Many hold that standardized tests, prescribed curricula, and traditional assessments are all there are to good teaching. And certainly, there is a place for these things.
Yet, when students are given space to create, to make something of their own choice and imagining, they then have an authentic purpose for their learning. The sense of ownership that students have when their project is original to them and their interests propels students through all sorts of hardships to get to their end goal.
I agree with Mark Hatch that “Making is fundamental to what it means to be human”. He means physical things, but I take it more expansively to mean a making a story, a piece of art, a math equation, or an apparatus in science. If the student has choice and makes based on his or her interests, motivation and grit will follow.
Students also need authentic audiences for their work. Teachers tend to think of in-class presentations, posters in the hallway, and items in the trophy case. But we need to think bigger than that: an all-school STEM day; inviting middle level feeder school students to see the work of our students; we need to push images and videos of our kids doing great things out onto social media, to our school community and beyond. By breaking down the walls of our classrooms, we do three things: (1) we give our students greater motivation and purpose because their work is not just for their teacher but for the world; (2) we inspire other students and teachers; and, (3) we tell the story of our great public school. If students see their work has a larger purpose, they are more motivated to do that work.
Finally, students must learn. You cannot write a poem if you do not know how to read and you cannot spell, just as you cannot make a game in Scratch for CS Arcade Day for your friends to play, if you do not understand loops, variables, and conditional statements.
I believe that there must be space in the school day for students to take risks, to make their own creations, to fail and to try again. Despite challenges, the rise of: friendly creative-minded computer science courses, maker spaces, and design thinking make this an exciting time to be in education. People are realizing that students need to have time for creativity during the day and that STEM fields are a central site for creative action.
This I believe.