Questioning the Epiphany: How To Encourage Creativity in Your Classroom

Why do we value answers over questions?  


When you think of a famous scientist or any major innovation you think of the aha moment that came right before they discovered the next big thing.  We fail to understand that innovation is more than just an aha moment or a random stroke of genius.  It takes time to develop creative life changing solutions. More importantly: they start with a question.  Innovators are people that have the courage and the knowledge to question why things are the way that they are.  If you want to be innovative you must be willing to take a step back and look at the world through a different lens.


Being able to be creative is a useful skill worth teaching to our students, and more and more teachers are encouraging more creative work in their classrooms.  However, fostering a culture of creativity and creation might take more than just giving students the opportunity to branch out.  In a math class we do not often hear the story of why Pythagoras was so interested in triangles, and while some may be familiar with the apple falling on Newton’s head, how often does anyone ever ask what he did next (or why he was even under that tree in the first place)?


By showing students examples of simple observations and the failure that these great innovators made before they hit the big time, you allow students to live through them.  Various forms of representation bring discoveries that are out of this world back down to Earth.   When you momentarily reduce a scientific genius to someone that was sitting under a tree, students start to think: “Maybe I can be a scientist too!”


How do you get your epiphanies?