When we were putting lessons together for Youth Design Studio, we came up with the idea of starting classes with quick (10-minute or so) creativity exercises to get our learners moving, creating, and problem-solving in real time. In these exercises we use mainly recycled materials (waste cardboard, plastic bags, anything else we can get our hands on) occasionally supplemented by a few bright or versatile additions (pipe cleaners, tape, colored paper, markers, etc). Each assignment has both creative and problem-solving elements, so our students have to think like real designers. We always knew our learners would surprise us with their creativity and ingenuity, but every time we’ve been blown away by what they produced!
In one exercise, high school learners at Ikamva Youth Makhaza were asked, in groups of three or four, to create something that (1) could be used in everyday life and that (2) was both functional and beautiful. Their responses were incredible – everything from matriculation (graduation) gear to fashion accessories!
In a similar excercise at Muizenberg High School, learners were asked to create something that could be worn on the body (clothes, accessories, anything they wanted to come up with). The results were both incredible and highly entertaining!
Another of these exercises at Ikamva involved a number of large pieces of cardboard (actually a giant cardboard box from a supermarket, cut into large irregular pieces). Three groups of three students each were tasked with creating, out of cardboard and tape with the help of scissors, the tallest tower possible. However, in addition to simply being tall, their tower would have to support a small but significant weight: in this case, a point-and-shoot camera.
Each tower was impressive and vastly different from its neighbors, but they were wonderful in another way as well: each group of students, unprompted, picked up materials from the ground around them and incorporated them into their designs. A brick, a length of wire, an extra piece of cardboard – everything nearby immediately became a tool to improve their structures. One tower even doubled as a carrying case! It was problem-solving and creative design in action, even more effectively than we could have imagined!