I’ve heard the benefits of cultivating divergent thinking, and I couldn’t agree more. The industrial model of school is very linear, anti-social, and lacks the dynamics that different kinds of thinkers require. Open-ended materials like legos were my favorite toys as a kid, and little did I know, I was exercising my divergent thinking muscles. At our school, we engage the kids with all kinds of incremental, open-ended blocks and other components in hopes that we enhance their ability to understand objects and their environment in a more dynamic way. Interacting with manipulatives, as we call them in ABA therapy, doesn’t usually feel like work to the kids, so you can even use them as motivators to do other work!

Planning lessons for different developmental levels is equally important. A method like SIMPLE is a great way to organize activities in such a way that kids of all cognitive, physical, and social capabilities can digest. Here’s one example of teaching the kids about water:

Simple: We could teach kids about the water cycle by filling a bottle with water, setting it outside, and waiting for it to evaporate and condensate. Explain that’s how clouds are made, and when clouds get too heavy from too much water, the water falls and we call it rain.

Complex: Drop water onto a penny until the water appears as though it is bulging over the edges of the penny. Use this to explain viscosity – molecules of water stick to each other.

Super-complex: Use 3 water hoses of differing length and run equally pressurized water into one end, and regulate the output pressure at the other end. When the students notice the varying pressure drops, explain how the longer the tube, the more friction of water touching the inner walls of the hose, therefore slowing down those molecules in contact and creating a partial backflow effect.

By developing this divergent way of thinking through open-ended materials and developmentally appropriate variations for curriculum, we are more effectively preparing our children for a world full of ever-changing problems that require ever-changing solutions.