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Guide to Contextual Learning Projects

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Environmental literacy
Media literacy
Health literacy
Economic literacy
Civic literacy
Computer Technology
Data Analysis
Writing Skills
Creative and Critical Thinking

Creative and Critical Thinking

Contextual learning experiences allow youth to see how creative and critical thinking are balanced and used in a variety of real-life situations.

Creative thinking expands possibilities — creativity is used to generate new ideas, “break out of the box” and think of new ways to do things. New ideas may be small or large, radically different or just a slightly fresh approach. Creativity involves giving yourself time for thinking, brainstorming and generating idea, using creativity-building approaches like brainstorming, word-association, mind-mapping, free-flow diagrams, creative doodling or other approaches to stimulate your creative thinking, and allowing yourself to explore new ideas without worrying about being wrong or off-track.

Critical thinking shapes effective action — critical thinking is used to assess new and existing ideas and strategies, gather and weigh evidence, and sharpen insights into your goals and work. Like creativity, critical thinking can be described as “thinking outside the box” — looking at information in several different ways in order to draw good conclusions. Critical thinking may be defined as making decisions based on objective information, decision making criteria, logical thinking and common sense. To be an effective critical thinker you must understand the goals of your project, understand how to use available information, and then take time to systematically analyze available information and apply decision-making criteria.

Creative thinking and critical thinking can be applied to smaller everyday decision making and to bigger decisions about projects, policies, business ideas and business plans.

Some examples of creative and critical thinking in various project areas:

  • Identifying and assessing variations on a recipe in a culinary arts program;
  • Designing and leading a literacy program for younger children;
  • Designing and leading craft activities for children, elderly nursing home residents or other audiences;
  • Developing signs, exhibits and displays for a museum or a zoo;
  • Developing public education campaigns about community issues;
  • Working on business plans and marketing strategies in entrepreneurship projects;
  • Developing and analyzing surveys about school-related issues;
  • Learning about bullying and school climate issues and recommending strategies for improvement.

Student Worksheet:
Creativity Reflection Questions

What are the ingredients that generally help you be creative? In what ways did this experience help you to work creatively?

Do you know how to use creativity-building approaches like brainstorming, word-association, mind-mapping, free-flow diagrams, creative doodling or other approaches to stimulate creative thinking? Describe the approaches you use.

Can you identify any creative contributions you have made in this project? (These can be small, “everyday” contributions with a new, fresh approach)

Do you think that creative thinking is important in ALL jobs or just in artistic and creative sector jobs? Explain.