Rethinking education: New Orleans is now teaching innovation and creativity as a skill

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Since Hurricane Katrina, new schools have been going up all over the metro New Orleans. And the next great mind might come out of one of those schools because of a decision to teach innovation and creativity — as a skill.

Bricolage Academy is a good example with its innovation room.

“The innovation room is a classroom where kids learn creativity and creative problem solving,” explains founder and school leader, Josh Densen.

“In the schools we grew up in, for the most part, there was the school factory —  kids in rows, a teacher in the center and everybody all on the same point. All at the same time.  Same thing.  Like, compliance was the name of the game,” Densen adds.

Densen believes schools should do more than prepare kids to follow orders. “We are trying to create kids who will be innovators.”

Student at Bricolage Academy in New Orleans. (WGNO)
Student at Bricolage Academy in New Orleans. (WGNO)

Densen took a WGNO News crew into a second-grade classroom. That day the students were learning about creative problem-solving using cardboard.  Every child was working with the same size cardboard, but nearly everyone was working on something different and creating something different.

“That idea that your creativity can be developed, can be harnessed and can be improved over time is central to what we are doing at Bricolage,” Densen says.

“You can do math worksheets until the cow comes home. And still never really understand what’s going on in the language of mathematics.

“So when you see a teacher working one-on-one with a student on an assessment,  and they are asking them to turn the six tiles into ten, and they grab four instantly, that’s a student than understands at a level that is far deeper than on a level that is just 6 plus 10,” Densen explains.

Densen admits that not every school should be doing what Bricolage Academy does, but he thinks parents should have options when it comes to their child’s education.

“School can’t just be for academic achievement.  Academic achievement is an important part of the school experience, but we are trying to create students. I think everybody should be trying to develop students to fulfill their unique greatness.  And to be the bright lights that they are, right?” Densen adds.

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