LEGO® starts their mission statement by expressing they wish to “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”. Their focus is creativity and exploration, with human potential at the very center. We like to go a few steps further.
Our mission is also to encourage creativity. But we blend it with developing skills in scientific reasoning, engineering, and even basic programming. Through LEGO’s WeDo® kits, and MIT’s SCRATCH® Animation software, we prepare preschool, elementary and middle school kids to explore the very important link between science and imagination.
It’s a connection many people don’t consider very often, even adults.
In education there is a tendency to try to separate topics that heavily rely on creative thinking, like writing, theatre and other arts, from what are considered “hard topics” like mathematics and physics. But in truth, those topics require imagination just as much as a painter with a brush.
Most people have heard the quote from Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. But how many people understand it?
Yes, we at Tiny Techs Club teach children what different kinds of gears are, how a pulley system works, what cams and levers do, and other similar concepts. But that’s information, not knowledge. Knowledge is understanding how to use information. Just as our AnimatED classes teach programming concepts, what we do in class is meaningless without helping them make sense as to how it fits together. Knowledge is gained when they actually build the robot or create the script using SCRATCH.
That’s the knowledge piece of the puzzle. But what about the most important part?
For every course we teach, the children’’ favorite class is always the last one. Not because they don’t want to be there anymore. Not because they are tired of the teachers. But because, on the last day, we let them use the knowledge we’ve nurtured to either invent their own robot, or develop their own animation using Scratch.
I have to admit, it’s my favorite class as well. Because, as they work, these little kids embody the most famous quote of the most famous scientific genius.
Why is imagination more important? Think of the mind as a library. Information alone is like books on a shelf; useless, inert, inactive. A library is a wonderful thing but they don’t exist to be looked at, those books are to be opened and read. Actually picking up a book and reading it would, in this analogy, be knowledge. To bring it to a close, imagination is what happens when that knowledge inspires creative thought. Imagination would be sitting down and writing a whole new book to add to that vast library. Imagination is opening the mind to the new and the never-thought-of-before.
Think about what is considered the most pure of sciences: mathematics. It is a language we created to describe the workings of the universe. And every development we make, each time we continue to expand mathematics, it is thanks to the imagination of the mathematician tackling the problem at hand. You can’t have science without imagination. Because that spark is what drives discovery. If you can’t ask “what if?” you can’t advance technology, our understanding of the world, anything in science. Because science isn’t really about answers. It’s about questions.
No matter how many weeks the course runs, we are always leading up to the day we encourage students to ask “what if?” And then help them discover where their questions take them. As winter sessions close and spring sessions begin, just remember, we are giving them the tools to connect science and creation.
Parents are always welcomed in the classroom. Next time you pick your kids up on the last day, come early, see what they do. And you will see the intersection of imagination and knowledge in the purest of ways.
The potential is endless.