“Critical thinking” is currently a buzzword in education. It truly is an important life skill. However, equally important is its overlooked companion: Creative Thinking. This ability to look at things from a different perspective or think outside the box is a crucial component of problem solving and life skills.
So how can you cultivate creative thinking in your students? Nature and natural objects provide wonderful opportunities for creative thinking activities in and out of the classroom. One particularly important outside the box thinking skill is the ability to see God in nature.
Students can easily see God’s creative power, design and love of diversity in nature. The goal is to see God or biblical principles in nature at a deeper level. To accomplish this, they must learn more about nature while also learning more about God. At that point we can help them practice seeing the connections.
In my elementary classroom I use a creative thinking activity to help children practice this skill. Frist, I model this kind of thinking by bringing natural objects right into the classroom. Sometimes I choose something we are directly learning about. Other times I carefully choose an object with the intent to draw a spiritual lesson I can connect to something in the curriculum. I show the natural object, pass it around, and share what I see about God, biblical principles or Bible stories in the object. I typically do this several times over the course of a week or two.
Next, I invite the students to share their observations with the class. I always encourage their attempts and their bravery for trying. After allowing them to do this type of processing for the first semester, I find students are usually able to begin making their own connections.
At this point I am able take the class outside (at Outdoor Education or around the school) and have them find God’s lessons and illustrations on their own. After this time of exploration and reflection, we gather together and share. Often students add to each other’s ideas. You can also ask students to bring in pictures or examples of their own findings at home.
I have used this exercise from grade 1 through 8. You may find yourself amazed at the depth of theological ideas that students are able to see in nature, as I am with my classes.
For specific examples of how I use lichen, blood root and pine cones, see this CIRCLE file.