My university class requires that I teach a short lesson to a craft class and write a lesson plan for it. Since I've been visiting the technical craft class at the Tikkakoski school almost weekly, I decided to lead a problem solving activity called Saving Sam with the classes I visit. Problem solving and creativity activities and experiences have not been stressed in Finnish education in the past but the new national curriculum requires teaches devote more time to them. They are an important part of my art classroom and I do a variety of these types of exercises with my students at home.
Generally, this type of activity requires that students complete a task that involves specific constraints and using materials in non conventional ways. In Saving Sam, Sam is a gummy worm who has been thrown from his boat, a plastic cup, lost his life jacket and oar, a gummy ring and wooden craft stick. Students must rescue Sam. They must right his boat, the plastic cup, put the life jacket on him, put him in the boat and rest the oar across the top of the cup. Doesn't seem so hard but they must do it without touching Sam with their fingers. They have 2 paper clips to to use as tools to Save Sam. They can manipulate the paper clips any way they want but they should not stab Sam in the rescue process.
My experience has been that the activities are fun and students enjoy them. Importantly, with the proper guidance in reflecting on this exercise, students gain a deeper understanding of how the exercise relates to the learning process. When learning new information, skills or processes, there is often frustration, problem solving, collaboration, reflection and hopefully success.
The craft teacher from Tikkakoski emailed me after my visit to tell me that he continued to do the project with his students and Sam had been saved over 100 times that week! When I was there he told me that he thought the U.S. did problem solving and creativity better than the Finns in general. Since Finnish education is held up as the gold standard in the world, I was happy to share something Americans do well and something that is new and innovative to Finnish education.
Lesson Plan below:
I am a high school art teacher from Boulder Valley School District in Colorado studying craft education in Jyvaskyla, Finland. I am in Finland through a grant from the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching program and the Fulbright Finland Foundation.