Teacher Diaries: Mr. MacDonald – Creativity

As the other teachers have noted earlier in this series – creativity comes in many forms. There is the creativity that goes in to a great poem or novel. There’s also the artistic creativity that it takes to make a magnificent painting or sculpture.

Growing up, I never felt like I was a very creative person because I wasn’t all that gifted in those particular skills. However, I soon realised I enjoyed another form of creativity.

I was in the scouts for much of my childhood (and young adulthood too!). We were often set challenges such as: “which team can build the tallest tower?” or the Egg-drop Challenge (see below for details).

One of my favourites was making a raft out of long wooden poles, lengths of rope and empty plastic barrels. Mostly because we got to go outdoors and do an activity on a river or on a lake. Inevitably we’d fall in a number of times before we’d perfected our design – but that was part of the fun!

I feel the creative problem solving abilities and sense of perseverance that I gained taking part in these activities have played a large role in my life. They certainly helped when I was studying engineering at university. Our lecturers would set us tasks and when had to come up with the most energy efficient or cheapest overall design. We’d use all our available skills and compare with our peers to see whose was best.

Here are some activities you can do the next time you and your friends want a challenge:

  1. Paper Skyscraper – You are given a budget of plain paper and sticky tape and must see which team can build the tallest free-standing tower. Harder: It must be able to support a stuffed toy or an apple at the top. Bonus: Try to make the tallest Giraffe etc.
  2. Egg Drop Challenge – You are provided with certain items such as lengths of bamboo, string and plastic bags. An egg is placed near the top of your contraption and it must guide the egg down to ground level without breaking it. The winner is the team whose egg travels the furthest.
  3. Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower – Similar to the Paper Skyscraper but the tower must be made of marshmallows and spaghetti.
  4. Nitroglycerin Disposal – There is a highly dangerous object (an empty cooking pot for instance) and it has been placed in a large exclusion zone such as a 2m radius circle. No member of the team is allowed to step foot into the exclusion zone. Using the resources provided (poles, rope, etc.) you must as a team move the dangerous object to a designated safe zone without spilling the contents and killing everyone around.
  5. Minefield – Various objects (chairs, buckets, boxes and so on) have been placed in an otherwise open area. One member of the team will be blindfolded and have to get to the other side of the “minefield” guided by instructions from the others who aren’t themselves allowed to enter.

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