Kermit the Frog is famous for saying, “It’s not easy being green.” If Kermit was a student in today’s world, he may have altered his statement to be “It’s not easy being gray.” He would not be referring to the color of his scaly frog skin, but rather an overall sentiment on why it can be difficult for students to focus on building, creating, and using their imaginations when so much emphasis is put on testing and scores. In other words, we say we want kids to think and solve problems (build, create, imagine, e.g. the gray area of life where there may not be a right or wrong) but at the culmination of high school two of the primary factors we use to evaluate success are SAT scores and GPA (e.g. the black and white and measurable side of life).
The good news is that students today can leverage being gray to succeed in the world of black and white measurements. How? By incorporating methods that enable students’ to use their imaginations to better understand and apply knowledge when being tested. For example, in the National Research Council’s book, How People Learn (Nation Academy Press, 2000) researchers found that students in grades 7-9 who used an approach called the Thinker Tools Inquiry Curriculum outperformed high school physics students (grades 11-12) on quantitative problems in which they were asked to apply the basic principles of Newtonian mechanics to real-world situations. (p 217) [Side note: Yes, this is a blog that actually has a cited reference and is not all opinion…what a novel idea.]
If your goal is to eliminate standardized tests and the SAT’s I have a news flash – they are here to stay for the foreseeable future. So, with that in mind, embrace the black and white world by adding a splash of gray to your curriculum. Building, creating, and imagining are not nice to haves, but are actually the key to overall academic achievement.