Thinking Outside the Square-Sided Thing

The final week of summer camp was dedicated to the theme of Critical Thinking. In Palestinian schools, most kids are not systematically taught how to think analytically. Art and sports are designed to stimulate observation, problem-solving, comprehension and interpretation skills. This helps the kids learn how to think independently and make decisions based on the knowledge they have. Critical thinking is also centered around asking open ended questions, where there isn’t only one right answer. It requires creativity and logic. Many of the activities also require the kids to work together to solve a problem or accomplish a task. It also involves finding patterns, categorizing, and classifying. Danya and Yazan learn that teamwork is one important key to success!

As part of critical thinking week, Elizabeth’s art class built “newspaper towers”--using only newspaper and masking tape. At first, the kids had no idea how they would build towers with such limited materials. Several groups complained about their teams, or the lack of tape, or the rule that volunteers were not allowed to physically help the students. One team in particular--Yazan and Danya--initially refused to work together. Both kids have very different personalities; Yazan loves to be silly and almost always finishes his art projects first, whereas Danya is more focused and meticulous with her work. They did not want to cooperate, and insisted on working individually. However, it did not take long for them to realize that sharing their materials and ideas was in the best interest of both of them. After watching Yazan and Danya overcome their obstacles and tackle the project as a team, we realized that this experience may have been the first time that either of those children had been required to work collaboratively with someone new.

At the end of class, Yazan and Danya’s newspaper tower was among the few that remained standing. Many of the kids were frustrated by the activity, but this frustration was channeled into determination and perseverance. Everyone walked away with a greater appreciation for teamwork and cooperation, and we hope the kids will continue to expand upon these skills throughout their lives.

One activity in Debra’s sports class required the kids to use their creativity as well as develop keen observation skills. In a circle, one person leads a series of particular motions and another person has to determine who is leading the changes. At first the kids only used clapping and snapping. However, as the game progressed, they invented very unique motions like moving their arms like a bird, knocking on the floor, and patting their shoulders. In order to determine the leader, the kids had to work on paying close attention to the motions as well as the expressions on the faces of their classmates to select the correct person. As the game continued, some of the kids were able to guess correctly on the first try. The kids in the circle improved as well because they realized they had to make changes when they weren’t being looked at directly. The ability of the children to learn is remarkable. All they need are those who are willing to teach them.