ELS “Geo Milev”, Burgas
“For the first time in history it has become possible to see creativity not as a mystique process but as the behaviour of a self-organising information system formed from neural networks.”
Edward de Bono
The brain is designed to be non-creative in order to form stable patterns of thought. Logical thinking standardizes and facilitates our existence, explains and suppresses human primitiveness, and sets an elevated secondary framework of life. Logic helps us analyze, prioritize, and plan. The trap of logical thinking, however, lies in its consistency and lack of spontaneity that define a stable but slow pace of general human development. Logical thinking is a prerequisite for learning, but not for rapid generation of new knowledge and ideas. Creativity, on the other hand, is a mental jump by which new values are created.
Achievements are а result of creative thinking. However, the Bulgarian educational system teaches logical thinking. It does not encourage creating new ideas. In schools, creativity is reduced to classes in painting, music, and dancing, that focus on imitational and interpretational principles, not on creative ones. Another problem is that the educational system is oriented towards providing theoretical knowledge but not practical skills, which are needed to unlock and encourage creativity in students. According to government institutions, in order to address these problems, it is necessary to rethink the way study material is presented, to improve the balance between theoretical and practical tasks, to give more freedom to students in choosing the curricula content, and to create a better working environment for both students and teachers.
We have teamed up with Mrs. Milena Andonova – head-master of Burgas English Language School “Geo Milev”, to look for an alternative solution to the problem. Together, we explored the possibility of breaking the scholastic educational model by developing creative habits of the mind. Mrs. Andonova shared with us the idea to design a Creative Room that will stimulate the enrichment of the curriculum, give freedom of learning, and encourage teachers to use innovative methods of teaching and students to think creatively.
To achieve this goal, the project employed the lateral thinking theory of Edward de Bono (de Bono is a Maltese philosopher, nominated for the Nobel Prize), interpreted through our own experience as artists. According to this theory, the lateral/creative thinking is not an innate ability. It is a skill that can be mastered through a disciplined and systematic approach. Lateral thinking helps students to find shortcuts, to combine ideas that have not been combined before, in other words – to solve problems by thinking “outside the box”. The lateral thinking methodology includes fun elements (games) and creates conditions for teamwork. Currently, lateral thinking is rarely practiced in the Bulgarian school system. Therefore, the project is considered to be the first of its kind in the country.
The Creative Room spatial organization illustrates the structure of the creative process and facilitates its implementation. The functional zones of the room encourage students to self-study, research, brainstorm and filter ideas, and realize these ideas through teamwork. The Creative Room consists of the following areas:
– Reading area – an area for studying the methodology of creativity through Edward de Bono’s fundamental books about lateral thinking and others of the kind.
The area is characterized by functional flexibility and the opportunity for individual or group activity made easy by the rearranging of free standing poufs. The soft flooring and the furniture create a sense of freedom, which is key to the complete comprehension of information.
– Research area – a tablet area for research and data-collecting.
Discoveries are a result of lateral thinking, which is underpinned by existing knowledge. Therefore, lateral thinking does not deny logic. On the contrary – it takes advantage of its achievements, diffracting them through a new self-organizing information system. The area includes 14 seats equipped with tablets. The indigo walls create a feeling of infinity and unlimited data access.
– Idea generator – an area for generating ideas using Edward de Bono’s method.
This zone is a functional extension to the reading area, which allows their integration if necessary. The zone includes a sofa, a whiteboard table to record ideas, and a light panel – a lateral interpretation of the assumption that the brain is a universe able to form new information models.
– Idea box- a container for collecting ideas addressed to the student council or the head-master of the school.
Students have the opportunity to submit the generated ideas to the management of the school and the student council in a metal envelope. This ensures a sustainable dialogue between students and teachers. The metal envelope is a means of indirect communication, suitable also for a common group – children with creative thinking but problematic communication.
– Area for the realization of ideas through teamwork.
The last zone creates the connection between the theoretical and the pragmatic. It is necessary for the materialization of the abstract idea. A work table allows conditions for teamwork for up to 10 people. The table is made of two components that allow two groups of 5 students to work together.
The colour scheme of the project is based on the meaning and impact of colours on the creative process. It includes indigo blue, yellow and neutral beige-gray. The wave of the yellow colour is relatively long and stimulates proper breathing. This facilitates the access of oxygen to the brain and thereby activates brain activity. Yellow removes negativity, gives confidence, encourages the acceptance of new ideas, stimulates creativity and discipline, and helps in achieving concentration. The indigo colour stimulates clear thinking, develops intuition, clears the mind, and helps for introspection. It also reduces attacks of hysteria and muscle tension and helps distrustful, anxious, stressed children.
Only time and experience will show whether the Creative Room is a successful project. The architecture and design alone are able to cultivate and provoke one’s senses creatively. They are a strong basis for the growth of a new method for self and world exploration, a method never used or examined by the students before. Edward de Bono’s theory is already too commercialized, but despite that, it still offers a comprehensive way to develop creative thinking. The Creative Room can be a valuable resource if it is seen as a catalyst for conceptual, sensory, personal, and spiritual growth, both for students and for teachers. If the purpose of the project is achieved, the acquired creative habits of the mind will help one generation to discover their potential and open their senses to the valuable human creations. This is a prerequisite for creating new ones.