On May 5, 2016, we prototyped the first Creative Power Day with over 500 students in four countries. We engaged more than students aged 10-14 in seven cities: San Francisco, California; Oakland, California; New York, New York; Savannah, Georgia; Vancouver, Canada; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Cork, Ireland. Trained volunteer facilitators conducted one-hour Creative Power workshops, which included hands-on activities and discussion, and was designed to strengthen creative problem-solving and nurture natural curiosity and optimism in students.

We received really positive and constructive feedback from our first experiment, and have made some adjustment to this year's program. Here are our observations and insights to date, and what's different this year:

  1. The need is massive, and this is the right approach.
    Creative Power workshops help students see connections between disparate concepts, develop an openness to new ideas, and understand failure as an essential part of solving problems. Our hypothesis was that we could blend hands-on activities with discussion, and short lessons with longer group collaborations to connect students to these core ideas. Our first prototype in 2016 showed that the cadence of the workshop and its diversity of activities strongly reinforced our main messages. We have the great principles from systems thinking, design thinking, and growth mindset to thank.
  2. Examples enliven these concepts, especially at this age.
    The classroom teachers were great allies through the process, and gave us solid feedback to improve the workshops next year. Several of the teachers suggested that we provide more visual examples of prototypes and real-life stories to support our verbal messages. They advocated for a “multi-modal scaffolding” to help bring new ideas into sharper relief. 
  3. The messenger is the message.
    The role of the facilitator is always critical to the success of a workshop, but perhaps even more so with our 10-14 year old audience. Several of our advisors suggested that we recruit older students (aged 16-18) to run workshops with the 12-14 age group. We have explored this but the logistics – training, permissions, transportation – will be too challenging to coordinate at scale this year. We are still interested in pursuing and will try to arrange a few sessions like this.
  4. It’s not just about the prototype.
    While the culminating moment of the 2016 Creative Power workshop was when small groups demonstrated their prototypes, the true value of the workshop was everything that led up to that point: students collaborating, actively shifting perspectives, getting comfortable with hearing new ideas, and learning by building. Also, the debrief was critical. We didn't allocate enough time for discussion, and were concerned that the concept were not as firmly entrenched as they could be. This year we changed the Activity 3 to a shorter and different exercise to make room for more conversation with the students.
  5. Having students briefly record their experience concretizes learnings.
    In half of the workshops conducted on Creative Power Day, we asked students to take a few moments at the end of the session to jot down what they learned. We’ve heard anecdotally that students who documented their thoughts tended to tell their parents and friends about what they learned at a higher rate than those who didn’t record what they learned. This step will be incorporated into all workshops this year.
  6. Competition can be productive.
    Throughout the workshop, we continuously emphasized that there is no “right answer” in creativity, and that there isn’t a “winner” of the workshop. However, we found that when we gave multiple small groups the same challenge card – instead of each group having a separate challenge – the groups focused more quickly and pushed their ideas further. The competition idea doesn't translate as clearly this year with the new Activity 3, but we will be monitoring different behaviors in the group activity.
  7. It’s always an experiment.
    It’s evident that we will continue to iterate the process, and that with every new instance we can learn. As will last year, we are testing out new additions and versions all the time with young people. 

The activities and script for the first Creative Power Day in 2016 are archived here.