same time, we want to have the certainty that this way of teaching creativity will work, we are missing the point completely". The most important thing is for us to develop a growth mindset, believing that as you take on challenges and learn from them, you can improve your abilities and outcomes.
Dato’ Dr. Faridah Merican, Adjunct Professor & Programme Development Director of TUTAS and Co-Founder of The Actors Studio, added that we must encourage a deep sense of belief in oneself and seek pockets of joy in each of the things we do, to be able to weather through challenges and hard times. Knowing that joy is an internal feeling that can be developed and not necessarily an external sensation had made all the difference for her as she moved fearlessly from career to career - as a PE teacher, a broadcaster, an advertiser and finally, an actor.
Mark Beau de Silva, Senior Lecturer at the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Taylors University also reminded creators that when you or your children feel stuck with their assignment or work, just recall your past experiences. You can imagine when you were the happiest or the angriest and realise that you can be your own best wealth of information and inspiration to move forward.
Joe Hasham OAM, Adjunct Professor & Programme Artistic Director of TUTAS and Co-Founder of The Actors Studio shared a story from his life after he left school and was unsure of what to do. When he learnt about the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney, Australia, reputedly one of the world’s best drama academies, he rang NIDA up to ask to audition but was rejected as their quota was already filled up for the year. He decided to write them a long letter detailing why he should be given a chance to audition. The risk of NIDA thinking, “Who on earth does this guy think he is?” did not stop him from asking for an opportunity. 10 days later, he received a letter from NIDA to audition because they were intrigued by him. He auditioned, was accepted and it set him on a joyous life-long journey in the performing arts.
Soonufat Supramaniam, Founder of Leadspire Academy, believes that we need to challenge ourselves to merge and combine ideas to produce better outcomes. He shares,
“Some people think that teachers cannot be artists, and artists cannot be teachers. Teachers flourish on structure, where artists rely heavily on freedom. But I believe, there's the art of blending these two together. If we're able to borrow the freedom and expressions of art, to combine with the science of teaching, it gives students a good structure to explore their creativity.”
With this approach, Soonufat merged performing arts into his teaching and successfully provided his students an avenue to discover their voice, confidence, and ability to advocate for change on different issues.
Your collaborators can even be your children or students, if you give them the chance! Shaheen Mistri, CEO of Teach for India shares,
"Across the world, you don't see kids at the table. When we're talking about education, it's always adults, many steps away from the ground, making decisions for children. For a teacher to treat their students like equals, we need to give up control, and allow them to have a ‘voice’ - voice is messy, voice is difficult to deal with. But your students can give you insights into how they learn best.”
So how do we talk to them about what bothers them and what their reflections are so we can co-create a better learning experience together?
Von Wong shares that in creating a piece of work, you always want to think in the back of your mind: How is this going to spread and reach others? He shared about a project where he created an art installation with 18,000 plastic cups and allowed people to come in and take photographs and express themselves visually. When people can share what they did with their friends and go home and say, "Guess what I did today? You'll never guess what I did!", it gives them the tools to get excited, have a conversation. And that’s when learning and change happens.
In the spirit of collaborating with like-minded partners and encouraging creativity, Leaps of Knowledge in conjunction with Leaps: Episode E, partnered with FrogAsia, Mangosteen and CzipLee to host the JOY Art Contest in Apr-May 2021. JOY aims to be a platform to advocate and showcase children’s potential for creativity. The winning creations from JOY, inspired designs for products, where proceeds from the sale of these products will be donated to Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainun to provide opportunity for underprivileged children to nurture their creativity.
Interested to purchase these limited edition items and support a good cause? Get your updates on the JOY Collection at @leapsofknowledge
How can I rewatch Leaps: Episode E?
Don't just rewatch Episode E, sign up for The HEART Course! It's a free online course which creates a space where educators are excited to connect over ideas in education and start conversations that bring change to their classroom, school, and community.
In five sessions H-E-A-R and T, you can WATCH discussions and best practices from global thought-leaders following five themes in education. There also conversation prompts to help your group of educators DISCUSS ideas after each video, and toolkits to APPLY what you have learned. Each session also has a growing curation of resources from over 30 education partners in Malaysia and beyond. Educators like yourself can CONNECT with these partners to bring students’ learning beyond the classroom!
Get started with The HEART Course here.
Why Leaps of Knowledge?
Leaps of Knowledge invites everyone to be a game changer in education. Through a series of talks, workshops, conferences, and other events, featuring the world’s leading technologists, innovators, and shapers, we aim to inspire a sense of purpose and joy by changing hearts and shaping minds. In 2021, Leaps of Knowledge: The HEART Series is set to take place in 5 global online events throughout the year, featuring contextual topics in the themes of FrogAsia’s core values: H, E, A, R, and T respectively - Episode H: Here to Make a Difference, Episode E: Enjoy What You Do and Who You Do It With, Episode A: Act With Integrity, Episode R: Reach for Perfection and Episode T: Think Ahead and Out of The Box.