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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Jakarta Day 5: Wednesday, July 19, 2017

David by SMAN 8 sign

David Black standing by the sign for SMAN 8 Jakarta (Jakarta Public High School # 8).

We had traveled through narrow, winding streets and across railroad tracks to get here, but once we arrived at SMAN 8 Jakarta, it was in a quiet neighborhood. This public high school is in a low-lying area of the city, and I was immediately impressed by the nice mosque that stood at the entrance to the school.

Although it is a regular public school, most schools in Indonesia have religious facilities such as a mosque or mushollah (prayer room) for students to use during prayer times and as part of their Islamic or Character studies classes. The United States places a strong value on separation of church and state, brought on by the persecutions of the Church of England or Lutherans against many religious groups (such as the Pilgrims, Quakers, and Puritans) who then came to America seeking religious freedom. It was built into the original Bill of Rights. But other countries don’t have such a value, and they establish state approved religions. Indonesia recognizes five religions officially, and in theory all are allowed to create religious facilities at school and hold religious classes. In some places, such as Bali and the Maluku Islands, Muslims are the minority. But in most of Indonesia, they form the majority religion with about 87-90% of the total population, such as in Jakarta. So there is a beautiful mosque with golden domes at the entrance to this public high school, and classes are arranged so that students can attend the noontime call to prayer.

Mosque with bougainvillea

Bougainvillea and school mosque at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

This might seem strange to some Americans, who tend to think that the way we do things must be the only way to do things, but its not unusual in many countries. Being from Utah it is not strange to me. We have LDS Seminary available to Utah students; although the seminary buildings must not be on school property, they are usually adjacent or nearby the schools, and students are allowed to have “released time” periods to attend seminary classes. This time doesn’t count toward graduation requirements, so seminary students have less periods with which to meet those needs, but with only 22 credit hours required, it’s not hard.

School mosque

The school mosque at SMAN 8 Jakarta. Indonesia does not have the value of separation of church and state that Americans have. Religious education is a required part of their school curriculum.

This school is considered a model high school in Jakarta and we could tell that they are much more accustomed to having visitors. There wasn’t a sign welcoming us, nor any great fuss about us. We were shown to an auditorium room and given snacks and water against the heat and waited awhile for the assistant principal to arrive. A teacher there who has been an ILEP alumnus greeted us and answered some questions while we waited. They had a nice Promethean board in the room, with a fancy computer control station to run it, and all the male teachers were looking it over as the female teachers discussed the dress code and daily operations of the female teachers who were there.

At SMAN 8 Jakarta

In the auditorium room at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

We were shown around the school, and went in to some of the classes. They had nicely colored bougainvillea growing in planters along the inner railing, and many trophy cases showing excellence in academic competitions, such as Science Olympiad. They have had students win all the way to the international competition, which is an amazing accomplishment. We watched a group of students presenting in a biology class, and other students asking excellent questions.

Biology presenters

Students presenting in a biology class at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

We saw a math class that Mike was especially interested in, since he is a calculus teacher. We talked with students in an English class, and I walked into the Kimia (chemistry) lab and saw the standard supply kit – alcohol lamp, a few beakers, a test tube rack, and a few test tubes. Not much, but at least here the equipment was well used. The biology lab room was well stocked with microscopes, models of various body parts, and even preserved specimens in jars. The computer lab was well equipped. We were shown the teacher preparation room, with more trophies, and I discovered that the word for teacher in Bahasa Indonesia is “guru.” Next to the Guru Room was the Guru Toilet. I had to take a photo. I think maybe I should insist that my students call me Guru.

Chem equipment

Lab station kit for the chemistry lab. Notice the well-used test tubes and alcohol burner. They don’t have much, but they use it to good advantage.

We walked to the principal’s office and were shown a plaque designating this school as one of the top schools in the country, an accomplishment that they were very proud of.

School philosophy

Five areas of intelligence according to the faculty of SMAN 8 Jakarta, an award-winning school in the city.

The assistant principal spoke to us about the school’s philosophy. SMAN 8 considers and builds its programs around five aspects of intelligence: Intellectual Intelligence (IQ), Spiritual Intelligence (SQ), Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Creativity Intelligence (CQ), and Adversity Intelligence (AQ) – what we are calling “grit” at American Academy of Innovation, or the ability to learn from failure and be persistent. Most schools in Indonesia consider only the first three, but this school believes that creativity and persistence are important things to teach to students. He said this is the main key to this school’s success.

Explaining school

We might not agree with how spirituality is one of the central values of Indonesian education, because we are so conditioned to see religion as completely separate from school. And yet it is not separate in the lives of our students or of the teachers in our school; it just isn’t talked about much. Back when I taught World Civilizations in California, I would teach about Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and other religions as part of the culture and history of different civilizations and no one batted an eye. Yet when I talked about Christianity as an important aspect of western civilization, the students would start to protest that I shouldn’t be teaching religion in school. I had to point out that I had already been teaching about religions all year, and that you can’t understand the central motivations of a civilization without knowing about religions or the spiritual beliefs of its peoples.

Rest Makes Rusty

Indonesian schools all have signs hanging up with mottos and sayings in English and Indonesian. This one is at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

My own school, although it hasn’t put its values in exactly these terms, also believes that creativity and grit are important for our school. We are supposed to be reading Grit by Angela Duckworth over the summer, but I haven’t been able to find a copy in my local library yet. We’re also reading Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson, which I read last summer. His thesis is that the factory model of education that is so prevalent in most American schools is literally crushing the creativity out of students at a time when it is so needed in our country.

Trophies

Just a few of the many awards and trophies at SMAN 8 Jakarta, and award-winning school in Indonesia.

If this is true, and SMAN 8 Jakarta is any indication of where Indonesian schools are headed, then we have much to worry about as we will soon be out competed by this rising country, the fourth largest country in the world.

Guru toilet

Gurus need toilets, too.

We walked out into the central courtyard and took some photos by the school sign, then walked to our pariwisata (tourist) bus, which was waiting for us.

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea growing around the courtyard at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

Headmaster with group

Headmaster of SMAN 8 Jakarta with the Teachers for Global Classrooms group.

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This morning I accepted a job offer to teach full-time at Walden School in Provo, Utah. (here is their website: Walden School Website). I will be teaching a combination of chemistry, earth science, and multimedia courses at the high school level. Walden is a small charter school that follows the Montessori philosophy of providing a rich learning environment and letting students have a large say in the direction and content of their education. This happens to coincide very well with my own philosophy, which I have stated here before, that science classrooms need to go beyond hands-on learning and teach students how to be creative contributors to their own education, through building their own science content or conducting their own experiments.

Materials for Mars 3D activity

Materials for the Mars 3D activity

In fact, the fit for me is so good that if I had sat down and designed the perfect situation for what and how I like to teach, it would be very similar to what Walden School has to offer. And it will be ideal for The Elements Unearthed Project. It will provide a base of operations, so to speak, from which to apply for grants and gain support as well as a group of dedicated, creative students to work with. Teaching chemistry and earth science in addition to the multimedia I’ve taught for the last ten years will also allow me to cross-pollinate the classes so that students can do diagrams, animations, and videos for their multimedia class but also get credit in chemistry or earth science. This is the way project-based-learning (CBL) can be more efficient as well as more effective.

I’ve struggled this last year since returning from my fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to make financial ends meet by creating Business Profile Videos for clients. The economy being the way it is, all the businesses we’ve contacted love the idea of a YouTube video advertising their products or ideas, but hardly anyone can afford to pay what the videos are actually worth. So for the last two months I’ve been searching for full-time and part-time jobs; it takes a great load off my mind to know I will have a regular income. Although my days will now be spent teaching, I think the overall pacing of the project can increase; I no longer will have to spend all my evenings working on business videos and can devote almost as much time as now to the video episodes I’ve already filmed.

It will also be great to get back to science teaching. I’ve missed it, and I’m looking forward to dusting off and updating some of the great lesson ideas and activities I’ve learned from NASA and elsewhere. I can bring back the Elementary Science Tutorial Program I began at Juab High School so many years ago. Now my students can build the 3D model of the nearby stars I developed for my astronomy classes at Provo Canyon School. Now the Mars 3D project I developed at MATC can be shared between multimedia and earth science classes. Now The Elements Unearthed Project will be able to draw on students from multiple disciplines in a school that believes in student creativity, project-based teaching, and expeditionary learning.

Table top star model

Table-top 3D model of the nearby stars.

Instead of the factory model, one-size-fits-all style that is killing our public high schools, where subjects are fragmented and divorced from each other, I believe in teaching holistically and individually and expecting students to achieve highly creative work. Now I’m going to put this philosophy to the test.

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