Travelling Think Tank
The journey begins . . .
Holly Warren describes her spirited journey as she shares Think Tank, (an innovative studio environment in which children learn to synthesise their learning experiences) with two other schools.
On March 1st, 2022 Think Tank left its birthplace. The ground on which it was born, grew and blossomed. The time had come to share its vision, thinking and philosophy with other communities, in other schools. It packed its values and concepts neatly away. It moved its resources in a mental and physical space ready to be used, rethought, regenerated, reborn.
It isn’t until you leave your shore that you truly understand the value of what you have, what you have created and the ties that wove time, knowledge and learning together with a community. Leaving leaves us questioning choices and tests the shape and flexibility of thinking. Uncertainty can breed displacement and loss. Where do we find refuge? Think Tank could count on its imagination, creative skill, and resilience. Would they be enough?
The wind blew strong, the sails were hauled, the sky was clear and the adventure began. The rudder followed the wind in search for new shores and perspectives. Guided by welcoming trade routes it entered new ports.
Think Tank trades. It trades, swaps, and donates as it receives and creates. It aims at creating experiences through the threading of imagination and reality. Where does one begin and the other stops? Do they stop? Do they begin? Rather they are born and then passed on.
Plotting the course
Two wonderful schools opened their harbours – International School of Europe-Kiddy English, and the International School of Como. Like all communities they are embedded in their culture that creates their educational ecology and organic growth. Beauty lies in seeing the outline and frame each school creates in order to navigate and explore how best to become part of the community in a meaningful way. To join without disrupting, to fit in rather than disrupt, to cultivate rather that stifle. Maybe all this is obvious, but for its first voyage Think Tank was thrilled and scared, excited, and dubious. It knocked at the school doors, crashed into a window, carried its heavy suitcase, and found solace and appreciation.
On its first day as I was trundling the travelling Think Tank suitcase I was asked if I was a refugee and was offered help up a mile long staircase. As we walked together, I felt that I was given a chance. I wasn’t alone, someone was sharing my workload and so it was for many months to come.
First port of call
Kiddy English offered Think Tank an outdoor atelier that had gone dormant. Its plants were wrapped up in winter sleep. Its activities had gone silent. Where best to find ideas if not by starting a discussion with the students? Think Tank presented itself and asked the students what they thought a Think Tank was. Soon after, Kiddy English had its very own Think Tank logo and was ready to set sail with its crew of Think Tankers who were imaginative, curious, inventive, creative designers of the future.
“We think with all our body.” “We need all our body to think the best things because otherwise it stays in our head.” “If we can’t see it with our eyes, we can imagine it and then make it.” (D.C. 6yrs old)
According to Annie Murphy Paul’s (2021) research, the body as a whole grants us access to complex information which is under the surface of consciousness, creating the building blocks of knowledge.
The outdoor atelier didn’t have flowers, so we added them. It didn’t have enough trees, so we added them It was sad, so we grew joy. It was thirsty, so we quenched it with passion. It was hungry, so we worked like chefs nourishing it with fondness.
Welcome to our Garden Exhibition.
Second port of call
At the International School of Como, Think Tank asked the same questions and harvested different solutions. Their logo illustrated the sense of awe that thinking develops. It found solutions to exhibiting artwork where the concept of making the invisible, visible, grew from the interaction with a parent who came up with an amazing idea.
Think Tank weaved its way inside the IB curriculum at the International School of Como learning and exploring the colour of water, the boundaries of imagination, a cognitive journey, meditative landscapes and travelled through the ‘Amazon Forest’, on The Chicken Foot tree that has a permanent community of centipedes, millipedes, and the good fortune of an octopus as a special resident.
Humbled and honoured to have been given this astonishing opportunity for growth in deeper and wider realms of learning, I stand in awe of learning that is possibly never linear.
Think Tank’s first day out was astounding, eye-opening and wonderous. But why?
We are all threads of a collective unconscious that becomes visible as we touch, taste, see and listen; creating possibilities, threading discussions, creating dialogues, voicing our ideals, confronting viewpoints, questioning perspectives, and celebrating our mind’s realms of imagination, through making the invisible visible.
Holly Warren is an atelierista, or art studio teacher, working in an international school in Italy. She is the creator of Think Tank – a new project environment that links the creative process of art with Montessori, Steiner and Reggio Emilia educational methodologies.
Thank you to Holly for the selection of artwork
Feature Image: Brain City – International School Como
Support Images: Think Tank Logo – International School of Europe-Kiddy English, Garden Exhibition – International School of Europe-Kiddy English, Think Tank Logo – International School of Como, Invisible, visible – International School of Como
To learn more about her ideas see:
Paul, A., 2021. The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain. 1st ed. Mariner Books.