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Creativity.  Persuasion.  Collaboration.  Adaptability. Time Management.  

According to LinkedIn Learning, these are the top five “soft” skills most in demand by companies right now.  Similarly, the orld Economic Forum has identifiedmany of these skills, including creativity, as a growing part of the core skill requirements for many industries today and in the years ahead.  Why Creativity? It is a skill that cannot easily be demonstrated by technology. Creativity can be thought of in many ways, but it is especially relevant for our world today as it is a required skill for problem solving and identifying new ideas or approaches to a challenge. Some people believe that one is either born with creativity or not.  On the contrary, creativity can be learned– or rather, it is a skill that can be cultivated similarly to how other hard skills can be developed such as scientific, computational, and analytical skills.

In Roycemore School’s Early Childhood program, we often will talk about how young children believe they are playing, but the curriculum is so enriched that the students are learning foundational skills such as reading, writing, math, social studies, and science through fun, hands-on activities.  This is the most natural way to learn. It is fun. It is engaging, and it mimics the natural learning process we experience in so much of our lives. Our faculty have been thinking about ways we can expand this kind of experience throughout the school, whether a student is three or eighteen. We are exploring ways to balance this progressive approach to education with a pragmatic one that ensures students acquire the key concepts and abilities that are needed to gain entry into their college of choice and ultimately in their careers.

Friday’s Adobe Creative Jam at Roycemore provided this kind of experience for our students–an experience that intentionally cultivates creativity as a skill.  We began talking with our partners at Adobe more than a year ago about the idea of creating a high school version of an event that they originally envisioned as a way to bring creative professionals together in a tournament-style competition that includes a design challenge.  Adobe Creative Jams were expanded globally as a way to engage the creative community with the Adobe products. They were then expanded to universities across the country to provide opportunities for college students to learn new digital and soft skills from an Adobe expert and then apply those skills to a design challenge with a team.  Roycemore’s Creative Jam last week was the first time Adobe hosted a high school Creative Jam.  We served as a pilot for an expansion of the concept nationally.  What did our students take away from this experience?

  • Creative Problem Solving
    • Our Upper School students listened to a presentation by Kumar Jensen, the Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Evanston, on Evanston’s groundbreaking Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) .  CARP’s goals are for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050.  While there are many initiatives under this goal, Jensen focused on the “zero waste” initiative for the students and laid the groundwork for their challenge– to create a digital app that informs, motivates, and rewards the citizens of Evanston to achieve zero waste status. 
  • New Digital Skills
    • The students engaged in an Adobe XD “bootcamp.”  An expert trainer from Adobe was on site to provide an intensive tutorial on the software that is used to design and create apps.  This is a skill that the students will be able to continue to utilize for many years to come.
  • Teamwork/ Collaboration
    • Students worked in teams of 3 to 5; some came to the event with experience using Adobe XD, some not.  Some were already well-versed in the topic of zero waste, some not. The students had to work collaboratively to think about the problem, their best approach to addressing the problem, and then how to divide up the tasks required to complete the challenge.
  • Critical Thinking
    • Our students were challenged to think about ways they and their families work toward zero waste.  What do they do that is already a defined activity? What do they already do that is a longer-term process?  What do they want to do in the future? They had to think about what works well for people and what is hard to do.  From there, they began their work to design an app specifically for a target group of individuals and how it could be useful on both a practical and emotional level.
  • Empathy
    • Once students decided on a target audience (ie. children ages 5-10; high school students; elderly citizens who may have a different relationship with technology; immigrants and other citizens who may not speak English as their first language), they had to empathize with the experience of these individuals in order to create their app.  Empathy is known to be the first step in the Design Thinking process that we teach at Roycemore and is an important skill that needs to be intentionally taught. When the students are able to imagine the app experience from another’s point of view, they are able to further expand their ideas and creativity.
  • Presentation Skills
    • At the end of the allotted time, each team had to present their prototype to the whole student body as well as our guests, which included six professionals from Adobe as well as Kumar Jensen.  They explained how the app worked and how it addressed the design challenge.
  • The Art of Persuasion
    • Teams were charged with persuading the room why their app best addressed the design brief.  Not only did a judging panel of industry experts select a first place winner, but there was also an “audience choice” award bestowed on the best app as voted on by everyone at the Jam.  

Why does creativity matter?  In the age of Artificial Intelligence, any routine work can be automated and optimized.  What is needed more than ever before are individuals who can leverage their creativity to propose innovative approaches to solve the complex challenges of our world today.  The design challenge, tied to Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan, presented students with an opportunity to support our community’s approach to arguably the biggest challenge our planet–and their generation– faces today- climate change.